Our greatest learning opportunities can arise from our moments of defeat.
That’s what Jeremy Fernandes believes. He’s seen it in his own life, and he’s seen it in his clients’ lives.
Injury, illness, personal, and systemic challenges—nobody would ever claim that these make our lives easy or fun.
Yet obstacles can be used to our advantage, especially if we have the right guidance and support.
Jeremy can provide that support. He’s the kind of coach who’s there for you, wherever you come from, and wherever you want to go.
Until the age of six or seven, Jeremy shared a room with his grandmother.
The first-generation son of Indian immigrants, he grew up in Scarborough, Ontario.
“My grandmother showed me how to read and write,” Jeremy says. “She taught me to ride a bike.” A constant presence in his early life, she was clearly no slouch in the coaching department herself.
Maybe that’s why Jeremy has always gravitated toward older people. “I was that kid with the brain of a 50-year-old,” he jokes. At the age of four, he told his aunt: “I came from an embryo.”
Even today, he finds he often has more in common with people a decade or more older than himself.
And in his role as coach, he especially enjoys working with clients who are middle-aged and beyond.
Older clients are easy for him to understand and connect with.
“They take a long-term approach to their goals,” he says.
“They’re willing to put in the work. They also speak up if something doesn’t sit right with them. They communicate clearly.”
That sounds a lot like Jeremy himself.
But Jeremy wasn’t born with that level of confidence and self-knowledge.
He earned it by dealing with various setbacks and disappointments.
To begin with, there was his health. Though Jeremy was that kid with the 50-year-old brain, he was also that kid who seemed to catch every virus that was going around. He was in and out of doctor’s offices as often as he switched out his sports uniforms.
That happened a lot, because he loved athletics.
And there was no way he was going to let frequent illness get in the way of participating in sports.
When he wasn’t sick, Jeremy was strong and fast. He might not have been the star, but he was a solid and much-valued team player.
There was just one problem: He had a persistent pain in his leg. For months. Even years. Eventually, the pain led to a limp.
At first, his parents thought it was just a phase. Later, doctors put it down to “growing pains.”
But one day on the soccer field, a referee ordered him off the pitch. Turned out, those “growing pains” were actually due to a meniscus and ACL injury.
Things were so bad that when a physio asked him to straighten his knee, Jeremy only had 29 degrees of motion.
Jeremy spent the next year in rehab instead of on the field.
It may not have been exciting, but it did result in an unexpected benefit. It was as a rehab patient that he developed a career interest in sports rehab and physiotherapy.
His next adventure was in the weight room. Having regained his range of motion, he now had to regain strength.
“There I was,” he says. “Thirteen or fourteen years old, a skinny kid in the weight room of the YMCA, and I didn’t have a clue. I just watched what other guys were doing and tried to copy them.”
Mostly, this went well. But sometimes it led to little progress and even minor injuries.
Still, this early experimentation in the weight room added to Jeremy’s curiosity about sports rehab as a profession.
Unfortunately, an unsatisfying volunteer gig in his university’s sports medicine clinic left him in serious doubt about his career choice.
He’d hoped to find a sense of connection with real human beings. “Instead, they had me filing and folding linens for an entire semester,” he says with a laugh.
Later, during a physio demonstration with an unmotivated and demoralized client, Jeremy ventured to explain why they were asking him to perform a particular movement.
The client was grateful.
“In my experience, people tend to respond better when they know the reasons you’re asking them to do something,” Jeremy says.
But his superiors criticized his approach. That experience left Jeremy with the sense that physiotherapy wasn’t the right place for him.
It was the following year, in the weight training room, where he regained his focus.
Not only did he find like-minded friends, but he also earned his personal training certification. At last he was working with people instead of pushing papers or folding towels. While mentoring people of all ages—professors, staff members, and fellow-students—Jeremy was in his element.
A year later, he graduated with his degree in kinesiology. Not only that, but as the recipient of the Trainer of the Year award at his university, he also won tangible recognition for his talents.
As usual, Jeremy had turned the obstacles in his path into opportunities for learning and growth.
“Whenever I can’t do something, or when things don’t work out the way I hope, that typically leads me to want to learn more. What went wrong? How can I address the problem?”
Today, he brings the same curiosity and solution-focused thinking to his work with clients.
One client in particular—the mother of a friend— began the coaching process so skeptical that she didn’t even want to talk with him on a consultation call.
A busy parent and business owner who was also caregiver for an elderly family member, she worried that a young man like Jeremy might not understand the demands she was under or the many conflicts that interfered with her progress.
But by serving as a sounding board and asking how she’d like to make changes, Jeremy honored her strengths, demonstrated respect, and earned her trust.
Soon she was taking short walks every day. Before long, she’d lost 25 pounds.
Today she walks 8 kilometers a day. She regularly sends him photos of the fresh foods she’s preparing.
She’s more positive when it comes to her own setbacks, a more compassionate caregiver, and is overall more enthusiastic about her life.
As a person of color and the son of immigrants, Jeremy understands that pursuing fitness can sometimes seem to conflict with honoring cultural demands.
It can be tricky to balance family expectations around food and celebrations with our personal health and fitness goals.
“For immigrants, health and fitness can often be relegated to a back-burner,” Jeremy notes. “People are working so hard just to survive and raise their families.”
“Besides, this journey doesn’t always feel like it’s meant for us,” he adds.
As a newcomer to a country or as a person of color, it can feel forbidding to walk into a gym—let alone go hiking or sailing or skiing.
Especially when most advertisements for fitness programs, gyms, and even sports equipment and clothing tend to feature wealthy-looking white people.
But Jeremy is out to change these exclusionary and damaging myths and perceptions.
“If I can lean on my own experience of family conversations around food and fitness to help my clients, I’m happy to do it,” he says.
He wants you to know that whatever your race or ethnicity, whatever community you come from, your health is important and you have the right to nurture it.
He’s done it himself and has coached countless others with the same goal.
“Whoever you are, you belong. And you can do this.”