Once upon a time…
…I spent my work week sitting at a desk, staring at a computer screen or making my way from one meeting to another. I was an event manager. I specialised in corporate work (conferences, incentive trips, executive retreats). I also travelled the world, stayed in the most beautiful hotels and resorts, sampled incredible restaurants, went on excursions and tours and explored countries in a way I could never have afforded otherwise. It was ALL I had ever wanted to do. It seemed SO fabulous. I picked my university degree based on the career I wanted. I had spent all my school and university years being THAT person who organised all the social events. I had volunteered at companies to get my CV sorted in order to get the best job. And I did! I landed a job at the biggest events company in Sydney. My dream.
So why did I hate it so much?
Five years into my first “proper” job and in reality, I was working 10-12 hour days (or longer if I was onsite at an event). I’d spend weekends in the office catching up on emails. I’d miss evening dates or weekend gatherings with friends. My body suffered, my posture was terrible, causing chronic pain in my neck and lower back. My diet became whatever was available in 5 minutes from the café downstairs, or a quick something I could find at the buffet of whichever hotel we were running an event from. I had never struggled with my weight but I found my clothes were never comfortable anymore. I had always loved exercise – it had been a big part of my life for as long as I could remember. But gym classes or walks after work became very few and far between. And I was earning a pretty pitiful salary on top of it all.
My one constant
Pilates had been the one constant form of exercise that I kept coming back to. I was first introduced to Pilates at age 18. A physio had recommended it to help stabilise some injuries I’d sustained from years of figure skating. I absolutely loved it. While I was at university, I’d attend classes at the uni gym and a local studio that offered classes out of a church hall. While these were affordable and fun, I longed to be a part of one of the new studios that had begun cropping up around Sydney, ones that had reformer machines & fancy tables with bits of equipment hanging from the ceiling. As soon as I had a real salary for the first time, I joined the most well-known Pilates studio in the city & started attending classes as often as I could. Which was…not as often as I would have liked. I’d manage maybe one class a week or fortnight. Sometimes less. But I still loved it. The more I went, the more I was inspired by the teachers. And the more I wanted that life too.
And then I “jumped”
At 26, I quit my job in corporate events. I’d had a bad falling out with my employer. I was exhausted. I never felt like I could never quite keep on top of things & clients were never happy. I took a job back at my university as a campus events manager. It was such a relief. And a lot of fun! I’d start at 9am and leave around 4.30pm. What a life! The students were passionate & excited, not yet worn down from years in a corporate world. It was such a nice energy to be around. I started going to Pilates classes at my studio 3-4 times per week. I felt stronger, more energised and happier than I had in years. My studio offered Pilates Teacher Training courses over weekends, and the idea of studying started playing in my mind. I thought “I’ll just give it a go.” If I didn’t like it, no big deal.
But I absolutely fell in love with it. You hear about so many people who decide to turn their passion into a career & realise it was a mistake…but I had this feeling I had finally found what I loved. And I was good at it! It was so nice to receive positive feedback for a change.
Transition to full-time teaching
I wish I could say the transition to teaching full time was an easy one. But I found myself working 2 jobs, whilst studying, for 3 years. I completed my Pilates matwork course and I started teaching mat classes to family & friends on the weekend. I was so nervous! But it was fun. So I kept going. I built some confidence and started teaching some community classes. I completed my reformer training, which I loved even more. And then the most unexpected surprise came along – the Pilates director at my studio called me one day to offer me a job teaching studio classes. She had seen me doing my practice teaching within the courses and thought I was ready. I was over the moon! So I was now teaching weekends, evenings & occasionally some early mornings before my job at the university. For someone with zero anatomy/science experience prior to all this, I really wanted to delve into things a little deeper and signed up for a 12 month studio/rebab course with Polestar Pilates. That’s where things really got interesting, but the study was intense. Learning in-depth anatomy is like learning another language. Pilates was taking over more & more of my life. I was now back in the position where I was so busy working & teaching I had no time left for myself. Something had to give.
I made sure I had enough training under my belt to earn a proper living in the fitness industry, and after several months of re-doing the maths, I jumped. I resigned from my job running student events. I still remember that first morning after quitting my full-time position going to the studio, thinking “WHAT HAVE I DONE?!” I went from a stable salary with holiday and sick pay to being self-employed & totally, financially, on my own.
But it was the BEST decision I have ever made
Zero regrets. I smile now thinking about all the years I’ve not just loved my job, but felt like this was my purpose. The thing I was meant to be doing all along.
I found that if you were willing to put in the hours (clearly not something I was unfamiliar with lol) you could actually earn a fantastic living in the fitness industry too. A year into teaching full-time, I was now earning double what I had in event management. I became a teacher trainer for my studio & was incredibly excited to be the one now guiding & inspiring new teachers. A lot of the people I taught in those courses became close friends and colleagues.
Not everyone goes through a corporate job transition to a Pilates or Yoga career change. But it’s common. I’ve trained so many teachers who had burned out from years of deskwork, or women who had gone on maternity leave & realised they could never step back into that life now that they’d had children. A lot of instructors come from years as a professional dancer or performer which is another natural move. And it’s a great additional skill to add if you’re already an exercise instructor or PT, especially if you’re keen to work in women’s health, which Pilates & Yoga blends together so beautifully.
What to look for
There are so many training courses out there now for people wanting to work in the industry, far more than when I completed my training. My advice is to look for a course that is nationally accredited within the industry in your country. This is especially important for gaining insurance & being recognised by industry bodies. If you’re planning to teach Pilates or Yoga overseas, it is also very helpful if you have an accreditation from an internationally recognised brand such as STOTT Pilates, Basi, Polestar or Balanced Body. Most major cities around the world now offer courses from at least one of these organisations. But some will be a better fit for you than others. Research their philosophy, make sure it’s aligned with the way you’re used to experiencing classes. Find Facebook groups to chat to others that have done those courses to find out what the trainers are really like, and how they found the whole experience.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I fell in love with the world of yoga, and that’s a whole different story (which you can read about here, if you wish). My path to becoming a yoga teacher put me right back into the time when I was nervous teaching & everything seemed so new & different. Where I had to write out my whole class plan on paper before I taught it to a group. But it added another dimension to my teaching that I very much needed in that stage of my life.
Never stop learning
The beautiful thing about teaching movement for a living is that you never stop learning & finding inspiration. Pilates, especially, is so exercise-science based these days. Organisations and institutes all over the world are throwing money into research around how people can move more efficiently. This means there is always another course you can attend or seminar you can listen to online.
In the years since I started teaching, I’ve had the opportunity to work, train & study at different studios all around the world. It’s such a fantastic, dynamic and exciting industry. And if you’ve decided it’s the one for you, I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I have.