Journey from Cirque du Soleil to Personal Trainer
Shelli Epstein is a professional acrobat and performer with a background in gymnastics. She currently performs in the Cirque du Soleil show ‘Luzia’. Previously she performed in the Franco Dragone show ‘The House of Dancing Water’. In addition to her performance career, Shelli is a dedicated, ISSA-certified fitness trainer and a nutrition specialist.
Shelli embodies the values of the ISSA because of her positive attitude towards fitness and other areas of life. She tackles every challenge that comes her way with enthusiasm and optimism. She is a self-motivated professional who has worked hard to achieve her goals.
She is currently channeling her energy and work ethic into becoming a stunt performer and a fitness instructor with her favorite fitness studio, Barry’s Bootcamp. She also has a more long-term goal of opening her own studio that combines fitness and circus performing arts.
Teamwork is important to Shelli, as is compassion and caring for other people. She loves to travel and has even lived overseas. Shelli thrives when forced to adapt to new environments and gets great enjoyment out of experiencing new things and diverse cultures. We sat down with Shelli to get her thoughts on everything from personal training to fighting past injuries.
Why did you want to become a certified personal trainer?
I became a personal trainer because I knew I was leaving ‘The House of Dancing Water’ By Franco Dragone in Macau. I didn’t know what was going to be next for me so I thought it would be a good idea to get certified as a trainer.
I could go home and teach and train until I got another performing job. I have always loved fitness and any new workout. I'm very open and willing to try anything. Now as a personal trainer, I can teach and train.
How has fitness impacted your life and your career?
As sad as it may sound, fitness is my life. It is my drug and addiction. I love to train. It makes me happy —all those endorphins. I love seeing the boundaries I can push and overcome. There was one period where I had a hormonal imbalance and was told that I need to lose weight. With the correct training, I was able to get where I needed to be.
Fitness is part of my career, as I am a performer. Staying fit is part of the job. I love to help motivate and inspire others. I love seeing other people grow and it inspires me to see their success. I am so appreciative, as I love what I do.
The best part for me right now is whenever I am touring as part of my show, I go to find new gyms and classes in every city and regardless of where I am, everyone is always so welcoming and lets us into their community. That’s what I love about the fitness world.
Why did you choose ISSA?
I chose the ISSA as it is internationally recognized. It also offered and gave me the gift of time. To work and study is hard. However, the ISSA understands that and is lenient with the deadline for the course. The ISSA also offers other courses that I was interested in taking later. Nutrition is one that I have just recently been certified with.
What services do you currently provide in the fitness industry?
As of now, I am currently invested in my own training. I have just been certified in ISSA sports nutrition. There are other areas of fitness I would like to study such as sports psychology. How do we push and overcome obstacles we thought we couldn’t.
If anyone asks me to write them a program or for some help, I am always happy to do so.
It is difficult to perform and be a full-time trainer. As of now, my work is taking my priority. Later I would love to be a fitness instructor, perhaps at some of my favorite studios such as Orange theory and Barry’s Boot Camp.
Tell us about your recent injury...
Right now I am recovering from an injury. It hasn’t prevented me from training. I have many restrictions and limitations on what I can’t do. If there is a will, there is a way. As Shawn Johnson once said, ‘Injury taught me I need to learn how to face challenges.’
Sometimes you just have to sit on the sidelines, letting go of what you love doing for a little while, so you can come back stronger than before. Never let a stumble be the end.
From doing cardio six days a week to none is such a mental challenge for me as well as not being able to train the way I want to and to do the things I love. That is the time for me to let go of everything and be in my zone, to push myself, challenge myself and see what I’m capable of.
It’s only been two months and will be a slow process to get back into it. It is frustrating, limiting and restricting, facing new demons and fears.
I just didn’t realize how much of a challenge it would be. There are worse things in life. You just have to push those negative thoughts aside and stay positive and trust that in time, you will heal and get better.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an ISSA certified trainer or a performer like you?
Learn to stay positive, dedicated and focused. Use time as an opportunity and get better at other things you neglect. Sometimes you don’t realize your own strength until you come face to face with your greatest weakness
If you want something, you can achieve it. Hard work pays off. It takes time, dedication and perseverance. However, if you want it bad enough, anything is possible. Without struggle, there is no achievement. If you are passionate, do it. You won’t regret it. Love what you do and do what you love.
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Certified Personal Trainer
The Certified Fitness Trainer program is designed to equip graduates with the practical day-to-day skills necessary, as well as the theoretical knowledge needed to excel as a personal trainer serving the general public. Along with the necessary exercise science foundation, the distance education program covers client assessment, program design, basic nutrition, and sports medicine along with business and marketing skills.