Exercise Science: A Dynamic Field with Endless Possibilities

Second year IU MPH student, Laura Thomason (left) and recent IU SPH Dietetics Alum, Michaela Stemle (right), intern at French Lick Resort.

Sometimes the best career opportunities are the least expected. That’s certainly been the case as I’ve taken on the role of Fitness Coordinator Intern at French Lick Resort. I received a Bachelor of Science from the University of North Carolina in Exercise and Sport science before transitioning to IU to pursue a Master of Public Health degree. I expected my graduate studies in public health would draw minimally on my exercise science or kinesiology background. One year into my program, and I couldn’t have been more wrong!

I used to believe I would need further education to excel in a fitness career. However, this summer has opened my eyes to the many opportunities for a new graduate in the area of exercise science. Everyday I’m using the skills and experiences I gained from a diverse, liberal arts education at a large university quite similar to IU.

Initially, I found the Fitness Coordinator Intern position posted on the IU SPH Career Link site and added it to my summer internship search list. French Lick is about an hour and fifteen minutes south of Bloomington and is home to the French Lick Springs and West Baden Springs Hotels. Both regal historic hotels are part of the French Lick Resort, owned by the Bloomington-based COOK Inc. I was immediately stricken by the elegant hotels, both the history and friendly people. Though working in the fitness or hospitality industry was not the most natural transition from my current Masters of Public Health studies program, it has been an invaluable experience. I wouldn’t always advise going out of your respective field for an internship, but sometimes it yields an experience that provides growth in new areas. For example, I have learned more about the unique challenges facing health of rural residents. Though the majority of my work focuses around hotel guests, I have been fortunate to interact with hotel associates as they frequent the fitness center and during my visits to the employee dining room.

My day generally begins around 7:00 am at the main French Lick Springs Hotel. Being the earliest person to arrive in the office can certainly be quiet, but it’s not long before I’m off to teach my first fitness class of the day. Each day we offer up to four different fitness classes ranging from HIIT Cardio Gym to Core & More or  Fitness Walk/Run. These fitness programs offer a way for guests to remain active during their vacation. I instructed a few fitness classes before beginning the role, but my first class was still personally challenging. Confidence and the ability to think quickly are vital as a fitness instructor. Class participants will never know if you’ve changed the routine or made a mistake, but they can tell if you’re uncertain. Usually, guests are just happy to have someone guiding them through a workout and providing encouragement. In addition to working with guests, my internship provides the opportunities to write wellness articles for the employee news publication and help with resort-wide activities. Overall, I have enjoyed this internship most because of the variety and fast-pace.

At first, some internships or job experiences may not seem to align with your long-term goals. However, I challenge students in this situation to consider the broad skills they could learn. Instead of working in an office setting this summer, my days have consisted of teaching group fitness classes, navigating a large resort, and interacting with diverse people. I’ve learned a lot about myself and the type of work environment I prefer. Additionally, I’ve learned about and am studying to take the American College of Sports Medicine’s Certified Exercise Physiologist exam as a result of this experience. So what are you waiting for? Jump into your next internship experience ready to try new things and gain invaluable skills to be used wherever life takes you!

By Laura Thomason
Laura Thomason Fitness Coordinator Intern