During the last 26 years, we’ve certified over 119,000 health, nutrition, and fitness professionals. Each month, we recognize one of our distinguished graduates who use what they have learned to inspire others and make a difference.
Meet our graduate for the month of February, Dr. Maria Banks, an AFPA certified Prenatal and Postnatal Fitness Specialist
How did you initially 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, as 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 freshman year, I started exercising more and gained a major appreciation for fitness.
I started studying the best exercises for my body type while taking group fitness classes and working out in the gym with friends. Since then, I have always taken my health seriously by maintaining a consistent gym routine and a healthy diet.
What certification did you choose, and why did you choose AFPA?
I chose the Prenatal and Postnatal Fitness Specialist Certification from AFPA. I chose this because I have always wanted to become a trainer, but I always made excuses to not pursue it as a career. Once I became pregnant, I wanted to continue exercising, but I had a difficult time finding a trainer who could help me with proper exercises. After recognizing the need for this specialized training in my area, I decided to pursue this specialty.
I researched programs and came across the certification from AFPA. After reviewing what was included, seeing that it is nationally recognized, and looking at the reviews, I knew that I had to get this certification through AFPA. I like that they have a ton of resources to support their graduates and felt they would best meet my needs. I’m actually about to get the Nutrition & Wellness Consultant Certification next!
What was your career like prior to becoming certified?
Prior to becoming certified, I was working as an occupational therapist for a little over ten years. I worked with adults following an illness or injury to help them recover and live more fulfilling lives. As I was getting my certification, I was working in a skilled nursing facility in the middle of the pandemic with positive patients while pregnant; it was a high-stress environment at the time.
What is your career like now?
I am now the owner of The Health Mamas, which is a company I started to help pregnant and postnatal women stay healthy and fit throughout pregnancy and motherhood. I combine my skills as a Doctor of Occupational Therapy and Pre/Post Natal Fitness Specialist to provide health and fitness services to my clients virtually and in person.
I have always seen the value in caring for your health and have always wanted to help people take preventative measures to help prevent certain diseases and illnesses. Too many people wait until something bad happens with their health to start caring. As I was developing my business, I saw a major need for pregnant and postnatal women to take better care of their health. My goal is to educate women on the importance of taking charge of their health and help them live healthy, more fulfilling lives for themselves and their little ones. 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 to live healthy, more fulfilling lives. I appreciate the flexibility of my schedule, especially with being a new mom. It allows me to spend quality time with my family while also having a fulfilling career. I also appreciate the connections I have made with other professionals in this space; I have learned so much valuable information to help others.
How has becoming certified with AFPA impacted your life?
Becoming certified with AFPA has completely changed my life. I am able to use the specialized knowledge that I gained from my certification to make a huge impact on my community. I am able to educate, coach, and train moms to live healthier lives. I feel that I am making a true difference in the lives of my clients. I also enjoy more work/life balance due to a more flexible schedule and a less stressful work environment. I now have a career that I value, and I feel like I am making a true difference.
Do you have any client success stories you would like to share?
I love hearing my clients’ success stories. It makes me feel that I am really making a difference in their lives! There are two testimonials that I would like to share.
I have a client who is two years postpartum. She tried various programs but never stuck with them as she felt like she wasn’t gaining anything from the programs. I created a specialized program for her to address her specific goals. Within a month of working with me, she noticed a significant change in her strength and function.
I also had a client who trained with me while pregnant. She had hip and back pain throughout her second trimester. She started training with me, and I created an exercise plan specific to her needs; she noticed a decrease in pain. She also enjoyed coming to my group fitness classes, as she was able to mingle with other women on her same journey.
What advice do you give others thinking about becoming certified?
To others who are thinking about becoming certified, I would say to absolutely go with a program from AFPA. They have many certifications that will help you meet your clients’ needs if you want to work in the health and fitness field. They also offer a ton of resources for their graduates to help them stay up-to-date with the latest in the health and fitness field, which is extremely helpful with this type of career. I am glad that I went with a certification from AFPA, as I feel fully supported as an entrepreneur in the health and fitness field.