The article is really positive and upbeat since, of course, Nadine’s story is of the successful kind. But the article makes you wonder what it takes to get there. I have come across quite a few fitness professionals from all kind of disciplines, be it general fitness, personal training, group training, Crossfit, MMA, yoga, pilates, Zumba etc., who tried to say bye-bye to their cubicle and make a living with showing people how to move for their wellbeing. Some made it and some didn’t.
Leaving the a drab office life behind to pursue a job where you get to move around, interact with different people and have flexible hours and never have to wear a suit in the sweltering heat of Hong Kong has its draw. You see those energetic instructors bouncing like rubber balls during boot camp training in the park, composed yoga teachers showing their students how to stay calm during a pretzel-asana and Crossfit trainers demonstrating kipping pull-ups like gravity is just a concept of the mind.
It comes down to 5 points which I proudly call the BIBLE principle:
Consider your current situation and your resources. How much time and money do you have to make the transition? Do you have a strategy? When Nadine started her business Nadine Bubner Yoga she decided to transition into it gradually: “Start slowly. Building your client base and still being in the corporate world before making the jump helped me a lot.” So don’t burn that bridge right away. Also, see who is going to cross that bridge with you. Talk with your spouse, family and friends whoever might be majorly affected by your choice. If you’re single or if you can depend on your partner’s income for a while determines how you transition into the fitness industry. Are there other people who depend on you having a stable salary? What’s the plan B?
As fitness professional you provide a service. And be aware of that service you provide in terms of quality, possible risks, and outcomes. In this service setting, we build a relationship with our clients or student. He/ she trusts you and because of that trust you are responsible to keep the integrity of both sides intact. Unlike doctors, we don’t have the equivalent of a Hippocratic Oath for fitness professionals. But ethical standards need to be maintained. “Honesty, punctuality, work ethic, understanding, dedication… this list could go on, have these essential life skills in check, “says Alix James from Reebok Crossfit Asphodel. The relationship with a client can become quite personal. You will get to know about their likes and dislikes, family and work. They might tell you about their day, their worries or aspirations. There is a temptation to see a power dynamic. But there isn’t. Never let anyone (neither you nor your client) overstep the boundary which could endanger the relationship between equals. For example: being insensitive and fat shaming a client, flirting, fostering emotional dependency.
“This industry involves giving out lots of energy - take regular recovery periods!” says Linds Russell, Founder and Head Trainer of ApeFit, almost jokingly. There is always a ‘but’ in the business of getting people to move theirs. And it can drain you. Although we are not subject to a typical 9 to 5 we are subject to our client’s free schedule which usually means our work day looks something like a 6 to 9am, then 12 to 1pm and then 7 to 8pm or a 8 to 9 pm. Get to know the industry to get to know how to enter it. “There's usually a high and low tide for businesses like ours, especially for freelancers. Clients are away and it’s quiet. And then it’s crazy busy when they are all back at once.” Kat, a freelance trainer, points out. There are several business models you could follow. On one side you could, like Kat, be entirely freelance and get clients through your own business or in collaboration with other fitness companies or smaller studios. You could also set up your own fitness company like Linds or Alix. On the other side you could become employee with big studios or gyms like Pure, Fitness First or Physical. Each path has its ups and downs where you have to juggle income, freedom and responsibility. “I guess my words of warning would be that the industry has gathered so much momentum, it has the potential to steer one away from their own true practice. The best teachers teach what they actually believe and practice, not what the studios think will sell more memberships,” says Dylan Bernstein, authorised Ashtanga Yoga teacher at Stillness in Action.
You gotta love people and love what you do.
This business gets you in touch with lots of people. If you cannot stand being around people then this job is not for you. It’s a matter of establishing a connection. Alix James agrees when he points out: “Genuinely want to help people and to find ways to make them better, this will set you apart from many people entering the industry.” You need to ask yourself: Does training people and imparting knowledge about your discipline make you happy? Would you even enjoy it if you weren’t making any money? If that’s a yes then you will feel the same as Linds Russell: “It is an opportunity to do what excites you every single day - I love what I do!” Even if you are an introvert (like me) there are ways to connect with people which suits your temperament and which will allow you to find fulfilment in your job.
Or as I like to say: “Wax on. Wax off. Keep putting in the work or be stuck on the treadmill to nowhere.” Alix is more clear-cut and less Miyagi on this matter: “Don't think you know it all and that your way is the only way, there are plenty of people smarter than you and there are plenty of methods other people can utilise. Take courses, read...keep bettering yourself.” You are not done once you got your form of certification. The real work starts after that. It’s a good idea to get some exposure by starting small. Nadine for example suggests “community classes to build reputation and experience”. How you interact with your clients or students could be a source of knowledge itself. Dylan emphasizes the importance of observation: “I'd also love to see teachers watching their students instead of asking the students to watch them.” Of course there is also the issue of how fad-sensitive the fitness industry is. “Science is always changing. One day carbs with protein are good for you the other day they are an evil combination. Just an example,” throws Kat in. “So I think to be sensible and see which works for the trainer and individual client.” This sensibility only comes with continuous education and experience. “The real issue is that most teachers haven't yet established a consistent self-guided practice. They should still teach, of course, but I caution new teachers to keep their practice in ‘a lockbox.’” says Dylan. He often observed that new teachers and trainers have the tendency to follow trends too quickly and, instead of sticking to their guns, seemingly randomly change their training, practice or teaching style. At the end they know lots of things but are not really knowledgeable. “A little learning is a dangerous thing,” indeed.
So that is the BIBLE principle.
Do you think I have forgotten anything and are keen to mess up my beautiful mnemonic acronym? Let me know in the comments.