Whether you’re new to working out or experienced, you always need someone there to motivate you to do the best you can. CJ Hammond sees firsthand how coaching and hard work can go a long way as a sports performance specialist.
CJ Hammond, aka the Fit Legend, is an EXOS Performance Specialist. Hammond was born and raised in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Growing up, Hammond has always been close to sports and played Division 1-A football at Temple University.
After graduating and obtaining his Bachelor of Arts in Humans Resource Management, Hammond pursued his love for fitness and moved to Miami, FL, where he opened his first sports performance gym: Fit Legend Sports and Fitness. Fast forward to 2017, Hammond moved to Los Angeles, CA, to continue pursuing his career in pro-fitness.
Over the years, Hammond has honed in on his craft, allowing him to train top athletes for different sports. In our interview below, he shares more about his background and what he is working towards as a performance specialist.
CJ’s Start as a Performance Specialist
BE: Take me back to the beginning. What led you to become a fitness trainer/performance specialist? Was there a particular moment that you knew this path was your passion?
CJ: I have been playing sports my whole life since I was 6 years old. It was all I knew leading up to the end of my football career. When I decided to give up playing, I knew I did not want a regular desk job. I have been active for 20 plus years of my life playing sports and loved working out and being around other athletes. So I chose to train other athletes to fill that void of not playing sports anymore. It then grew into a business that I could never imagine.
BE: After attending and playing football at Temple and knowing that you wanted to pursue this lane, what steps did you take towards this and opening your gym? Can you walk me through that process?
CJ: First thing first, I had to learn “how to train.” I was a weight room fanatic and loved working out every day. But I had no clue how to train others. So I turned to my strength coach, who trained me for my NFL workouts when I graduated from Temple. His name was Fran Penny, and he owned Pinnacle Performance gym in Maryland. He became a mentor of mine, and I interned with him for an entire year. Learning the “art of training” was exciting and new for me. From training athletes all day to reading books and studying for certifications, I became a student of the game.
After a year of training under my belt, I got a call from my college teammate and best friend. He told me he had an opportunity to open up a gym in Miami and if I was interested. So, of course, I took it. While I knew I could train people, I had no idea how to run a business. But I have always been a risk-taker and believed in following my dreams. So I moved to Miami the following week, met with some business partners, and got the ball rolling on the gym called “Fit Legend Sports & Fitness.”
After 2 and half years of operation, I had to shut the business down because of financial reasons. While from the outside looking in, you would have thought everything was perfect, but it was one of the most stressful times of my life. Running a business at the age of 23 was very challenging. Being a trainer and owner are two different things, and both have different job descriptions. I could never really figure out how to balance them both. However, everything I learned from that experience allowed me to be who I am today.
Still not wanting to give up, I got another opportunity to move to LA and work for an amazing gym. I moved to LA with $300 in my pocket. I didn’t know anyone or what I was getting into. But I did know how to work hard, train, and build relationships. I worked hard for 3 years straight, 7 days a week. Build a big network, following, and clientele, that I was finally ready to leave the gym and become independent again. That’s when I rebranded to “Fit Legend Inc.,” And the rest is history.
BE: What are some important lessons you’ve learned from when you first started your career as a performance specialist up until now?
CJ: One of the biggest takeaways is that I didn’t know how far this industry could take me. There are levels to every industry, and once you access that high level, the possibilities become endless.
But it takes sacrifice, failure, blood, sweat, and tears to reach that point. If it is one thing I learned, it’s never to give up. If one has not failed, wanted to quit, fought through financial hardships, they have not worked hard enough or took enough risk.
Growing through the challenges as a performance specialist
BE: How have you been challenged over the years in building your brand, growing your business, and being an entrepreneur? How has it helped you grow?
CJ: I have been fortunate enough to work with some amazing people (athletes, celebs, influencers, CEOs, etc.) that have helped my brand grow exponentially. The experience of opening and closing down my gym in Miami taught me so many things as a person and businessman.
The lessons learned there carried over to LA. I’ve been to the bottom and told myself I would never go back to that place, from learning how to be an owner to learn how to become an elite trainer.
But most importantly, it’s all about being a good person. I would never be where I’m today if it was not having the network and relationships with clients. When you are a genuinely good person, people follow and want to support you, above all the accolades and achievements. Character is the most important thing in this world I have learned, and without it, you can only go so far.
BE: How do you want Fit Legend Inc to stand apart from others? In what unique ways are you helping your clients feel healthy, happy, and reach their full potential?
CJ: Fit Legend Inc is not just a place to train and get fit. It’s an experience that will change your life. When you join, you become family. When you leave your session, I want you to feel like you can accomplish anything in the world. I want it to be the best part of your day and ultimately a lifestyle that will make you a better person or version of “you.”
What’s in store for the Fit Legend
BE: You’ve trained many of the world’s top athletes from various sports. How would you like to take your training to the next level? What are some of your short-term and long-term goals (small or big) that you’d like to achieve as a performance specialist?
CJ: My goal is not to take my training to the next level but to educate and pass down what I have learned to other aspiring people in the fitness industry. I wouldn’t have been here today if it wasn’t for my mentors Fran Penny and Bijai Jones. There is more than just being an employee to a gym and training people 12 hours out of the day.
I want to teach people how to become entrepreneurs and show them how to get to that next level industry where their life has changed to a point they would never imagine.
BE: Is there a word of advice someone has shared with you that you can now communicate with someone else looking to start their career as a trainer or performance specialist?
CJ: Being a trainer is a business, so approach it that way. That’s one of the first things you will realize. You have to be a salesman, friend, trainer, therapist, teacher, a student, to name a few. You will have to master these qualities to become successful. When you first sign up, you are an entrepreneur; now, how far you take, it is all up to you.