Since graduating from Colorado State University with a B.S. in health and exercise science in 2006, Matt Benti has always maintained his love of fitness, even while working jobs in other fields. “Those job experiences taught me a lot about working on a team,” explained Benti, “and they helped me realize that my true passion was in helping others to achieve their goals through coaching- something I loved during my time at CSU.”
Benti said that, in each place he’s worked on coaching, he’s loved guiding people to achieve things they never knew they were capable of and watching that new strength empower their decisions. Now returned to Fort Collins, Benti has opened a gym that tests boundaries and encourages its members to achieve their goals. To learn more about Benti’s gym and how CSU prepared him for success, read his interview below.
What is the Persistence Hunters Gym?
Several years ago, I decided to start planning and saving to open a gym of my own, where I could shape every aspect of the experience for my members, and I knew that I wanted it to be in Fort Collins. Through my coaching experience, my own training as a cyclist, and keeping up with cutting edge exercise science, Persistent Hunters became my vision.
Persistent Hunters: A Goal Driven Gym opened in December 2017 in Fort Collins. The name is based on the theory of persistence hunting. It’s the way our earliest ancestors used their unique physiology, endurance, and teamwork to run down their prey. That survival concept is the metaphor for my approach. I want to build a supportive community of people who are each pursuing their own goals, whether that’s training for a faster 5k, losing weight, getting stronger, or simply moving more throughout the day.
What makes Persistent Hunters unique is our individual work with each member to define concrete, measurable goals, and then create a plan to achieve them. Our members workout together in group classes, but also get lots of one-on-one attention from me. In our first few months of operation, I’ve already seen my first members make impressive progress towards their goals. One member has already lost over 30 pounds, and another is back to running post-injury.
How did your education and experiences at CSU help your career?
I loved my experience at CSU. My degree is in Health and Exercise Science, with a concentration in Sports Medicine. The major-specific classes gave me such a great understanding of how our bodies work and move that it laid a wonderful foundation that I continue to build on every day. I still use some of the methods of testing, coaching, and research that I learned in many of the labs at CSU. I know I would be lost, trying to understand methods and procedures, if I did not have my experience in performing and writing my own study findings for Exercise Physiology Lab.
While at CSU, I started personal training at the Rec Center and realized that I love coaching and training those ready to achieve their goals. At the Rec Center I also taught group fitness classes that focused around bosu balls and jump ropes, and even taught a marathon training class. Those experiences taught me how to create training plans, run a class on time, and most importantly how to communicate what I want with everyone.
I quickly learned that a cue I use for one client on how to squat does not work for another, and that fact is magnified in a group class with many different athletes who have different backgrounds, fitness levels, experience, knowledge of their bodies, proprioceptive abilities, and probably the most important is how they like to be coached. What motivates them or what irritates them?
I also met my now-wife Erika (’07, natural resources management), who is also a CSU alumna and current employee at CSU, when she took my marathon training class. She is my business partner, and has helped me with marketing the gym, and together we are learning the ins and outs of starting and running a business.
What career tips and advice would you give to students who aspire to similar goals?
Don’t get lost in how many letters you can get next to your name. Getting a certification is like getting a diploma- it only means you passed the tests. Experience is just as important, if not more important.
Learning by doing is not only free, but most times you can get paid while gaining invaluable experience.
Start at the bottom and make yourself essential. Pay your dues! Right out of college is the perfect time to get up early, be the first to arrive and the last to leave. Say yes! Not only will you start creating a very strong resume and work history, it is during the after-hours that you learn the most. Do everything! I learned just as many life lessons and work-life lessons doing jobs that are as far from my current position as you can imagine.
Finally, keep your eye on the prize! Write your one-year, five-year, and 10-year goals on a piece of paper. Put it in a very visible place. While you might not have a job out of college that is in line with your 10 year plan, every job has similar lessons that will benefit your ultimate goal- like how to treat someone, both customer and co-worker, being on time, and following through with what you agreed are just some of the many similar characteristics that every job requires in order to be successful. Keep your goals current. They can change quickly, but it’s important you are doing something every day to gets one step closer.
Lastly, always have a good time doing what you’re doing. The process can be stressful, but thinking about where you are on the journey and how far you’ve come can be exciting. Keep grinding and enjoy the process. Every day you are one step closer to living your passion.
The Department of Health and Exercise Science is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.