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Meet West Hollywood Fitness Trainer: Joel Harrison

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joel Harrison.  Below you’ll find edited excerpts of our interview with Joel.

Can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.

When I was younger I was involved in many sports. Swimming, soccer, gymnastics, and cross country running were sports I enjoyed and competed in at some point in my adolescence. I was always a smaller kid, and a lot of times I couldn’t compete with the bigger guys and I would feel frustrated. Also, I am gay and didn’t know what gay was, so that was a whole other fun thing I got to work through while growing up in sports! I didn’t understand why people felt like I was different. I know that most of us feel that way, gay or straight, boy or girl or trans, or just any kind of “different” at some point in our lives, if not the whole damn time. I believe that through fitness, we can grow and achieve things that empower us. Fitness inspires us to work on ourselves inside and out. When we work on ourselves, our bodies, our diets, our bad habits, it translates into work on our relationships, our jobs, our families. When we see growth and change in all or any of those aspects, we feel accomplished and successful, and isn’t that just about what everyone is really trying to achieve in live?!

Has it been a smooth road?

Moving to LA was difficult. I was 24, not out yet, at least to my family, and I came here knowing very few people. In the first year, I met people who were, without being too negative, uninspiring. I wasn’t in fitness yet, although I had a trainer for myself for a few months when I initially moved out to LA. I gradually became more honest about myself and I made friendships with people who were gay too and I stopped feeling so different or like it was something I had to hide. I worked in a restaurant for a few years to pay the bills, but I never really felt like I was up to anything important. Finally, when I started personal training, I met people who were goal oriented, driven, and successful. Also, I have one client to thank for urging me to be my authentic self and tell my family that I was gay. I did right before I turned 30, and I was accepted fully. I feel very lucky for that, because I know some people don’t get, haven’t had, and won’t have that reaction when they come out. I still train that client after over 4 years. In short, it was/is fitness that surrounds me with people who want to better themselves and help you better yourself, and that makes me really happy.

What are your plans for the future? 

What am I looking forward to in the future?  I really was stumped at this question and have thought about it quite a bit in the last week.  I guess because I am at a place where I am content and happier than I’ve ever been in my life I can’t imagine what is next in the way of making it better.  I have great friends, a wonderful supportive family, amazing clients, and I’m part of a fantastic and positive team of people at Phoenix Effect, both coaches and athletes.  What I decided was that I’d love to discover/invent a way for me to intertwine fitness and travel.  There are so many places I want to explore in different cities in different countries and I’d love to be able to do what I do on a larger, even global scale.  Bringing people together with fitness, in theory, should be easy, because fitness makes us feel good!  I would love to bring different ways of getting people excited about an interested in getting healthy to many other parts of the world.

Let’s dig a little deeper into your story.  What was the hardest time you’ve had?

When I started training, I did it because I needed a job.  I was running out of money, and I had been working really hard for something that, in the end, just didn’t work out.  I was really disappointed in myself and the way things had turned out.  When I got a job at one of the “fancier,” large, corporate gyms in Los Angeles, I wasn’t really excited about starting a new career.  It wasn’t until I started working with people as a trainer that I fell in love with the job.  My clients happened to be lovely, caring, extraordinary people who needed help in this one aspect of their lives.  Some of them wanted to be in control of their health so badly, and just couldn’t get it, and it was very upsetting for them on an emotional level.  l found it really rewarding to help my clients make progress and see their goals actualized.  It made me very happy.  I’ve had ups and downs and times where I feel overworked, tired, and generally burnt out.  But when I feel like that, I’m always approached by someone who wants to change their life and they want my help doing it!  I get to see people transform and feel better about themselves AND I get to be part of that.  That rejuvenates me and that’s what I hope to continue doing in my career.  Having been an independent trainer much longer now than I ever worked for a gym, I’m more passionate about what I do and I love what I do. 

Contact Info:

Check out his work below:

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