I will admit I initially got secondhand anxiety upon hearing Khalil Jones (C '18) describe his daily schedule as a personal fitness instructor at Pottruck Fitness Center. This is what a typical Wednesday for Khalil looks like:
6:00 a.m. Wakes up
6:30–7:00 a.m. Training sessions
7:00–8:20 a.m. Trains himself
9:00 a.m. Breakfast
10:00–11:00 a.m. Class
11:00–12:45 p.m. Training sessions
1:00 p.m. Lunch
2:00–5:00 p.m. Studies
5:15–6:45 p.m. Training sessions
7:00–8:00 p.m. Marketing Club meeting
10:00–11:00 p.m. Dance Team Practice
11:30 p.m. Goes to bed (never later than midnight)
While seemingly insane, his minutely detailed day is the norm for student athletic trainers who consistently have to balance a demanding work schedule with normal undergraduate life. But Khalil doesn’t mind the work one bit.
“I think I have the best job on campus,” Khalil says. “It’s not work for me.”
Khalil originally got the idea to become a trainer on campus after he and his brothers, Malik (W '18) and Ahmad (C '18), started a bodyweight bootcamp in Harnwell College House during their sophomore year, per a request from their GA.
“Over the course of a couple months, we went from an average of 15 people showing up to an average of 35 to 40 people,” he says. “I loved it because we were engaging the community in a healthy activity, and it was social. We brought together people from different social circles that didn’t already know each other, put them in the same place, played some lit music, and just worked out.”
The social aspect of the job did not dissipate once Khalil and his brothers transferred to Pottruck to become personal trainers. “That rapport between you and your clients is super important,” he explains. “My thing is that I want you to be as good as you can be. So I’m gonna work hard for you, you’re gonna work hard for me, and we’re just gonna come up together and improve.”
This mentality extends into other sectors of work at Pottruck, as well. Maria Cano (C '18) has been a yoga instructor at Pottruck for all of her four years at Penn. She, too, recognizes the importance of a strong relationship between a teacher and their community.
“My favorite thing that I learned in teacher training was this term called ‘generous listening,’ and it’s something I try to practice. I’ll lead a class and see how everyone’s doing, and if they want a more advanced class, you make it more advanced...but I also like to take that out of class and be very mindful of my surroundings, be a good listener, and always be there for people.”
Because community is so fundamentally a part of what they do, Khalil and Maria also notice things about the Penn community that others may miss. While it may be widely known that Penn is a competitive place, for example, Maria notes that this mentality somehow makes its way into her classes, as well.
“In a place where you need to relax, it’s even harder for people to relax,” she says. “I teach the class facing the mirror because people like to look at themselves, but sometimes I wish I could put them facing the back.”
Khalil also says that he’s noticed how personal health is not often prioritized at Penn. “Essentially exercise is like this magic drug,” he says. “If it was in pill form, everyone would take it. And yet it still takes a backseat to everything else that happens at Penn. Since it’s so pre–professional, everyone’s always like, ‘Okay, so I have to make sure I’m doing enough work, enough extracurriculars, enough clubs, enough internships.’ All that kind of goes in there, and health and fitness kind of takes a backseat.”
Regardless of these observations, both Khalil and Maria agree that working at Pottruck has positively affected their lives. For Maria, it has inspired her to stay fit and also develop a deeper “yoga mentality” inside and outside of class. While she isn’t sure of whether she will continue instructing once she leaves Penn, Khalil and his brothers have created a business together called Triyo Fitness and plan on expanding upon their work at Pottruck through making personal fitness the basis of their professions post–graduation.
Khalil’s own assessment of his job at Pottruck speaks volumes: “It’s nothing short of awesome for me.”