Since graduating in 2003, Justin Ashley has never stopped learning and moving forward. Justin is now taking the opportunity to share his passion by focussing on providing an environment for his team which is centred around learning and development. As the co-founder and CEO of the Fitness Playground and Bunker Gym Brands and with a company philosophy that is to find great humans and create great staff, Justin is making a difference to everyday lives on a daily basis. We had the opportunity to catch up with Justin as an ‘ACPE Alumni Game Changer’ and ask him a few questions about his time at ACPE and how life has played out since.
What were some standout memories from your time at ACPE?
My favourite subject was Anatomy with Gail Trap which established a foundation for so much of my future learning – oh and I aced it so that’s always nice! And who could forget ballroom dancing at the Trocadero Dance Studio.
Since graduation day, what has your career journey looked like?
I started a “summer job” working for Fitness First following graduation in 2003, with the plan to go into teaching once schools opened the next year. However, I did really well and never looked back, winning numerous awards before moving to open my own gyms.
One thing that I’ve never stopped doing is investing quality time into my own learning and development whilst taking on new roles and responsibilities. Education and experience gave me the ability to rethink and redesign the typical gym space – a corporate environment that puts profits before people. One thing that I’ve never stopped doing is investing quality time into my own learning and development whilst taking on new roles and responsibilities. Education and experience gave me the ability to rethink and redesign the typical gym space – a corporate environment that puts profits before people. Today I am the co-founder and CEO of Fitness Playground and The Bunker, both designed to change the gym experience and environment.
How did ACPE help you get to where you are now?
I was not a great communicator in High School. Doing a teaching degree provided numerous opportunities to present in front of groups and learn how to educate others. These key development opportunities built critical core skills of communication, presenting, coaching and educating. Today, I use these skills every day in managing my 220 staff and are undoubtedly my biggest strengths as a leader, when they were my weakness as a teenager – before attending ACPE.
What advice would you have for current students looking to kickstart their careers?
Whether or not you work directly in what you study, the skills you learn at university set you up for life. Focus in semester 1, as the foundational knowledge you gain here will set you up for the rest of your degree.
Tell us a little bit about your current role with Fitness Playground?
My “day job” is the CEO of Fitness Playground/Bunker Gyms. With 220 staff, most of my time is spent leading teams, educating and coaching staff. As I have been lucky enough to achieve most of my personal goals at a young age, my satisfaction comes from helping my team achieve theirs. Our philosophy is to find great humans and create great staff – which we do through a heavy focus on company culture, staff education and internal promotion.
Do you have any other points that you would like to add?
Often people who complete degrees are unsure what they want to do, are not yet job ready, or job prospects are lower than expected. The fitness industry is a great place to start a new career, as there are many options to choose from including coaching, teaching, service, sales, management, and more. In 2018, we developed an intern program to help expose, educate and integrate students and recent graduates to the industry that I love. I mean, who wouldn’t want to work in a gym, with great people, where your job is to help improve people’s lives!