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‘If Only Every Gym Was Like AFS’ – Aarif’s Story



Aarif Deen was hired as our Operations Manager shortly after Christmas. He runs the administrative team and helps with other operations tasks. He also works full-time at the front desk. Below, Aarif shares his personal story and how it led to him obtaining a vital role within the AFS-Plymouth team. Enjoy!

“Aarif, are you here every morning?”

“Do you ever get a day off, Aarif?”

“Boy Aarif, you must really love this place, don’t you?”

I’ve heard all the questions. Each and every day when I arrive to this wonderful electric-blue facility before the crack of dawn, I look forward to seeing the faces that not only make up the client-base of Applied Fitness Solutions, but they also embody the true culture that this start-up gym lives by.

Hired in three months ago, I gotta say, I had no idea what to expect. Throughout the interview process, Devin stressed the importance of the AFS culture (over and over and over and over). He peppered me with explanations of ‘why’ AFS was different. He promised that, if I were indeed a good fit for the team, I would be joining one of the best cultures a young 23-year-old professional could join. It all sounded great, but coming from a corporate gym background, I expected nothing more than the usual gym environment.

You see, before joining the team, I spent nine months last year managing a corporate fitness center just four miles up the road. It was my first tip-toe into the fitness realm and I really gained an ample amount of experience and friends; but something was off. Nine months came and went really quick, but it was not unusual for a manager to voluntarily step down after such a brief stint, as I did. You know that whole family-friendly environment that AFS provides? You don’t get that everywhere. And it certainly wasn’t there for me a year ago.

“Nice to see you, Aarif!”

It sure feels nice to be address by my name. It’s like, people here actually make an effort to get to know Aarif and what makes Aarif click. They invest their time in getting to know about my personal life, school, and career outside of AFS.

“Good morning, Aarif!”

Man, if I had a nickel for every time I was addressed as ‘Erik’ a year ago. What a difference.

Putting the whole name thing aside, it fascinates me how clients seem to have a willingness to get to know each other. I mean holy smokes! Every time someone joins, they’re quickly showered with praises from others who are all in this fitness journey together.

You know how people say the best place to work is the place that doesn’t feel like work? Yeah, I finally know what that means. When I was asked where I see myself in five years, I was able to give an honest answer; to explain how I have this goal in mind and AFS is simply another stepping stone in this long journey toward it.

What journey? The one that started with a lifelong passion for hockey and a bachelor’s degree in journalism before my 20th birthday. The very same journey where I drove my old beat up car 17 hours to Denver, Colorado four years ago just to ‘maybe’ make some connections with the Avalanche reporters to get my feet wet in the dying industry they call print journalism.

It’s the journey that has been met with struggle, yet has never been sidetracked because passion is the greatest motivator and no one should ever settle for anything less than happiness. It’s the same journey that has led me to 13 NHL arenas all over the continent to meet hundreds of my favorite hockey players and journalists hoping one of them would take a chance on a young passionate writer. Eventually, this led to being published in websites such as The Denver Post or—for no pay—just to pad my portfolio.

And yes, it’s the very same journey that led me toward the fitness industry. Working out and fitness are large parts of my life and being around like-minded individuals refuels my motivation and confidence to succeed at my goals.

This journey has led me to believe that it’s a smart idea to work here for 40-plus hours a week and work a side-job at UM-Dearborn’s Athletic Department as the Sports Information Assistant for another 25-30 hours. No one ever said the path to success is a linear journey.

And ultimately, it’s the journey that led me to back to UM-Dearborn–where I initially graduated–to apply for an M.B.A program in Sports Administration to continuously build connections in an industry that becomes harder and harder to solidify a career in. A program I will be commencing in May.

One of the highlights of my young career has to be standing alongside my idol and close friend Mike Chambers at the Denver International Airport, interviewing Avs legend Joe Sakic. /Photo courtesy of the Colorado Avalanche


As you can see, I’ve joined a team that has my best interests in mind and will push me to succeed and be the best I can be—at whatever I want to be. I was able to share this five-year vision with AFS knowing very well that they would support me.

Last year? Well, let’s just say I fibbed a little bit about wanting to climb the corporate ladder when that very same question was directed at me.

So if you ever catch me at the front desk dosing off or looking lost, just know that that’s the furthest from the truth. I cherish every minute at work—something ‘Erik’ would’ve dreamed of a year ago.

Oh, and to answer your questions: I’m only here five mornings a week, I get weekends off, and yes, I sure do love this place.


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