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Conversations with Quinn Aiken

Today we’d like to introduce you to Quinn Aiken. 

Hi Quinn, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I first started my road to creating a career in the fitness industry by virtue of both playing sports, specifically soccer, and always having a deep curiosity about other peoples’ experiences and motivations. These two themes went hand in hand as soccer allowed me to have a rather unique experience of meeting/playing with and against people from all over not only the country but really the world at a relatively young age. 

I initially played club soccer back in Buffalo, New York before getting to play very briefly on a touring team in England, and then in college for John Carroll University here in Cleveland, and finally playing for a UPSL team in Southern California after moving there with my family. I also even just by pure chance of getting to train in the same facility as the Western New York Flash, had the opportunity to scrimmage a professional women’s soccer team that included Abby Wambach and some other international-level players. In that same facility, STA Sports Performance, I got to train around a few professional athletes from around the area which showed me there were levels to both athleticism and training intensity that I hadn’t seen before. While I was getting to have some of these amazing experiences playing and training against and with some future professionals from a wide array of backgrounds for the sport that I loved, I also knew for sure that there wasn’t any realistic possibility of playing soccer for a living for a variety of reasons. I saw from these experiences that I was not on the same athletic and frankly work ethic level as these athletes that were on their way to the pros. At the same time, I also was starting to stack up some serious injuries including concussions and major back injuries that made it blatantly obvious by the time I was 20 years old that I needed to find other ways to stay involved in athletics. 

Thus, in college, I tried my hand first studying Psychology, with the hopes of becoming a sports psychologist, and then eventually Exercise Science to pursue physical therapy. I enjoyed both endeavors and graduated with degrees in both majors, but I just didn’t have the passion for either enough to want to pursue them in graduate school. However, during my sophomore year while trying to find a yoga studio I could go to for rehabbing my back after surgery I got incredibly lucky again and had the fortune of meeting Kim Curtis, who would become my biggest mentor to this day. Kim just happened to not only own a yoga studio where I could work and do yoga for free, but she was also an elite speed performance coach who had trained Olympic and World Championship level track athletes and was looking for an assistant coach that also had a soccer background as she was getting herself back in the coaching world after recovering from major injuries herself (what are the odds?). That spring she gave me my first opportunity in the fitness world as an assistant speed coach for her spring and then summer camps and training. It was a natural fit and I truly enjoyed every minute of “work” that summer. I continued to work with Kim as her assistant for the next three years through school before I graduated in 2018 and decided to take an office job after balking at graduate school. After trying my hand at a 9-5 office job and being completely away from training and athletics altogether for a year, I realized I was totally miserable. So, when Kim reached out again the next summer about an opportunity to do a soccer and speed summer camp for a week after work, I jumped at it. In that week I enjoyed it so much and felt myself come alive again for the first time in months and realized I had to find a way to do this full time, and ultimately, I decided to quit my job that month and pursue a fitness career. I didn’t know what exactly it would look like, but I knew it was possible, and having a role model like Kim gave me the confidence to make the jump. 

After several years of different struggles putting it together, I now work as a full-time personal trainer at a private personal training gym in Cleveland, called Sculpt Fitness, while also still working with Kim and her speed performance camps in the summer. Both of these jobs have allowed me to pursue my two greatest lifelong passions for both fitness and helping to better the lives of others, while also allowing me to continue to meet and learn from people of all kinds of different backgrounds. It really took several years of grinding away at it and sometimes doubting if I even wanted to keep pursuing a career in this industry, but as with anything worth making, it just took time. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The road to creating a fitness career, especially during a pandemic, was a challenging experience. I had just quit my job at the beginning of the fall in 2019 and started trying to find my way in the fitness world from there. I continued to work for Kim Curtis as her assistant speed performance coach and after building that business up for several months to the point where it was no longer supplemental, and seemed sustainable for me to do full time and quit my odd jobs I was using to get by, the COVID-19 pandemic hit literally the same week. 

After the first few weeks of full lockdowns and having no work, and no real glimmers of hope showing up given everything I did for work had to be in person, I was fairly resigned to the fact that I would have to quit this passion project and go back to working an office job of some kind. The little savings I had were already gone and there didn’t seem to be a way that I could continue to wait and not work. I even went so far as to buy a desktop computer and start teaching myself some software programs in hopes of landing a consulting job, but thankfully I never had to really start doing that. After about 10 weeks or so when we got the news that we’d be able to do some kind of outdoor activities in person, there would be one more opportunity to continue to pursue my passion at least through the summer. Kim had had to temporarily shut down her yoga business and was also in a similar position to myself, having no work available, so along with a soccer coach in the area, Denis Weyn, we got creative and created a three-day a week soccer and speed camp that summer that was initially only supposed to last until July ended up running through the end of August when kids had to go back to school and their sports. It allowed all of us to keep life going as normally as it could and even provide a physical and emotional outlet that was invaluable for perhaps the most stressful summer in any of our lives. 

For me though, the extra few months doing that summer camp also gave me the time to find Sculpt Fitness, where I would eventually start as a personal trainer that September. The environment and culture at Sculpt are something that I honestly didn’t know was possible for a gym before I started working here. It has the feel of a space that is private, while still being incredibly inclusive to people of all backgrounds; a place where all people can come to feel more confident in themselves. Everyone on our staff truly loves working with people and helping them make positive changes in their lives above all else and the members we have working out here are all here to try and improve their fitness, overall health, and livelihood, and it does not matter if you are the CEO of a company or a warehouse worker, we all go through the physical and mental struggles of being a human. Sculpt Fitness is a place where it feels like anyone can come in and combat those struggles in whatever way they can. Without the pandemic and all of the struggle that came with it, as hard as it was at times, I would not have been forced to adapt and find a way to always keep going, and I couldn’t be happier with the path it has now led me down. 

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am a Private Personal Trainer at Sculpt Fitness Personal Training Gym in downtown Cleveland. We specialize in doing personal training in a private environment, so the only people working out in our gym are our members who are working with their personal trainer, so there are a maximum of 8 total people in the gym at any given time, which allows people to have space and privacy while they work to better themselves. Given the intimacy of the setting, we are also able to give our clients 100% full attention and focus during our workouts, free from distractions that you may have at larger corporate-style gyms. Then, from a personal standpoint, I pride myself on being able to make a personal connection with each of my clients and find the best way to get them to enjoy the pursuit of bettering themselves every day. I try to make this connection by taking a transformational leadership style approach with my coaching, meaning I do my best to meet my clients where they are that day, whether up or down, and motivate them to get the biggest net positive out of their time we can. I have found this helps build trust and rapport with clients that allows me to push them as much as possible without going over the edge into making the next few days of work or just sitting down miserable. Some trainers just push people as hard as possible irregarless of recovery or energy level, and in my view, this is a mistake when it comes to taking a longer view at exercise and health. If we are able to find a way to make exercise as enjoyable as possible, making people enjoy the process, which hopefully will lead to longer commitment to fitness goals throughout their lifespan. 

Who else deserves credit in your story?
I have had three main mentors so far in my career in the fitness space. My first ever boss, Kim Curtis, whom I mentioned earlier, Tibor (Tibi) Regele, who helped me solidify my confidence in myself and my voice, and Chad Maleski, who is my current manager at Sculpt Fitness Cleveland. Each of them has been vital in not only my professional development but my development as an overall person as well. 

Kim is someone to who I will forever be indebted for a variety of reasons, but she really was the first person to show me a model for what a largely self-driven career in the fitness industry could look like. She has been and continues to be supportive every step of the way and I really would never have even attempted to be doing what I’m doing today had it not been for having a role model like Kim that I could look up to. 

Tibi is one of the hardest working people I have ever met who, having his own inspiring self-built background, has had an overall huge impact on me as a person, but who maybe most importantly showed me that having confidence in yourself and your work, especially when teaching and mentoring others, no matter who they might be is incredibly important and goes a long way in instilling confidence and trust in them. Now working with adults at Sculpt Fitness, especially at my age, confidence in what I am doing/saying has been paramount, and had it not been for Tibi I would likely not have been able to build the type of relationships with my clients that I have, which has also been a major factor in attaining some the amazing results that I have been able to reach with many of them. 

Finally, Chad Maleski, who I work for at Sculpt Fitness has been most instrumental in showing me that you can build a successful business out of having a friendly, people-centric approach. As I mentioned before Sculpt feels like a unique space where truly anyone can come in and feel like they can become a better version of themselves and that starts from the top with Chad. Every person who I have ever seen walk into Sculpt has been warmly welcomed by him, no matter whether they are a local finance executive or a Starbucks barista, he makes sure he takes the time to make every client feel like they are welcome and belong there. Seeing Chad be so welcoming also has a profound influence on the rest of our staff as it is now almost expected for everyone to greet anyone who comes into the gym with at least a friendly hello, regardless of whether they are your client or someone else’s. The client and their overall well-being always has always been stressed as being the most important part of any trainer-client relationship at Sculpt, and that starts with feeling welcome and more confident coming into what can be an intimidating space for a lot of people. 


  • 30min Personal Training Sessions: $35
  • 45min Personal Training Sessions: $60

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Sam Smith

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