Getting fit and healthy is something everyone struggles with no matter what age, gender or race. Those people who struggle with the idea of working out seek help from people like James McKinley, General Manager of Body Renew Wasilla, who loves to help people get in shape and get healthy. But growing up he didn’t know this was the path he would take. James followed his childhood dream of becoming a rocket scientist and pursued his dream by going to school at Embry Riddle in Daytona Beach, Florida to become one.
“I thought, is this my ‘Wow, I can do this forever’ job? It wasn’t. I figured out I couldn’t be cooped up and at a desk all day. That just wasn’t me. I had to step back and ask myself ‘What do I really enjoy doing?’”
James knew what he loved doing. His whole life he trained in martial arts, and even taught martial arts to kids. Anyone who talks with him will see quite obviously that he made the right choice.
“I love coaching and teaching, and I was a referee for some time. I thought about being a personal trainer, but I didn’t want to just get certification. That’s OK and great for some people, but I wanted to become a pro in it. I called Dr. Sandra Caroll-Cobb at UAA. They were just starting to revamp and reopen the health and fitness program. It was perfect timing. I hopped in the driver’s seat and ran with it,” James said.
He moved back to Anchorage and started classes at UAA. James was one of the first three students to finish the new degree program. “The great thing about the degree program is that it’s broad—you can do so many things with it. The classes weren’t what people would expect. There were business, nutrition and anatomy classes. It definitely wasn’t just physical education classes.”
Now, he is managing Body Renew in Wasilla, where he was born and raised. He began working for Body Renew in Anchorage three years ago, but was promoted quickly. James thrives off of helping other people. “My job is to get people to join, but also make sure they use the gym and get results. Our members are our walking business cards. They tell the world how we change lives.”
James is making a difference at Body Renew with his commitment to keep members using the gym, “At Body Renew, we don’t just take your money and say ‘good luck.’ Our program is specifically designed for results.”
James does change the lives of the gymgoers who walk through the doors of his gym. He helps them succeed in all aspects of their lives, and not just in the gym. His reward is seeing the physical results. “I talk to clients about what they can do outside the gym to help them succeed in their goals. I have a client who came in because he couldn’t hike Lazy Mountain. The fact that he couldn’t make it up the mountain was embarrassing to him. We started working with him, and now he has lost 80 pounds. I told him we were going to hike that mountain. So, he and I plan to hike Lazy Mountain together this summer.”
As an outdoorsy person, James stays active. Right now, he’s coaching a mixed martial arts class. James isn’t stopping his education with his bachelor’s degree. He is now looking into getting his master’s. “I’m going to keep going to school. I’ve had some people say they would want me to teach at UAA. It’s definitely something I would love to do.”
James also loves to hire UAA students in the same field. “It’s great having someone with the same health and fitness degree from UAA. I can take someone who has that knowledge and pair them up with someone who has loads of health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, bad knees and back, etc. and feel comfortable with that. Because of their education, they know what to do.”
His outgoing personality shines through even over the phone. In between questions, James would greet and acknowledge members as they would come and go, along with answering questions from employees. The enjoyment he feels through his work seeps through the phone, and James shows his devotion to Body Renew, its members and staff. “At Body Renew, we do too many great things. I can’t see leaving it any time soon.”