A piccture of UniSport's happy customers sitting and chating on a bench in UniSport Kluuvi's lobby.

Riku Saastamoinen

Personal trainer and Group training instructor
Riku works as a personal trainer and instructs Les Mills classes at UniSport. Riku also mentors new Les Mills instructors.
UniSportin personal trainer Riku Saastamoinen.

How did you start working at UniSport?

I started working as an instructor in 2010. A gym I used to work at had an instructor who also worked as an instructor at UniSport, and that’s when I heard about UniSport for the first time. Over the years, I have heard from other people as well that UniSport is a good place to work, and the compensation is also quite good. I have always had the impression that UniSport is one of the most well-respected places to work among instructors. I have thought many times over the years that I will probably never get to work at UniSport. I had never even been to UniSport. It was just a mystical place that everyone was talking about.

About five years ago, I was in a café reading Kauppalehti magazine and there was a news article about how UniSport is renovating its facilities in Think Corner and opening a new sports centre. After reading the article, I probably visited UniSport’s website and saw they had Bodyattack classes. Bodyattack has always been my passion. At that time, I was looking to instruct another Bodyattack class, and I realized I have to get into UniSport! I can’t remember how I contacted UniSport, but I visited Jassi and talked with her. I then instructed a sample spinning class, and that’s how it started.

Quite quickly we discussed personal training as well. I was still studying when I started working as an instructor. I worked as an instructor for year and then became a personal trainer. UniSport has not disappointed me. My expectations were met, and I have enjoyed working here. It’s professional and well-structured. Everything works as it should.

Are you studying or working elsewhere?

I also work as a sports service coordinator at Esport. I have worked as an entrepreneur for five to six years. Over the years, I have worked as a personal trainer and instructor in almost every gym in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. Currently, I work at UniSport and Esport. I offer mind coaching and personal training services as well as Firstbeat analyses through my own company. I also speak at event about making life changes and similar topics. I have an entrepreneurial mindset. If someone needs me, that's where I’ll go.

Combining everything requires a certain attitude. This attitude comes from growing up in an entrepreneurial family. At times, I have wondered if this is just crazy, but I like the freedom. At home, my spouse understands that I am entrepreneur, and how it affects my schedule. I wouldn’t be successful, at least not to this extent, if I didn’t have the freedom and space to do what I do. On the other hand, if you think what it’s like to work as an entrepreneur, you have to be able to work a certain amount for it to be profitable. If I worked less, it could be a hobby, but that's not possible for me. I am happy with the situation. Ten years ago, I started knocking on the doors to see if I could start working as an instructor and show what I can do.

What do you like best about UniSport? What makes UniSport a good employer?

UniSport has been a reliable and supportive employer. Although I work as an entrepreneur, I feel that I am part of the staff. I feel that I am treated the same as everyone else. I am included in everything and not left out. All common matters and meetings apply to us entrepreneurs as well. It is really a great and unique thing. I haven’t seen anything similar in other places, at least not on a similar scale. This has also been evident during the pandemic. In other places, I wouldn't necessarily have received a Christmas present. It was really heart-warming. Another great thing is the open atmosphere and knowing you can say what you think and you will be listened. People need to feel that someone cares about them and is interested about them, and this is the case at UniSport.

What kind of a work community is UniSport? How are UniSport’s values reflected in it operations?

UniSport is well-structured, not in a negative sense, but the roles are clear and work well. The communication is open. Sometimes UniSport can be bit slow, but it has a university background. During my first years, I noticed that my own straightforward thinking was sometimes a bit too much for some people. I wasn’t considerate enough even though this wasn’t my intention.

I have always felt that UniSport is a work environment free of harassment and bullying. As a personal trainer or in any customer service job, you also deal with more challenging customer encounters. It is important to have courage in these situations, and UniSport supports this. At least in my experience, the supervisors have clearly stated that we have their support 100%. No one is left alone. We are told in advance that we don’t have to solve a situation alone. We can always discuss the issue with someone.

UniSport's customer promise is "We help you make good choices". How is this promise reflected in your work with the customers?

When I see my personal training customers, I get the feeling that they trust they are in good hands with me and my colleagues. They trust our suggestions and recommendations. If there are new participants in my class, I will try to talk with them a little after the class or remind them that everyone has been a first-time participant at some point, including myself. I think that helping is also like supporting.

What is the best thing about your job?

The people. If you do good, good things will happen. I am sometimes asked where my excitement and interest comes from. It comes from other people. I return the energy I receive from them. In the summer, I had one exceptional day. I was covering for another instructor, and in the evening, I realised that I had instructed altogether six Less Mills classes. My last class ended at 8:30 p.m. After the class, a customer said I had a great energy! But I was exhausted when I left for my last class.

Sometimes I receive feedback from customers that makes me realise that what I do or say has been extremely important for them in a specific moment. I might have helped them solve another issue in their life, for instance, how to manage stress. At Uniport, people say I have a gift for making people cry. Not because I am mean to people, but because I have a special connection with my customers.

What has been the most surprising part of your work?

How much people trust and confide in a professional. It shows how much responsibility we have. The customers are of course always responsible for themselves, but I mean a mental responsibility. How much people give back to you and confide in you if you let them. It has been strange to understand that I have an ability to create such a safe environment that people can open up about their most painful experiences.

As a professional who has studied this field, I have perhaps been inside by own bubble and forgot how clueless most people are when it comes to their wellbeing. Back when I started, I felt so much pressure to come up with something new and interesting. But in the end, 90% of customers just need the basic things. Less is more.

What has been the most challenging? How have you handled the challenges?

It’s challenging when, even though you try, you don’t really hit if off with the customer. The only option then is to address the situation and resolve it. You can always change to another personal trainer. Nothing is worse to the trainer or the client than having to worry about meeting the other person and how they don’t understand you. These situations can be resolved with the help of a supervisor. They won’t hesitate to help. It's not a problem if you’re just not on the same wavelength with the customer.

People invest money in personal training. I used to have a trainer myself when I was making major changes in my life. I had to think about what I am ready to give up so I can have a personal trainer. It's a minimum requirement to have a trainer that you feel comfortable with. That is why I like to talk with my customers first and decide later. If I feel that the communication doesn’t work, this is best for the customer. It is customer service in its own way. We must listen to our heart, and I believe this is something we do from the heart.

If you win your customer's heart, they are yours forever. Even if they only train for a short while, the message will spread. Every trainer will notice at some point that you don’t really have to market your services as you will start receiving spontaneous requests. It takes time, but everyone will get there if you work hard.

What should someone applying for a job as a personal trainer at UniSport know in advance? To whom would you recommend UniSport as a place to work?

We need to be authorised personal trainers (APT), meaning that we a training that is by a training provider which belongs to the APT network. We have room for personal trainers who are early in their careers, but there’s no upper limit to experience. Once you have gained more experience, we have such a large and diverse customer base that specialising in something is useful. We offer the opportunity to specialise, and all special skills are valued. I believe that having an area of specialisation can maximise the number of customers. At UniSport, every personal trainer has a voice, and no one is forced to be something they’re not.

I believe this is why we primarily have successful relationships with our personal training customers. People know, at least according to their own interpretation, who is the best-suited trainer for them and seek that trainer’s services. I personally don’t feel that we have a lot of internal competition. On the contrary, we recommend customers to colleagues if they are better suited for the customer or more experienced in what the customer needs. It is a solution-focused and customer-oriented approach and part of being a professional. At that time, it may be money out of your pocket, but it will be rewarded. This also shows what our work community and our supervisors are like. What kind of a work community we want to build and what kind of people we want to hire.

I would recommend UniSport to everyone in the wellbeing sector, but especially to people who want to develop themselves. Development must start with ourselves, and UniSport is a great place to develop yourself, meaning that people are listened to here. I also feel that this is a safe place for rookies to grow. One of UniSport's special features is that the clientele is very diverse in terms of age and goals. You get to work with and meet a wide range of people. I would say that especially as a first job after graduation, UniSport may give you the most diverse set of skills. At UniSport I have been able is to observe and learn the way young people think. This hasn’t been possible anywhere else.