by Lindsay Miller
Relatively new to the Nashville area is an organization helping veterans become personal trainers and join the community of Certified Veteran Fitness Operatives. The program offers a life changing experience with structured courses on coaching and the study tools for a variety of health and wellness certifications. While scholarships are available, not all veterans accepted will receive them. It can be a lengthy waitlist for applicants who want to receive a scholarship, so veterans who want to attend camp sooner are set up with the tools to fundraise their own way into successful financing. Not only are they promoting fitness and healthy lifestyle choices, they are saving some of our heros from the demons they continue to face. They are giving them the supplies they need to beat their personal struggles one endorphin at a time.
This organization is called FitOps Foundation, and was founded in 2016 to address the growing disconnect veterans face as they leave the service. Performix CEO and Army veteran, Matt Hesse, knew all too well the lasting effects and the internal struggles that come from the duty of service. While Hesse searched for an outlet, he noticed too many veteran organizations placing Band-Aids on issues that needed real solutions. Despite good intentions, he believed in a program that would help stop the epidemic at its core.
It takes a special individual to join our nation’s military. They serve proudly for years, repeatedly leaving their families in order to fulfill an intrinsic motivation. However, once it is time for them to leave the service they struggle to find satisfaction in the civilian world, especially through the job market. The framework and guidance of the military provides a deep sense of fulfillment. Especially because, at this point in time, many service men and women have grown up in the military service. They have spent the majority of their adolescence under the organization. These soldiers learned all conventions in the midst of war and returning home commonly feels more like losing something.
The idea of home isn’t a safe place and comfortable bed. It is unknown, quiet, and a sensitive place. The transition is not easy. What our service men and women learn on a daily basis is structure, discipline, and the skills needed to both lead and follow. What FitOps Foundation is providing is a way for those extensively engrained core values to work in their favor. It also provides something of equal value – a second family. Much like the one they experience on military bases all over the world, the diverse network of FitOps alumni stay closely connected through mentorship, aftercare, and accountability partners.
Today, veterans are 22 percent more likely to commit suicide than non-veterans and nearly 50,000 veterans currently sleep on our streets any given night. With a purpose and direction, FitOps believes that helping veterans attain fulfilling careers, will guide them to excel in finding financial and emotional success.
The FitOps Foundation is a three week training camp organized to educate veterans looking to pursue careers in the fitness industry. Given their military background, veterans build upon their existing skills by following the given instructors lead. Although the instructor may vary, the three weeks consist of attending classes about diet and nutrition, strength and condition, movement standards, safe technique, and much more. They participate in multiple workouts, shadow coaching sessions, and usually end the day with mental exercises that range from meditation to physiological tests to anger management. They learn to utilize their leadership abilities and channel their inner drive in order to serve others through the avenue of fitness.
Over the course of this hands-on training, from experts in the fitness industry, the Certified Veteran Fitness Operatives (CVFOs) are tutored with the intent to become the most elite personal trainers available. Because of this, the CVFO certification course is only available to military veterans, active-duty military, and reservists. This specific course is nine weeks and consists of the three weeks, hands-on curriculum where the veterans also live on site, completely immersed in the training. In addition to the curriculum, CVFOs receive instruction in business management, branding, networking, and social media.
FitOps Foundation has graduated six classes, with certified instructors in almost every state. Graduates of the current program have gone on to become top-performers in their facilities and have been fast-tracked to supervisory roles. They have recently found success in the Nashville fitness market and are looking to hold one of the three week camps close to the Tennessee area in the near future.
FitOps is completely free for the veterans that attend. It is their hope to provide a stable income and a stable mentality for each graduate. Once they leave the FitOp’s camp, they have learned the essential skills to a healthy lifestyle, a new and positive outlook, leadership skills, and a certification that will unlock numerous doors to the fitness community and potential job opportunities.
Erik Bartell, FitOps Foundation Director, and current resident here in Music City, explained that his real work in Nashville consist of making connections. His vision is to create a funneling avenue for graduates to leave the FitOps camp and step into a role with gyms, other trainers, and/or fitness facilities. He sees the opportunity here in Nashville to to allow the CVFOs to further gain experience and become a part of their communities.
Overall, the goal is to make a quantifiable impact on the veteran experience after their service. To bring about a healthy method to combat depression and PTSD with endorphins from exercise, and put a large dent in the high veteran suicide rate once and for all. They want to encourage our service men and women to pursue greatness in fitness and in life, potentially replacing alcohol, drugs and hopelessness with endorphins, community and professional success through a passion for fitness.