A fitness fanatic who turned his passion into a profession has urged others to think about studying part time.
Mark Higgins, who runs successful personal training business Fit Boss UK, says the knowledge and skills he picked up at Middlesbrough College have helped him grow his customer base.
The 37-year-old former amateur boxer had already been personal training for more than six years when he realised the market was becoming more competitive.
Mark explained: “There were a lot of people doing personal training and I recognised I needed another string to my bow – something to help me stand out from the crowd.
“That’s when someone recommended Ivan Whitfield at Middlesbrough College, so I signed up to the VTCT massage course – and it really opened my eyes to new techniques.”
Studying part time while running his business, dad-of-two Mark found balancing family life, work and college was easy.
He added: “When I first started I was nervous about managing everything, but I quickly realised I could make it work for me.
“I really enjoyed going in to college and it gave me the confidence to go on and study a Level 4 Sports Massage Therapy course.”
Building on his work with professional and semi-professional athletes – such as boxer Troy Williamson and downhill mountain biker Paul Stabler – Mark has used his new skills and knowledge to secure work with Blackwell Rangers FC.
Mark said: “Any trainer can work with members of the public, but you really need to know your stuff to be able to offer athletes something new.
“That’s where the Middlesbrough College course has helped me learn a lot more about the body and sports physiology.
“The knowledge and skills I’ve picked up means I can now rehabilitate injured clients, and offer specialist advice.”
Mark will now study a level 5 Foundation Degree in Strength and Conditioning three days a week, running Fit Boss UK the rest of the time.
He has ambitions to top up to a Bachelor’s Degree with the College in the future.
Ivan Whitfield, Mark’s tutor at Middlesbrough College, was impressed by his determination and commitment.
He said: “Mark came to the College knowing he wanted to advance his skills, which he has successfully achieved. He is now taking the next step and developing his strength and conditioning skills and knowledge that will help his business.
“The type of knowledge Mark now has is at a professional level, meaning he can offer his clients even more.
“Once he started the course and realised the flexibility in part time study his confidence took off and it’s great to see him eager to continue learning.”
Ivan, a professional sports therapist with considerable industry experience, is part of the Middlesbrough College team sports therapy team that includes Team GB Olympic weight lifter Kelly-Jo Robson.
All students are trained to UKSCA standards – the national professional body for strength and conditioning – and are encouraged to strive for other industry accreditations.