As a personal trainer, when it comes to marketing one’s business, or simply making that connection with a client, potential client or even a colleague, I’ve often heard the phrase, “Tell your story.” This is actually something that John DuCane highlighted at the RKC (Russian Kettlebell Challenge) Certification Training I attended in April 2011.
As personal trainers, we are strength, nutrition and lifestyle coaches, in addition to being role models, mentors and even therapists at times (I say this with a smile :)). Being in that position, our clients look up to us for guidance in areas even beyond the physical workout that they seek from their personal training session with us.
As personal trainers, even though sometimes it may not seem like it to our clients, we are not invincible superheros, we are human; we make mistakes, we may have even been injured at one point in time, and we have A Story — a story that tells what exactly brought us to the present moment and why it is that we do, what we do for a living.
Here is MY story:
I wasn’t always a personal trainer. I used to be an IT Consultant and prior to that I was a contracts administrator. During my career as a contracts administrator, I worked in both the Federal Government and Commercial Industries. Neither were very exciting jobs, (to me anyway, as many people in the IT Industry truly love what they do for a living), but I was good at it… so since I was good at it I thought, well, I guess since this is something that I am good at, then this is something that I should be doing for my lifelong career. Wrong. Just because you’re good at something, does not mean that you are passionate about it and therefore should be doing it for the rest of your life. I was never truly content with what I was doing for work – which if you think about it, working for most of us is how we spend the majority of our time. So, shouldn’t we do what we like or at least like what we do for a living?
In life, I believe it’s extremely important to know yourself, to know what you want, what you are passionate about and to act upon making it a reality.
“Be a practical dreamer backed by action.”, Bruce Lee
For years I struggled with Step One, trying to figure out who I was and what exactly it was that I wanted to be when I “grew up”. Deep down I knew it was something in the health and fitness industry, as I was raised in a very active, health focused family — (When I was growing up, sugar cereal, potato chips and soda were NEVER (or I should “NEVAH” being raised in Massachusetts) allowed in our house. The closest thing we ever had to soda was Juicy Juice, to potato chips – pretzels and the only time that I ever caught a view of a box of sugar cereal, other than on the TV or in the cereal aisle, was when my younger brother was born and while my mom was in the hospital my father bought us Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms as a treat. At present my mother is a Paul Chek Certified Holistic Life Nutritional Coach & Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do, my father has always grown and continues to grow an organic garden, my brother is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), a National Strength and Conditioning Association, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA-CSCS), and 4th Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do, and my sister is a nurse) — but I wasn’t sure how to make the transition.
While I worked as a contracts administrator, I watched my younger brother go forward and obtain his BS in Kinesiology and know EXACTLY that he wanted to work as a personal trainer for a living after he graduated. I admired this. At this point, I knew that I wanted to obtain my Spin Instructor Certification, but I had not actualized that I wanted to go beyond that to become a full time personal trainer. So I obtained my Spin Instructor Certification and began teaching Spin Classes part-time. I LOVED working as a Spin Instructor. There was something invigorating about knowing that you truly made a difference in a person’s day/life and helped them not only to be healthier in body, but also, to help them to relieve stress and to either help them to start their day off right or for them to have something to look forward to at the end of day.
During this time, I thoroughly enjoyed my part-time job as a fitness instructor more than my full-time job as a Contracts Administrator. As outsiders, both my brother and his now wife recognized this, and at the time, they encouraged me to just take the leap into working full time in the fitness industry. I wasn’t ready yet.
Finally, a job change from Contracts Administration to IT Consulting, an interstate move, and 5 years later I was ready to make the leap.
“Only actions give to life its strength, as only moderation gives it its charm.”, Bruce Lee
I was so fed up with working day to day in an office at a job that sucked the life out of me because I was not passionate about it and more and more I couldn’t wait for 5 o’clock to come around so that I could run off and go teach a spin class or head to kung fu (as at the time I was studying to obtain my black belt in kung fu). My full-time job was becoming more and more irrelevant except for the paycheck that I was collecting. I remember how lethargic I would feel in the morning while getting ready for work, no matter how much sleep I had the night before and how much I dreaded putting on my suit and my make up to go sit in meetings and at a computer all day long. Again, many people love this profession and therefore it is the right fit for them, it was not the right fit for me.
A lot of what was holding me back with this career change, beyond knowing for sure that I wanted to work as a personal trainer in the fitness industry for a living, was the lifestyle change – As an IT Consultant, you have an annual salary, a steady bi-weekly paycheck, an annual bonus based upon performance, great benefits from expense reimbursement to a 401k to health benefits and paid sick and vacation time. As a personal trainer, you work by the hour – so if you’re sick or if you want to take a vacation you need to plan for it because if you don’t work then you are not earning a salary, benefits are your own responsibility unless you work for a commercial gym and even in this case you need to qualify for benefits and you are solely responsible for marketing your skills and your own business. It’s a lot to manage and a drastic change.
For me, this is when I sat down and thought hard, “Are all of the qualitative securities that I have with my office job worth day in and day out being unhappy?” My answer was “No way.” I would rather do what I love and love what I do and make half as much money – or what I should say, is have to work a lot harder in order to earn as much money. Bottom line is, it’s not about the money. It’s about being happy, and passionate about how you spend the majority of your waking hours. If you do what love and love what you do, then work, is not “WORK”.
“Our grand business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”, Bruce Lee
When I finally made the decision to take the leap, I prepared myself financially to take a decrease in income and to possibly not to earn anything for 6 weeks to 3 months as I built my business. I obtained my NASM-CPT and my first Kettlebell Certification and I gave more than sufficient notice at my consulting job.
Before leaving my consulting job, when I would tell people what my plans were some supported it and thought it was inspiring and definitely the right thing to do, others would say, “Wow, you’re brave… I wouldn’t have the courage to do something like that…” , which translated to me as, “Um, you’re pretty stupid to do this…” or “Are you sure you want to leave a stable job and a steady paycheck to work as a personal trainer?”, again translated to me as, “Um, you’re pretty stupid to do this…” The naysayers made me doubt myself and my decision — and trust me, in the months leading up to this change I had MANY MANY tear filled meltdowns overanalyzing if I was making the right decision – but in the end, I decided that the worst thing that could happen would be that I would fail and if I failed then I would just dust myself off and go back to working as a consultant… or, I would simply succeed.
“Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.”, Bruce Lee
This change was one of the scariest things that I have ever done. Even scarier than sky diving – and yes, I have tried that once. With sky diving, I knew what was at the end – landing on the ground was at the end. With this, I had no idea what was going to happen next. However, I remember when I handed in my resignation at my consulting job how incredibly relieved and elated I felt that I was acting upon this change that I had been talking about and planning for months. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders and I was so incredibly excited for my new beginning. So with that, even though I was terrified about the unknown, I was equally as was relieved and excited about what was to come and therefore I KNEW that I had made the right decision.
On the day that I worked my last day as an IT Consultant, after work I went to kung fu class. I remember being in the women’s changing room changing for class and it really hit me, “Holy shit, I took the leap.” As I had this thought, two of my female kung fu colleagues and friends entered into the changing room and I looked at them and started crying and said, “What did I do?? I just left a perfectly stable job to work in a job that I don’t know what my income will be??” My friends calmed me down and gave me words of encouragement as they completely supported that I had made the right decision. (In fact as a side note, a short time after this, one of them was so inspired by my career change, that she herself left her office job and went on to work as a yoga instructor and personal trainer. To this day, she has had great success.)
With those tears, I had my final meltdown and the next day I woke up and went to work as a Personal Trainer. On that first day I had 3 clients. 3 clients that I had acquired on my own from all of my part-time work as a group fitness instructor and when people asked me what I did for a living I was so incredibly proud to say that “I am a Personal Trainer” and even more proud to say, “I love what I do and I do what I love.”
A few months later, my former manager from the consulting firm that I had worked for contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in doing some contract work as a consultant. I gave it serious thought, and decided, no, I am truly confident with the decision that I made and any energy or extra time that I have, I want to put that time and energy into building my personal training business. It was a very gratifying moment as this interaction re-confirmed that I had made the right decision. I never looked back, I never regretted my decision, I never wondered “what if” – which if I was still working as an IT Consultant right now, I would be wondering “what if”.
“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”, Bruce Lee
Take calculated risks and never be afraid to pursue what you want as long as you are sure of what you want. The worst thing that will happen is that you will fail but you will learn from your failure and start over… OR, you will simply succeed.
This is MY Story, what is YOUR Story?