Mary Yoke, M.A., Adelphi University, Stormville, NY
1. Did your career path start off with fitness?
No. My first two degrees are in voice performance (in other words, opera—with a minor in piano and ballet)! I was quite successful as a young singer; I sang with the San Francisco Opera Merola Program when I was 24. Unfortunately, I had vocal problems in my late 20’s, and I was fortunate to just wander into the field of fitness. I got my second masters, in Clinical Exercise Physiology, in 1988.
2. What is the most important career move you have made in your life so far?
I guess it would have to be switching careers from music to exercise physiology. Within the fitness field itself, I have been fortunate to have been asked to write, initially by AFAA, the Aerobics and Fitness Assoc. of America. Subsequently, I’ve written and co-authored four books. I never thought I’d become a writer!
3. Did you have a mentor, or was there a person in your life that inspired you along your path to get into this field?
Yes. I owe a huge debt of thanks to Dr. Bob Otto, head of the Department of Human Performance at Adelphi University. I returned to school because of him; he has always supported me and believed in me, even though I have the unlikely background of voice performance!
4. What motivates you to exercise?
I feel better; I look better; I know it’s the right thing to do. I love the way my body feels when I’m feeling fit; I feel alive, vital, real, and full of energy! I love feeling flexible, graceful, strong, and dynamic. I wish everyone could feel that way!
5. What fitness activities do you participate in?
I teach Pilates and yoga, and I practice these disciplines even when I’m not teaching. Sadly, I no longer run or teach jump rope or hi/low impact, due to knee arthritis, but I’m now an avid trekker! I walk at least 3-5 miles per day (5-7x/wk) with my trekking poles. I strength train at least twice per week. In the summer I love to cycle; I’ve taken two cycling vacations (Ireland and Tuscany) and I want to do more! I’m also a fairly serious hiker and backpacker; I’ve hiked most of the Appalachian Trail (not consecutively) and all of the Long Trail in VT (267 miles).
6. What inspires you: Personally. Professionally. Spiritually?
Personally? My mom—the wisest, kindest, most generous and loving person I know. Wish I could be more like her. Professionally? Attending fitness conferences! I try to attend at least 3-4 per year; the ACSM HF Summit and the ACSM National Meeting are musts. This year will mark my 23rd consecutive year to attend the National Meeting. For me, especially as a writer, I believe it’s critical to stay up to date with the best. I am always inspired to do better, be better, and learn more. Spiritually? I’ve been to Kripalu (center for yoga and holistic health in the Berkshires of MA) 28 times so far. For me, it’s the best personal growth place ever. I read all sorts of spiritual growth books and try to spend time in meditation every day.
7. How did you first become familiar/involved with ACSM?
I learned about ACSM while I was a graduate assistant at Adelphi University. Everyone at Adelphi was (and still is) encouraged to take the HFI, ETT, and ES certifications. The “reward” for being a lab rat and graduate assistant at Adelphi is to go to the National Meeting, all expenses paid. In 1988, we went to Dallas and had a fantastic time—may the tradition continue!
8. What one piece of advice would you provide to up and coming health and fitness professionals?
Never stop learning! We’re in a great field, with the potential to really make a difference. Learn everything you can about all aspects of health, fitness, and wellness. Learn how to help all segments of the population and make an impact in your community. Read books, journals, websites. Take continuing ed courses; acquire certifications; go for advanced degrees; attend conferences and other workshops. May we all be grateful to have found such a rewarding and fulfilling profession!