A Conversation With Mohammad Kazmi
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Let’s start with a little bit about myself. My name is Mo. Short for Mohammed. I just came here from Virginia in 2016. October 27th, 2016. The reason I came here on the day is because that is the reason I started with SOCHi. Yeah, so I was hired here before I actually formally moved out. I’m an actor so I came out here for acting. Previously I was heading the Personal Fitness Training Department at The Rec Sports Department at Virginia Commonwealth University. So I was running the collegiate department for Health and Fitness along with some of my great coworkers who are still back over there. I had been doing personal training since 2011. I was a prelaw majo, I was actually bound for law school. I got into law school, and that is when I had to make the pivotal choice of pursuing law school and pursuing acting. Which is partially why I speak the way I do. I’ve always been raised to speak like a lawyer like I am in front of a judge or something. So that’s where that comes form. When I moved out here, I think I started around 2 or 3 days after. My first day here was a wonderful experience, I’ve just been hooked to it. As a personal trainer, my specialty lies in corrective exercise. However, I found that as time went on, I found that I spent less time actually training and more time teaching trainers. Improving their technique, running workshops, being a consultant and things like that. So this was a perfect fit for me. As far as what I teach here at SOCHI, I am the morning capstone instructor. So I teach 3 courses in capstone. The first of which is called “CPT Test Prep”, which is helping students study and pass their National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certification exam. The second class I teach is nutrition and the third class is my favorite, corrective exercise.
Why is corrective exercise your favorite class to teach?
I think there is this feeling, that comes from this place of altruism, of being able to help people. Truly, trainers obviously help people, but corrective exercise goes a step farther in the sense that it helps people with pain. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people come up to me and tell me that, “I’ve had lower back pain for the last three years” or six years. Whatever. Or, “I have this knee injury”. Within weeks of working together, it is life changing for them. “I don’t feel pain in my shoulder anymore”, they say. That feeling that they end up having is contagious to me, you know? It helps me sleep better at night knowing that I made a difference with somebody’s pain. It’s a very ethical thing for me. It’s a deep rooted feeling of gratification.
How did you get into it? Not just corrective exercise, but fitness in general.
You know what happened was, I used to be quite overweight my entire life. Especially, in middle school I got picked on a lot for that. In highschool, I wasn’t really bullied, but people would make jokes. I’d laugh here and there, but it hurt a lot. I never really enjoyed being the chubby kid and when somebody would make a fat joke about me, I’d laugh on the spot, but I’d go home at the end of the night and lose sleep about it. I hated it. So when I was in my first year of college, I got into P90x. You know that home work out thing? I loved it! I love Tony Horton and his personality. I was like man, how cool would it be if I can run a class like that. If I could teach a class like that? That’s the first inkling I had about training. I lost a bunch of weight doing P90x and then my sophomore year of college I had the Kerry Street Gym. When it opened it was a luxury. I lived about a block away from it and it was huge. It had rock-climbing, water slides, all new equipment, and all this stuff. You know, when there is all this nice stuff and it’s included in your tuition, you want to go there. It was great motivation just to go and meet people. A lot of college athletes were there, so at first it was intimidating. As time went on, I noticed how nice everyone was and it was a very supportive environment. You start working out and it becomes a very healthy addiction.
How do you think you got over the fear and intimidation of going to the gym? Can you speak about the process of going to the gym and realizing how it was actually a nice and supportive environment?
I remember when I first started going there, I would wear all the baggy clothes and the hoodies and stuff like that. I also didn’t even make eye contact with people. One thing that really helped me is actually my friends from outside classes. I’d make them go with me. Or I asked them if they went to the gym themselves and most of them did. In college its more of a prominent thing where people like to go play sports like play tennis or badminton or something like that. A couple of my friends were into ping pong and badminton and they had that over at the gym. So I’d go over with them and then ask them, “Want to hit some weights?” or “Want to hit the treadmill?”. So going with friends made it easier to realize that the gym can be a social place. Once I started getting comfortable with the environment there and going alone, I was like, “I wonder if I could just talk to that person” who is maybe doing the same exercise as I am. Just say hi to them. And I did. Starting from there, that led to “What’s your name?” and that led to “What are you working on?” and that led to “What are your goals?” and that led to like “Wow. I like doing this”. I really enjoyed asking people about their fitness. By my third year, I realized I was falling out of love with law. I still enjoyed it, I was still giving it my best, but there was a lot of issues of me not being able to shoulder with certain moral burdens. I am a big softie. I took charge of my life and decided that in 2011, I was going to become a personal trainer. While I was in college, I got certified, and then I realized that this way my vehicle to pursue my dreams of acting while at the same time making a difference in the world in a way I love.
What was your first encounter with corrective exercise?
So every two years as a personal fitness trainer you have to get recertified. When my first recertification process was coming up in 2013, I had to sign up for NASM workshops to get CEU’s or I could take online classes. At the time NASM was doing a special and it was a 2-for-1-deal. If you bought one workshop you could get another one. I thought that offer was too good to pass up. One of the workshops was called “Intro To Certified Personal Training” and the second workshop was called “Concepts of Corrective Exercise”. I was not excited for corrective exercise. I was like “this is going to be so boring” it’s going to involve “hip-replacements and slow moving oh that sounds terrible”. But when I went to it, I met a guy who was faculty for NASM at the time and now he is doing great things in his own company. His name is Dr. Brent Brookbush. He is big on youtube as well, he is fantastic and I often reference him a lot as well with videos and things like that here. He was so knowledgeable about anatomy and movement sciences. It was contagious. It lit a fire. I was like, I want to talk like that. I want to train like that. I want to teach like that. When I went into this workshop, many trainers who get certified online don’t know anything. It was until that I met someone who knows so much, who was a master at what he was doing, that I realized, “Wow, I don’t know the muscles of the hamstring”. I don’t know this, and I am a certified trainer. How dare I?! How dare I move bodies and do this stuff and not know what I’m working with. I went home that night after a twelve hour workshops and cracked open my books and started studying anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and it was vicious. I knew from that day I wanted to get into corrective exercise. It was career changing. It was huge.
So you’re saying a 2-for-1 deal ushered you into your career?
Exactly! They say things happen for a reason.
You said you ran workshops. What’s it like running one?
There are two things that I love about it. One, is when people ask the same questions that I had when I was taking workshops. That shows me that I can relate to this people and I am guiding their minds into hopefully something that can be as life changing for them as it was for me. I did these things, I went to this workshop and it changed my life. It changed the course of my career. It helped me found a business and make a huge client list and I know I can do the same for them because they’re asking the same questions and thinking down the same train. The greatest gratification of it is that I don’t know if I ever really saw myself being a position where I was running workshops. In 2013, when I went to that corrective exercise workshop I would have never thought that I’d be in the same position that Dr. Brookbush was in. I kind of saw myself as more of a humble student or trainer so when I get to the point where when you talk about something and you know what you’re talking about, people are attracted to that. So, before I knew it, I had trainers asking me questions left and right. That’s what led to me doing the workshops. My mentor at VCU who was actually in charge of the entire rec sports department. Basically, he was one step above me. She was like, “Mo, why aren’t you doing consulting? Why aren’t you doing workshops?”. She helped me develop into that. So she helped me host my workshop and the teaching aspect was so great and that’s when I realized that, “this is what I want to do”. I love training. I love it to death, but if there was one thing that I love more than that then it is teaching trainers.
I like to ask everyone I interview a fun question right before their last one. So since we’re winding down, I just wanted to know what kind of music you like to listen to while you’re working out?
A lot of the students here know this because my music taste is very opposite to my personality. You know, I would describe myself as bubbly and positive. My music taste is very angry underground rap and hip-hop. I love underground hip-hop. Jedi Mind Tricks, Vinnie Paz, oh man I love it.
Before I leave, I just wanted to know if you had any advice for your SOCHi students or anyone for that matter who want to pursue Personal Fitness Training.
Absolutely. The greatest thing I can tell you is to persevere. Nature, the universe, the world or whatever you want to call it, has this tendency to work in peaks and valleys. You know, we have our good days and we have our bad days. But, bad days aren’t just bad days. There is always a good in the bad as there is a bad in the good. Bad days let us learn how to enjoy and appreciate the good days. It’s only that you know what hate looks like, to know what love looks like. Don’t give up if things get tough. Don’t give up if you graduate and don’t get like 50 clients right out the bat. It’s not how it works. It’s going to be slow at first. You have to keep your expectations realistic. But for those who persevere and who continue to work forward through those challenges, the fruits of patience are always sweet. My advice there is simply persevere. Things get tough. Persevere.