Erica Johnson’s mother decided that a studio would be a more appropriate place for her toddler to dance rather than all around the house. As she grew up, Johnson’s dancing led to fitness modeling. She had the movement expertise and physique required to appear on camera, and although no other specialized knowledge is required of models, Johnson wanted to understand what she was promoting. So she pursued her trainer certification.

But her fitness journey didn’t stop there. Johnson, now a fitness manager and master trainer at 24 Hour Fitness, says she was and still is deeply inspired by her father. On a break from filming 24 Hour Fitness’ “Worth It” campaign, 24Life asked Johnson how that inspiration translates to her work, why she thinks celebrity fitness experts are just like us and her secret to staying motivated.

24Life: Your job is much more than programming workouts; you work to motivate your clients to start and stick with their regimen. Who inspires you?

Erica Johnson: Definitely my family. My dad was a natural bodybuilder. He suffered from lung cancer. When you see someone’s full potential and what life does to them, it does a lot [to you]. That changed my whole perspective and outlook on life, on how I should be living, on whether I am being good to myself and good to others.

I’m also a big fan of David Goggins, Jocko Willink and people who have been so highly dedicated to their craft with no excuses. We want to categorize them as crazy. We want to categorize them as out of this world. But really, we’re just like them. They’ve just taken a stand on what they believe in and go full force. That’s what inspires me every day.

24Life: Besides your amazing clients, what makes your work worth it?

EJ: I love developing people. I love that I can actually help them get [where they want to go]. One colleague [who comes to mind is] Garrett. He had experience in physical therapy but has blossomed. … As soon as he started, I noticed that he was really into Olympic lifting. So I told him to look into certification. He followed through with that. I told him about another certification. He followed through with that.

He just recently asked me to write him a letter of recommendation for a physical therapy program. He doesn’t [necessarily] want to be the best trainer in the world, he wants to be the best Garrett. That was really special—for him to trust me to recommend him.

24Life: How do you start and end a good day?

EJ: The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is start with thankfulness and gratefulness. I say thank you to God. I start with a smile, more than anything. The last thing I do before I go to sleep is journal. I write down what happened today, what went wrong, what went right, can something be corrected, and I continue with my gratefulness: What am I grateful for that I didn’t even expect to happen today?

24Life: You give a lot of energy to people, so what does your self-care look like?

EJ: Regeneration is important, especially since I’m working with people all day. One thing that I slipped up on for a while was not continuing to invest in my fitness journey. I’m telling people what to do and giving them programs, but what about me?

So I started working with a trainer again. I recently signed with a fitness modeling agency, so now I’m working with a fellow trainer, Chris, on kickboxing—to adapt to [anything] fitness modeling throws my way, and also to get into the best shape possible.

24Life: If you could whisper one thing in everyone’s ear, what would it be?

EJ: Remember why you started.


Photo, video credit: Tom Casey,