The Power of Community: Haley Manning’s Inspiring Coaching Journey

Through dedication, passion, and resilience, Haley Manning has built a remarkable fitness career that spans over ten years. Her passion lies in group fitness and nurturing the growth of children through fitness development. Currently holding the esteemed position of Senior Head Coach at Orangetheory Fitness, Haley’s exceptional achievements have earned her a well-deserved nomination for the highly coveted 2024 IDEA® Industry Awards Emerging Trailblazer of the Year. This recognition is a testament to her innovative methods of creating dynamic fitness and wellness communities and her commitment to excellence in serving the industry.

Throughout her journey of personal and professional growth, Haley encountered various obstacles. However, she made a conscious decision to lean into her fitness community, which provided her with comfort, unwavering encouragement, and authentic relationships. By fully immersing herself in this community daily and adopting a more compassionate coaching style, she fostered stronger connections with her clients and colleagues. Consequently, she played a pivotal role in cultivating a safe and inclusive environment where individuals could show up and be their most authentic selves.

Continue reading to discover the valuable lessons she gained and the numerous advantages of establishing a fitness community centered around authenticity and support.

Tell us your story in as little or as much detail as possible. Why did you become a coach? What do you consider your “superpower”?

My journey as a fitness professional began long before I earned my degrees, certifications, or stepped into the role of guiding others towards their health goals. It commenced as an athlete, where my passion for physical activity and its transformative power first ignited. I found myself drawn to the fitness industry. It was a field where I could merge my love for athleticism with my desire to help others achieve their goals and embrace their health journeys.

If I had to identify my “superpower”, it would be creating a sense of community and belonging for each of my clients. In alignment with my personal mission statement; to empower individuals to be in control of their own health and wellness journeys through proper education and community support. I believe that everyone has the potential to achieve their health goals, and it is my role to guide them, educate them, and provide the support they need to succeed.

My late mother was a significant influence in creating what my mission as a fitness professional is. In the last few months of her life as I watched her battle her illness, despite her life expectancy dwindling, her ability to bring a vibrant, infectious energy each day was incredible to witness. To this day, I still receive messages from my mom’s friends, colleagues, neighbors (even hospice caretakers) reciting funny stories and fond memories. I am lucky to have been graced with a parent who had such a positive outlook, going further than just welcoming any stranger, but genuinely making them feel loved, included and empowered. She spent her entire life creating incredible and meaningful relationships; in honoring her memory, I aim to bring that same spirit into my life.

What were some of the personal challenges you faced during your professional journey? How were you able to address and overcome these challenges?

Throughout my journey as a fitness professional, I faced several significant personal challenges. One of the most profound difficulties was dealing with the loss of two parents. This period was incredibly tough emotionally and mentally, as I grappled with grief while trying to maintain a sense of normalcy in my professional life. During this time of in my early twenties I was already trying to navigate career decisions in a competitive industry and deal with the challenges of a cross-country move, which meant leaving behind familiar surroundings and a support network, and adjusting to a new environment, both personally and professionally.

Addressing and overcoming these challenges required a multifaceted approach. Leaning into my fitness community played a crucial role. Instead of adhering to the outdated notion that personal trainers must always be ‘cheerful’ or ‘upbeat’, I embraced a more human approach. I allowed myself to be vulnerable and honest about my struggles, which not only helped me heal, but also strengthened my connections with my clients.

What kind of support and resources did you find most valuable during your journey to becoming a health, fitness and/or wellness professional?

The most valuable forms of support and resources I’ve found in the fitness industry have come from networking! The adage “you only know what you know until someone knows better” rings especially true in this industry. I am so grateful to be working in an industry with so many intelligent people who are constantly researching and discovering new ways to achieve optimal health and peak fitness shape, along with the technology we are using to track and test our bodies responses to exercise and nutrition is constantly getting sharper. We are working in a society where accessibility has never been easier, thanks to social media platforms and virtual meetings.

Attending events such as IHRSA (International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association) and IDEA World has been transformative for my career. These events not only offer incredible educational opportunities that have kept me updated on the latest research and trends in fitness. However, beyond the education, the networking and connection-making opportunities at these events are second to none. Meeting other professionals, sharing experiences, and learning from each other has been invaluable.

The fitness industry is full of individuals who love to chat—many of us have spent significant time teaching a crowd while talking on a microphone, so we are in no shortage of expressive, motivated people who enjoy sharing their knowledge! The entire premise of ‘personal training’ started from a notion of an expert teaching others.

Based on your experiences, what advice would you give to aspiring coaches who are aspiring to have a career in the health, fitness and wellness industry?

Networking is one of the most crucial elements for success in this field. The fitness industry is filled with intelligent, passionate individuals who are constantly researching and discovering new ways to achieve better health outcomes. By connecting with these professionals, you can learn from their experiences and gain insights that you might not find in textbooks or online courses. Attend industry events like IHRSA and IDEA World, which offer not only incredible educational opportunities but also unparalleled chances to network. Engaging in conversations, sharing knowledge, and building relationships fellow fitness enthusiasts can open doors to new opportunities and collaborations. Remember, the fitness industry thrives on communication, and many professionals love to share their experiences and insights.

It’s important to find your niche within the fitness industry and focus on areas that you are passionate about. Whether it’s strength training, yoga, nutrition, or another specialty, choosing something you enjoy will make your work more fulfilling and sustainable. Your enthusiasm for your niche will be evident to your clients and will help you build a loyal client base. Specializing also allows you to become an expert in a specific area, which can set you apart from other trainers and coaches.

As I continue to grow in a leadership role, developing beginning fitness professionals, I see it as my goal and duty to ensure that these candidates seek proper, accredited education and gain in-depth content knowledge. It’s malpractice for fitness specialists to shortcut the education process when individuals in their community are trusting them with their health and wellness. Quality education forms the foundation of your practice and ensures that you are providing safe and effective guidance to your clients. By nurturing an environment rooted in quality practices, you can elevate the industry, creating student-centered instructors and trainers who prioritize the client’s experience, emotions, and results.

How often do we tell clients, “consistency is key” – the same is true for us! Continue to show up for yourself and your clients, even on the hard days when you lack motivation. Lean into your dedication, passion and remember the reason you chose this career path. Your commitment will not only help you achieve your personal and professional goals but also inspire your clients to stay committed to their fitness journeys. Building trust and reliability with your clients is essential for long-term success. Being authentic and empathic when dealing with challenges is honorable!

Where do you see yourself in the health, fitness and wellness industry in 5 years?

I often joke that, “the only constant in the fitness industry is change”, this is something I’ve had to learn the hard way and still continue to be a lesson. I really enjoy where I am at this point in my career, being a Senior Head Coach at Orangetheory Fitness apart of the ASPYR team in Southern California. I have such a strong community of both colleagues and clients who I’ve been fortunate enough to build strong relationships with and who are rooted in similar values as me. As an educator, it is paramount that I continue to be a lifelong learner myself, so I am constantly trying to sharpen my craft and enhance my practice. I am looking forward to the next five years of fitness and technology advancements and how I can become an expert in utilizing them.


Meg Lambrych, RN, NASM-CPT, PN-1
Meg Lambrych is a registered nurse, personal trainer, and nutritionist with 15 years of experience helping people reach their goals and expand their knowledge. She now works as a freelance health writer, partnering with innovative brands to educate and inspire readers in the digital publishing space.

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