In a world where everyone is trying to escape the 9-5 life, become a digital nomad and reinvent themselves as an entrepreneur, last year I made the decision to go back to work as a fitness instructor.
Just to be clear, I hadn’t been sat at home twiddling my thumbs for nearly a decade – I’d been self-employed. For 7 years I ran my own photography/videography business and for the past 3 years, I’ve been designing and making handprinted wrapping paper. But fitness has always been my first love.
In May 2017 I shut the doors on my photography business and started pondering over what to do next. While it was great being my own boss, I’d become tired of the hustle. Editing images until way past my bedtime, making phone calls, sending emails, chasing invoices, drumming up business – all for something I’d fallen out of love with. It just wasn’t enjoyable anymore and I needed things to change. I decided to keep my printing business and look for a part-time job to replace the photography.
Returning to the fitness industry
It couldn’t be just any job. It had to mean something to me and I wanted to use my current skillset. Although it was blindingly obvious I should be working in the fitness industry, I think I denied it for a while. I’d already been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. I’d taught aerobics, step, spinning and body conditioning; I’d worked as a gym instructor and done a small stint as a personal trainer.
Once I finally gave in, I started looking for jobs and applied for two. The first, I was a little underqualified for but gave it a shot anyway. The second was perfect for what I was looking for, and a couple of hours after my second interview I received a phone call offering me the position. I started the following week.
8 Things I’ve learnt from going back to the fitness industry
I’ve had to work on my personal skills
When I had my photography business I used to pick and choose my clients. If I thought a bride was going to be the bride from hell – I turned her I down. Sometimes I said I was already booked, other times I was honest, telling her I didn’t think we were the right fit. This was the same in other areas of photography, and overall I was very lucky with the clients I bagged.
At the gym, I don’t get to pick and choose. I have to deal with whoever walks through the door on my shift. Most people are lovely. But it took me a little while to realise I was there to help whoever that person may be, and I’ve had to adapt my approach a little. Just like if I’ve had a shitty day, I can’t take it out on someone. I still have to smile, be polite, remain professional and do everything I can to help with whatever that person wants – even if they piss me off a little.
I always have been, and always will be an introvert
Making random uncomfortable small talk is never going to be easy for me. I acknowledge everyone, smile politely and say hello, but I’m much better at slowly building relationships and finding common topics to talk about. This has been my approach and it’s starting to pay off.
Also, I find it draining spending so much time with people. If I have a day in-between each shift, I’m okay. But if I work 3 days back-to-back, I struggle. I crave my own space and long for some serious downtime with a good book.
My favourite times of day are just before I open the gym, or just before I close for the night. I like the silence, the peacefulness and the emptiness.
I like hearing people’s stories
Even though I will always be an introvert, listening to people’s stories and hearing about their lives is fascinating. Everyone has a different reason for being at the gym and everyone has a life story about how they ended up where they are, doing what they’re doing. These are the conversations I adore.
Other times, people just need to offload – and that’s fine too.
Early mornings are a killer
Even though I consider myself an early riser (hello 5.15am alarm for the gym), early shifts kill me. To get to work for 6.15am, I have to get up at 4.15am. One early shift a week I can just about cope with. But give me two back-to-back and it wipes me out for a few days.
I suffer from imposter syndrome
Not believing in myself enough. Doubting myself. Fear of being exposed as a fraud. We’ve all been there. Unfortunately, I’m feeling it now more than ever.
If I have an induction that doesn’t go perfectly, or if I can’t answer a question (even though I know I can’t know everything), I start questioning myself, my knowledge and my ability, telling myself I’m not good enough to be there. To be honest, at times it’s been debilitating.
I like training women and they trust me
And at the risk of blowing my own trumpet – I’m good at it.
Lots of women find the gym an intimidating place – for different reasons – and I’m also discovering many women feel more comfortable having a female trainer. I patiently spend time showing them the different equipment, putting programmes together, correcting their form and showing them that the gym doesn’t have to be scary.
There are women who will only book in with me and some even book weeks in advance to make sure they can get an appointment during my shift. I find this part of my job really rewarding because it shows I’m doing everything right.
I shouldn’t get involved with gossip
One of the things I hated about previous jobs was all the gossip mongering, and working on my own meant it was never an issue.
Now, I find myself getting involved in a weekly game of Chinese whispers. What’s worse is that I find myself joining in and repeating some of it. This is a side of myself that I don’t like, so I need to be a bit more diplomatic and try to keep my head down.
I have to be flexible with my schedule
Sometimes, it would be easier to train at work, but I just can’t bring myself to do it – I like having a separate gym.
Also, when I first went back to work I convinced myself I could continue with my regular routine. Oh, how wrong I was. Switching between early shifts and late shifts, working every other weekend and running my printing business has taken time for me to realise I need to be flexible with my schedule.
At first, I told myself I could work late and still get up for an early gym session the next day – only to be left frustrated when I slept through my alarm. To begin with, I found myself doing home workouts and just hitting the gym on my days off but I started to get bored – and pissed off I was paying for a gym membership.
Now, if I work an early shift, I head straight to the gym afterwards and work out at 3pm instead of 6.30am. If I’m on a late, I work out early and then the day after, I have a lie in and hit the gym around 8am instead. It’s all about being flexible. I still throw in the occasional home work out, but not as much as I used to.
Overall, I like being back at work and being part of the fitness industry again. Part-time hours really suit me and so does working in a gym. At the moment, it’s pretty much my perfect job. Not perfect as in ‘oh wow, this is my dream job – gush, gush’, but a perfect fit for where I am right now. I like the hours, the location and the fact I’m able to use my fitness qualifications.
I can still run my printing business, I’m constantly learning new things and the fitness theme is a good fit for my blog. It’s also given me other ideas to explore that a while ago seemed out of reach. And although I’ll always be an introvert at heart, it’s made me realise that some days I was finding it quite lonely working from home.
I have no concrete plans for the future, but for now, I’m pretty happy exploring new ideas.
Have you ever gone from being self-employed to employed? How did you adjust?