In the past 27 years, we have certified over 130,000 health, nutrition and fitness professionals. Each month, we honor one of our outstanding alumni who uses what they have learned to inspire others and make a difference.
Meet our February alumni, Dr. Maria Banks, and Certified Prenatal and Postnatal Fitness Specialist
How did you first become interested in health and fitness?
I initially became interested in health and fitness during my freshman year of college. I majored in Rehabilitation Sciences, where I have always been interested in health and helping others. I decided that I should pay more attention to my health if I was going to help others in the health field. During my first year, I started doing more exercise and got a great appreciation for fitness.
I started studying the best exercises for my body type while taking group fitness classes and working out at the gym with friends. Since then, I have always taken my health seriously by maintaining a consistent exercise routine and healthy diet.
What degree did you choose, and why did you choose AFPA?
You have chosen the AFPA Prenatal and Postnatal Fitness Specialist certification. I chose this because I’ve always wanted to be a coach, but I always make excuses for not pursuing it as a career. Once I became pregnant, I wanted to keep exercising, but had a hard time finding a trainer who could help me with proper exercises. After realizing the need for this specialized training in my area, I decided to pursue this specialty.
I researched the programs and got a certificate from the AFPA. After reviewing what was included, seeing that it was nationally recognized, and looking at the reviews, I knew I had to get this certification through the AFPA. I like that they have so many resources to support their graduates and feel that they would best meet my needs. I’m actually on the verge of getting certified as a Nutrition and Health Consultant next!
What was your career like before you became certified?
Prior to getting my degree, I had been working as an occupational therapist for just over ten years. I have worked with adults after an illness or injury to help them recover and live a more fulfilling life. When I was getting my degree, I was working in a skilled nursing facility in the middle of an epidemic with patients who tested positive during pregnancy; It was a very tense environment at the time.
What is your career like now?
I am now the owner of The Health Mamas, a company that started helping pregnant and postpartum women stay healthy and fit during pregnancy and maternity. I combine my skills as an occupational therapist and pre/postnatal fitness specialist to provide health and fitness services to my clients virtually and in person.
I have always seen the value of caring for your health and always wanted to help people take preventive measures to help prevent certain illnesses and diseases. Many people wait until something bad happens to their health to start care. As I developed my business, I saw a huge need for pregnant and postpartum women to take better care of their health. My goal is to educate women about the importance of taking responsibility for their own health and to help them lead healthy and fulfilling lives for themselves and their young children. The career I have now allows me to do what I’ve always wanted to do!
What are your favorite parts of your career?
I enjoy every aspect of my career. I have the benefit of educating and helping other women learn strategies for living a healthier, more fulfilling life. I appreciate the flexibility of my schedule, especially as a new mom. It allows me to spend quality time with my family while also having a fulfilling career. I also value the relationships I have had with other professionals in this field; I learned a lot of valuable information to help others.
How has being certified with the AFPA affected your life?
Getting my AFPA certification completely changed my life. I am able to use the specialized knowledge I gained from my degree to make a significant impact on my community. I am able to educate, train and coach mothers to live a healthier life. I feel like I’m making a real difference in my clients’ lives. I also enjoy more work-life balance due to a more flexible schedule and less stressful work environment. I now have a job that I value, and I feel like I’m making a real difference.
Do you have any customer success stories you’d like to share?
I love hearing my clients’ success stories. Makes me feel like I’m really making a difference in their lives! There are two testimonials I would like to share.
I have a client who is 2 years old after giving birth. She tried different programs but never got stuck with it because she felt she had nothing to gain from the programs. She created a specialized program for her to address her specific goals. Within a month of working with me, I noticed a huge change in her strength and function.
I also had a client who trained with me while pregnant. She had groin and back pain throughout the second trimester of her pregnancy. She started training with me, and created an exercise plan specific to her needs; You notice a decrease in pain. I also enjoyed attending my group fitness classes, where I was able to mingle with other women on her same journey.
What advice would you give to others considering becoming certified?
For others who are considering becoming accredited, I would say they go perfectly with a program from the AFPA. They have many certifications that will help you meet the needs of your clients if you want to work in the health and fitness field. It also provides a lot of resources for its graduates to help them stay up to date with the latest developments in the field of health and fitness, which is very beneficial in this type of job. I am glad to have been certified by AFPA, I feel fully supported as a health and fitness entrepreneur.