Former high-performance athlete Nima Nazemi, now at Hart House’s Fitness Centre, knows what it takes to meet health goals. He shares what it’s like overseeing the House’s top-notch Personal Training team and the joy of championing each member’s success.
A dynamic, inclusive centre for exploration and discovery, Hart House helps students achieve their goals. The House’s Fitness Centre has many classes, a 25-yard pool, an indoor track, a weight room and much more.
However, some may not be aware that Personal Training is also on offer. Nima Nazemi, Strength, Fitness and Conditioning Associate, manages the Personal Training team, matching his experts with the specific health and wellness goals of members, illustrating one overarching truth: the Hart House Fitness Centre is a place for every body.
With over ten years’ management experience in the sport and fitness industry, Nima shares his remarkable story that sees him venture from Iran to Australia then finally to Canada. With his first year now under his belt, he discusses his role at the Fitness Centre, his stellar team and what success looks like to him.
Nima’s story begins at age 10, as a swimmer on Iran’s National Team. “I won the national championship and broke the record for my age group,” he says. This record remained unbroken for three years.
He next immersed himself in basketball and became a city athlete by the time he was doing his bachelor’s degree. His talent was noted: He was one of 60 top athletes invited into the National University Basketball Team of Iran in their first camp.
Two or three weeks later, however, tragedy struck: Nima gravely injured his lower back. He was paralyzed for eight or nine days, confined to a wheelchair, until an operation helped him regain mobility.
“After the surgery, I had to walk with canes,” he explains. “My rehab took almost a year. In the first few months, I was dealing with depression because, you know, at that age the most important thing for me was sports. I was an athlete, getting paid as an athlete, and that was gone.”
He took the semester off and focused on rehab. He also did his own research, studying how he could get his strength back. “That was, actually, the beginning of my experience with personal training. I started personal training with myself. I taught myself how to walk again, with a lot of help from experts.”
One of these experts offered hydrotherapy, a form of physiotherapy done in water, which he describes as “a game changer.”
After this, Nima moved to Australia for his master’s degree. There, he worked as Head Coach of a basketball team, and did personal training with athletes.
He came to Toronto via Saskatchewan. In Saskatoon, as Assistant Director of Fitness & Recreation at the YWCA, he worked with high-performance athletes and senior citizens with joint issues, and found it very rewarding.
His Vision for Hart House: Everyone Finds What They Need
Nima’s role at the Hart House Fitness Center began in spring, 2022. “It was my vision to create a program in which all of the members coming through our doors can find whatever they need.”
He is deeply committed to helping people reach their goals. “I know what it takes, physically and mentally. My job is to facilitate some sort of service or program to enable people to do what they want to do.”
To make this vision a reality, he engaged exceptional Personal Trainers, seven in total. “Our team is very strong.”
He points to long-time Fitness and Wellness Advisor at the Fitness Centre, H. R. Martin Phills, whom he describes as having “a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge … The result is gold.” He sings the praises of the entire team including Johnathan Chen, Mankiu Cheng, Solah Ho-Sang, Tariq Khawaja, Albert Lin, H. R. Martin Phills (aforementioned) and Abi Shan. Nima cites increasing the number of Personal Training members as evidence, in part, of the team’s success.
Highly Customized Offerings
Nima emphasizes the diversity of offerings. “There are many different age groups and fitness levels. It's a variety of customers – students, U of T staff, faculty and community members – we cater to.”
For personal training, the key is setting up the right trainer for each member. That’s Nima’s job: “I match you with the best possible trainer. This system is very customized and it's very efficient. It gets people to their goals faster than if they hadn’t gone this route. It accomplishes better health.”
Most Rewarding: Each Member’s Success
Most people, Nima says, turn to this kind of training to learn how to exercise properly, without hurting themselves. Many are beginners. Some may be intimidated when going to a gym or suffer from low self-esteem. Some have injuries from which they are recovering, and a fitness program will aid their rehab.
He takes it one victory at a time. “Seeing a person, one person – it doesn’t have to be multiple people – who can do something that was not possible before. That’s the most rewarding. That’s the story I share with my wife when I get home … and I feel so proud. It’s the nicest part of what we do.”
Hart House: “Where You Can Grow as a Person”
At Hart House, people can reach their potential. “The House is an inclusive place where I can find my potential. I get to know myself better. People can discover what they didn't know and improve those strengths or capabilities.
“Universities should facilitate that kind of quality inquiry. University’s not just going to a classroom and learning. I believe there’s something more to that: growing as a person.”