Career & Education

Damian Cain: Survival of the fittest

Sunday, June 17, 2018

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When Damian Cain left his home and family in Goshen, St Elizabeth, for Kingston over a decade ago in search of better opportunities for himself and his family, little did he realise that his journey would be one requiring the survival of the fittest. He remembers heading to Kingston on a truck, with no specific destination in mind, no job offers, no friends or relatives to welcome him, nowhere to stay and no money — except for the $40 dollars in his pocket.

His humble beginnings saw him working right after leaving Lacovia High School. His first job was as a pump attendant at a local gas station. From there, he tried his hand at merchandising, followed by a stint at a bauxite plant, while balancing the pursuit of a diploma in physical education at Bethlehem Moravian College. Faced with financial hardship, he decided to withdraw from the programme and focus on gainful employment.

Although he did not complete his diploma, he discovered that his strengths were in the physical than the theoretical. Upon leaving the bauxite plant, Damian spent a few years in search of worthwhile employment, doing odd jobs here and there, including a gig at a gym in Mandeville where he gained some experience as an instructor. He eventually left because of inadequate compensation.

Unable to find a steady, paying job, Cain was itching for a change.

“I was feeling frustrated. One day I just packed my bag, (although) I didn't know if I was going up or down, and stood at the roadside for 45 minutes before seeing a truck that was heading to town,” he tells the Jamaica Observer.

Before the day was over, he was standing in the middle of Half-Way-Tree in Kingston, unsure of his next move. With an apparent stroke of luck he spotted an advert for a gym instructor in the vicinity, during the height of the carnival season no less, and decided that this would be his first stop.

He entered Body Fusion gym and put forward his candidacy, but was met with rejection multiple times. But he remained undeterred, going back inside to ask to fill the vacancy every 20 minutes. Eventually he convinced the owner of the gym, Dwayne Brown, to give him a chance on condition that he lead a class that same afternoon. Luckily, he was able to combine his knowledge from his physical education programme, dance skills, his personal fitness regimen, and natural charisma to win over the students and the owner, although admittedly he was no fitness instructor. With nowhere to sleep at the end of the gym session, he got ready to sleep on the bench outside of the facility, but Brown eventually agreed to have him sleep inside for the night.

The living arrangement lasted two years, eight months and three days.

“I actually survived on a diet of two packs of cream crackers for the first two weeks in my new job,” Cain recounts.

His reputation as a fitness instructor grew quickly, complemented by his desire to learn more about the art of personal training and fitness.

“I learnt a lot by simply observing others,” he tells Career & Education. “I read a lot, and asked questions.”

He also pursued formal training with the National Federation of Professional Trainers, becoming a certified personal trainer with the assistance of Brown and a friend, who provided him with books to study for the examinations. His high energy and likeable disposition served him well and helped him make a smooth transition into the corporate world, providing fitness instruction for a wide cross-section of companies including DunnCox, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Fraser Fontaine & Kong Ltd, and BCIC.

Soon, JMMB came knocking, inviting Cain to assist with the execution of its fitness challenge dubbed, 'Biggest Loser'. He immediately developed an affinity for the company's culture and vision.

“JMMB had a different mindset and I liked what I saw,” he says. “It was like a family there, and I liked it.”

So when asked to extend his stay and provide fitness instruction with the company on an ongoing basis, the decision was easy. Having spent several years working with the JMMB team, Cain says he enjoys the relationships he has developed with the team, helping members improve their fitness level, providing rehabilitation programmes, and encouraging them to pursue their fitness goals.

Now a long way from being homeless and unemployed, Cain has been able to purchase his own home and car, and has cemented his career as a fitness instructor. He is also currently pursuing further certification as a master trainer.

But he wants to go further. Cain has dreams of creating a developmental programme that helps people improve their fitness levels and which provides rehabilitation after injury. And as his way of paying it forward, he plans to provide practical and guided experience especially towards young people who are inclined a career in fitness.

His advice to people struggling with challenges similar to his? “Get out of your comfort zone and just go for it!.”

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