Resiliency : A Marine’s Point of View on What It Takes to Be a Good Fitness Coach

My name is George Kalantzis, and I coach at Cressey Sports Performance.

Why am I writing this?

This year marks my 5th anniversary leaving the Marine Corps and would like to share with you how resilience helped me get to where I am today.

I’d like to say that my current position at Cressey Sports Performance is unique. Like my other colleagues on staff, I had to go through an unpaid internship program in order to become a coach. (Hint, internships are a great way to get started as a coach in the fitness industry).

You see, just a few short years ago, life was going pretty well.

I left the Marines in 2011 to become an air traffic controller. With a great paying job, a Masters in Business (MBA), and endless opportunities to travel, something in my life was missing. I wanted more out of life but wasn’t sure what that was.

After a year in Afghanistan as an air traffic controller I realized that I didn’t enjoy this job as much as I used to. I wanted something deeper. I wanted to make an impact.

As a Marine, being fit was a way of life and what better way to carry over what I learned than to transition into being a strength coach.

With so much information out there, I had to filter out all of the noise and find the best of the best. If I was going to change careers late in life, it needed to be all or nothing. This is when I stumbled upon the team at Cressey Sports Performance.

Three years ago, I was accepted as an intern in the fall of 2013. Everything in the strength and conditioning field was new to me. My experience prior to the internship was the typical meathead, bodybuilding approach to exercise design and programming. Clearly I had a lot to learn.

It was like being back in boot camp again, but with a kinder, gentler approach. I came in with a clear mind and did everything and anything I could do get better. I came in on my days off, cleaned without being told, tried to absorb everything I was taught, learned all client’s names, and attempted to coach as much as I could, even though I was not that good at it.

What I lacked in coaching experience, I made up with my leadership background and personal skills. I realized that there was a lot more to being a good coach than the average person may think. It was so much more than just learning exercises. I watched DVD’s, read books, drove to seminars and tried to learn as much as I could at the internship. After the internship, I took a job at a local gym in NH to see if I had what it took to be a good coach.

Over the next 12 months after I left CSP, I continued to hone in on my coaching skills by driving to more seminars, attending massage therapy school, and delivering hundreds of sessions for free. If I was going to make it as a coach in the industry I needed to do everything and anything I could to make myself better.

Almost 1 year after my internship I received a phone call from Pete Dupuis, the Co-founder of CSP, asking if I would like to come on board as the strength camp coordinator. My hard work paid off and I accepted the job.

As I sit here with my 3 month-old baby girl on my chest, I begin to wonder where life is about to take me. With sleepless nights and fourteen plus hour workdays, life has truly taken me for a spin. Just when I thought I was getting a handle on my own life with a career change, a little one has entered my world and everything before me has changed.

The truth is sometimes I want to quit when life gets tough and go back to being comfortable. Air traffic control is something that I have always been good at and the money and benefits certainly make it worth it. But, I always remind myself that being comfortable is overrated and won’t make me happy. I learned that the hard way when I took a year contract as an air traffic controller in Afghanistan.

Talking to Airplanes In Afghanistan

Talking to Airplanes In Afghanistan

Being fitness professional is tough. Most professionals burn out within the first 12 months, but not me, I am resilient. The one thing that has kept me strong since my departure from the Marines is resilience.

As defined by the Webster dictionary, resilience is:

“ The ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens.”

I have actually noticed that all good coaches in the industry have a great deal of resilience.

Here are 5 ways you can tap into your resiliency 

Know Your Purpose  

Since deciding to switch careers into the fitness industry after being an air traffic controller, many doubted my choice, telling me I will never make money and that the switch was stupid so later in life.

Having a clear purpose in life helps with those long days, blocks out all the noise, and keeps me focused on the long-term goal.

As a coach, you are going to face some tough scenarios day in and day out. From long work days, to unplanned events, and much more, having a purpose in life allows you to focus your efforts where you need to most.


You may not be where you want to be at this current point in your life, and that is ok, because it’s about how you view yourself as a whole, that’s important. Ask yourself how can you do more, and while you may not accomplish everything right now, you should understand that what you are currently doing is valuable and plays a major influence in those around you.

You see, as a coach you are going to encounter many scenarios that you may not be familiar with or are unsure of what to do. And that it is ok! Part of being a good coach is having confidence in your abilities and being able to think outside the box while trusting your abilities.

Great coaches do not sit back and tread cautiously; they take risks and take ACTION! That is part of being a leader in the industry.

Ask yourself, what is one thing you can do today that will have improved from yesterday? Begin by doing something better each day, and you will start to feel the benefits of self-esteem. Being confident in your abilities leads to the ability to push past those tough times.

Positive Attitude

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What will you decide?

A post shared by George Kalantzis (@_georgekalantzis) on

The Marine Corps taught me that resilient leaders are able to filter out both negative and positive emotions in tough times. Regardless of the scenario, they always tend to find something positive out of the challenge in front of them.

The Marine Corps also taught me about how good we have it on a day to day basis.I travelled to many 3rd world countries, which taught me that the problems I thought I had were nothing compared to the challenges that others faced each day. Have you ever had to dig a hole to go to the bathroom? How about having multiple days without food or water? Do you complain it is too hot in the comfort of your own home during the warm summer months or too cold in the winter? When lots of people around the world are living without roofs over their heads?

Probably not, and if you have then I am sure you understand.

Do you wake up and say that you hate your job? Remember, you create your own reality and can make a change at any time you want!

Today I use my own daughter as an example. I cannot let negativity into my life or it will affect her as well. After long days, I always come home and try to smile and hold her to let her know that world should not be associated with negativity.

Before you go to a negative place, try to REMEMBER that the things we have in our daily lives are a privilege and you can have a lot less.


Life is not about how fast you run or how high you climb, but how well you bounce back- Unknown

Over the past few years, I have had a chance to watch some of the best coaches in the industry work, and what I have noticed is that every one of them is successful because they have learned how to turn something negative into a positive. The hardships they have endured have taught them to cultivate strategies that help them overcome tough scenarios.

There will be times that you are going to fail, and that is ok! Getting knocked down is not a bad thing as it teaches you to prevail. Having courage to see the tough times out, and meet adversity with a smile, you too can be successful!


Life is truly a gift and when you understand that every experience you have in life is not owed to you but rather a gift, you can start living with a clearer purpose. Think of one thing that you are particular grateful for. Allow that to sink in and realize what that gift has given to you. Each day you are alive is an opportunity to change the world.

Being thankful for your life and the things around you reminds you of how luck you actually are and can help increase your will to succeed.

Putting it all together

Building resilience is tough, and sticking it out in the long run may not be for you. To be resilient you must draw from your experiences to understand that life is not easy, and you have to be tough enough to overcome obstacles in your way. The next time you find yourself in a hard scenario, remember that those who look onto bigger and better things often overcome those challenges in front of them.

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