EL PASO – Hiding in the back room behind the treadmills, elliptical machines, and 50-pound steel weights, Kimberly Rayner carefully underlines important information in her economics textbook to prepare for an exam.
She still manages to look up and smile at the sweaty people in T-shirts and spandex lifting weights, doing sit-ups, and running at the gym trying to get their summer bodies in shape.
“Come on, you can do it!” she cheers and “reach for it!” as she watches her trainees’ eyes light up at her words of encouragement.
Rayner is both a student at The University of Texas at El Paso and personal trainer at New You Fitness and Yoga Studio located in the west side.
Like other students on tight schedules who juggle jobs and college life, Rayner rises every Monday through Saturday at 4 a.m. to head to the gym where she works roughly 30 to 40 hours a week, sometimes pulling 12-hour shifts and attending college classes between training sessions.
“I fell in love with it; I could marry it,” said the 21-year-old business major at The University of Texas at El Paso about her job as a fitness trainer.
According to The Center for College Affordability & Productivity, most full time college students in the U.S. work 20 to 34 hours a week, which puts Rayner’s workload at above average.
Rayner did not always dream of becoming a personal trainer. She was offered the job two years ago when New You first opened. After a demanding two-month training program to become certified, she competed against other candidates and got the position at New You. At the time, she said she viewed it as a part-time job to pay the bills.
“I wanted to be a lawyer at first,” Rayner said. “In my mind I never thought I was going to be a personal trainer.”
Rayner, a volleyball star during her high school years, is the only full-time student who also works as a personal trainer at New You.
During high school she was an all-district, all-city, and all-state volleyball player, and fitness has been a part of her life. On top of that, she loves people.
“I love working with people,” said Rayner smiling ear to ear as she reminisced about all of the clients she has worked with inside the lime-green gym.
Margie Tippin has been a loyal client at New You since it first opened. She said she has noticed a difference in her weight since she began training with Rayner and the other trainers two years ago.
“Lots of inches, and weight,” Tippin said with excitement about what she has lost since joining the gym. “She motivates you so that you look forward to working out every time.”
Between clients and during lunch breaks, Rayner always finds time to work on her homework. During these breaks, she usually hides in the gym office behind her business textbooks, or types away on her laptop computer.
“Everyone has to find that balance while attending college,” said Rayner, noting that she is blessed with time management skills and designates a time for everything in her busy life. “If I have an exam in one week, I’ll start studying now.”
Rayner balances her budget differently than most college students. She types all of her expenses on an Excel spreadsheet, something she learned in finance classes. She also finds time to hang out with her boyfriend of two years. They have classes together, but they always find time during the week outside of school to see each other.
“I’m lucky because my boyfriend is really understanding,” Rayner said. “We have dinner together during the week and we go to church Sundays.”
Lizzie Martinez, who co-owns New You with her husband Shane, said Rayner manages her time efficiently and projects a confident attitude.
“She’s always reinforcing a positive attitude to her clients so she’s always committed to making them feel good at the gym and that’s what makes her an awesome trainer,” Martinez said.
Rayner currently has about 25 clients and charges $20 per session. She said she’s been unsure whether to continue with school or just train full time.
“If I can do both, then why not?” Rayner said with confidence. “I do it for me and for my parents because they want to me have a degree.”
Rayner said her clients inspire her to become an even better personal trainer and she cherishes the people-oriented environment at the gym. She has one-on-one sessions with her clients to help them meet their personal fitness goals.
“I had one client who was super shy,” Rayner said. “Now he is like the mayor of New You.”
Rayner wants to open her own gym in El Paso or any city of opportunity in the future, but she also appreciates school and wants to pursue a Master’s degree in Business Administration. Meanwhile, her main focus is personal training and finishing her bachelor’s degree.
“I started becoming obsessed with the gym and waking up early to see people,” Rayner said. “I love changing people’s lives and this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”