Trainer Talk with April Richerson

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A Q&A with Camp Gladiator Certified Personal Trainer April Richerson

We recently sat down with CG Personal trainer April Richerson to discuss her inspiring fitness journey, how she came to join the Camp Gladiator team and what she enjoys most about working with CG Campers throughout her local community.

Q: How long have you been with CG?

I've been with CG since May of 2017. 

Q: What did you do before?

I was an education director for the YMCA of the Triangle, in North Carolina. I was their executive director of education programs for 16 branches. My job was to create a curriculum and create strategies to close the education gap between youth that lived in low-income communities and youth that lived in more affluent communities. That was my career for 10 years.

Q: How did you find CG?

Kevin Richardson at CG reached out to me via Facebook and asked for an in-person meeting to discuss a great fitness opportunity. Kevin spent over an hour with me, but it just wasn’t the right time. Six months later he invited me to check out a camp and asked my thoughts about it. I attended Amy Banfer’s (now Saunders) camp at Midtown, and I LOVED it. I told Kevin, ‘had he just sent me out to a workout the first time, I would’ve told you yes!.’

Q: What makes you stay with CG? What has kept you around for five years?

I own three different businesses outside of CG. But I would say that CG is the one opportunity that has allowed me to enjoy the other things in my life. When I was at the Y, I also coached a Middle School basketball team at a local private school. I truly loved it, but my time was always pressed and limited. I was trying to crunch all of my work in before 3:30 pm so that I could go coach my team. It was extremely difficult because I was technically working a 9-5 job, but with CG, I have that freedom to coach. I have been a Varsity high school basketball coach for 5 years. CG has also allowed me to be a parent to my kids. I've been able to pay for my son’s college. Those are all opportunities that I missed out on before I became a trainer with CG. 

CG has allowed me to create a schedule that allows me to be a mom to my kids, and I can enjoy the things that I'm passionate about outside of fitness.

I'll also say that with CG I’ve learned my strengths and gifts. Prior to that I would have said I was a horrible salesperson. Don't ask me to sell anything. In fact, I'm pretty sure that’s what I told Kevin when we first met. That’s why I was shocked that I signed up 30 Campers in just a couple of weeks. It revealed things that I didn't know that I could do, and it's because I love CG and I love what we do. To me, that's one of the cool things we do. I love the different hats we get to wear as trainers.

Q: Is there an experience you've had that made you a better trainer?

Definitely, for example, I would say my own fitness journey. While I was transitioning out of my previous role at the YMCA, I was going through a divorce and I started working out as my way to stay sane. I was overweight. I was almost 260 pounds, and I lost 107 in just over a year. Through that, I've learned firsthand about all of the different stages of losing weight; to be persistent, to be healthy, to learn nutrition, to know what it feels like when you hit a plateau.

It has helped me to fully engage the community. I serve a lot of people who either want to tone up or lose weight. For those who know my journey, it makes them feel like they're talking to a trainer who is human. As trainers, we don't talk about ourselves enough, and sometimes that makes people think we have always been fit and super healthy, but I haven't. It’s important to share that with people and let them know that it is possible to lose weight. Of course, we're not going to do it in two weeks, but to know that if you're committed and you allow me to help you, we can reach those goals.

Above all things, that is something that has helped me to be a better trainer. I can empathize with where they are, and I can help them when they get stuck, when they don't know where to go, or when they think they're eating healthy, but they're really not. 

Q: Why do you think CG is different from other fitness companies or gyms?

I would definitely say the CG community. People come to CG initially because they love the workouts, they like the trainer, and they get inspired by the trainer. But most people stay with CG because of the people they work out with. Those other Campers are expecting them to attend the workouts. They build a sense of community by learning about each other and their families. They often do things together outside of the workouts. That's how people get hooked.

Yesterday someone asked me about my retention rate of Campers, and just under 70% of them have been with me since I started in 2017. It's really because of the community that they're a part of. During Covid, many transitioned to our online workouts, and they’re able to work out with the same trainer and Campers that attended the in-person workouts. 

It keeps people connected and keeps their membership thriving because they know they have family at CG. That is one big difference from most gyms. When you go to the gym, nobody there expects you to show up except for the trainer.

Q: What is your advice to others thinking about becoming a trainer with CG?

My best advice is to take a close look at what we're doing at CG and give it a chance.

I have my own personal brand, and I understand that a lot of people feel they will lose the brand they have built for themselves, but I just see it as another part of what I can offer. The reality is that I have more opportunities as a trainer with CG than anything else I've ever done. I have about 200 Campers and I’ve made so many connections at CG because of all the different people that I've come across and had the opportunity to meet.

I'm so grateful that somebody thought that I would be a great CG trainer. My biggest advice is if you do nothing else, at least hear out the opportunity and consider it. If it's not the time, that’s ok too. That was also a part of my journey. The first time around, it just was not the right timing. But when I felt the time was right, it just clicked and I was all in.

What I wouldn’t do is ignore the opportunity because you feel like your brand would take a hit. I have been able to impact more lives in my 5 years as a trainer with CG, than I could have ever imagined. We all have our own businesses and we all have our own brand, and yet we're able to live this incredible life doing what we're doing with CG.

Q: What about your advice to someone who recently became a trainer?

Don't quit! Don't quit! When things get hard, that’s usually the turning point of when it is about to get really good.

There are some statistics that say it takes three years to grow a successful business. It sounds so crazy, but the reality is that I did it. I did it for two years before becoming a trainer with CG. It was so hard, but I had to do everything for that business, the marketing, the branding, etc., and I paid for all of that out of pocket, which was so expensive. At the end of the year, it was really tough. My return on investment was not good. But I was always on the grind, trying to think of the next way I could get more clients. I ended up with 24 one-on-one clients prior to becoming a trainer with CG.

With CG, I did it in a year and a half. If you put your head down, grind it out, and push yourself to do it. There are so many opportunities, and I know that our headquarters team is always supporting us and really wants us to be successful so that our business as a whole is successful. 

Take the advice of the people who are supporting you. Reach out to those who you look up to and put your best foot forward, and really dive in. Be ALL-IN on the work that you're doing, and it will pay off.

Q: Where is your CG location and what do you love about it?

I teach a lot. I have eight camps. I also lead a team as an Area Director. My favorite location is at a private school here in North Raleigh. When I first got that location, I was pumped because my kids had just enrolled and I was going on a whim, asking if I could use that location for Camp Gladiator. And lo and behold, they said yes. I also became the varsity high school basketball coach for the women’s team. I'm a huge part of that community.

I love that it gives me an opportunity to engage the community. I get to be on campus and deliver a health and wellness program to the staff, parents that are dropping their kids off at school, and people that live in the surrounding community.

I am a huge part of that community. It gives me so much joy to be able to serve the community in which my kids go to school, and my kids see me be a healthy example for them and their teachers. That's what I really love most about it.

Q: Does your CG team in your area host any special events?

We've done things like a Summer Bash or a Spring Fling workout, where we offer free workouts to the community. We’ve had about 120 people at one workout. It was incredible. We had a live DJ, and a food truck and people stayed after and had a good time.

One of my awesome teammates, Kara Kraft, also plans a TRI event which is 30 minutes of CG, 30 minutes of running, and 30 minutes of yoga. The campers LOVE this annual tradition.

Those are my favorite events to host because people feel like they can invite their friends and family and it's a really good time for everyone.

Q: How has Camp Gladiator impacted one of your Campers' lives?

Corey is one of my campers. He'll tell you that he's done every single possible workout program you could ever think of. You name it, he's done it. He came to CG a few years ago, and it is the one program that he tried that has stuck.

He was right at 300 pounds, and he wanted to feel better. After about a year, he had dropped nearly 80+ pounds. It’s an incredible story. He’s a different person now. He is one of the most encouraging Campers you'll ever meet.

He welcomes any new Camper. He'll tell new Campers about his story. If they're struggling or they need some encouragement, he'll tell them, ‘You gotta keep coming. I know it's hard. I know it's tough, and it feels this is the hardest thing that you've ever done, but you have to keep coming. And if you keep coming, you're going to reap the benefits.’

Another Camper Tim has only been with me for a couple of years. He has already completed 450 workouts. Tim is 64 years old. He’s had a double-hip replacement, multiple shoulder surgeries, and he only came to workouts because he wanted to have more time with his daughter who’s been doing CG with me for a long time. She said, ‘I know he's not going to stay. He can't do A, B, and C.’ And I said, ‘I got it. Don't you worry. I got him.’

By the end of his first camp, Tim did burpees for the first time in his life, even after having double-hip replacements and shoulder surgeries. He is amazing. He is also super encouraging. He's doing things that he never thought he could do.

I'm so grateful for the opportunity that CG has provided me and my family. I don't think I would have done it without CG. I wouldn't have been able to send my son to college without taking out massive loans. I’m not sure I would have been able to dedicate as much time as I have to be a parent to my children and attend all of their games, plays, and events. I can truly be a mom to my kids. Those are things that you can’t get back. I'm grateful for the opportunity and so glad that CG found me.

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