I finally found my place in the gym!

It’s been a journey both pursuing my own personal health and fitness while also working toward making it my new career path. I thought I found my place in my original gym, but that didn’t end up being the case. While I still credit that gym for changing my life and helping me find my path, it turns out that it’s not the right fit for me right now.

Coming to this realization took me by surprise, but I tried to look at it as an opportunity to explore other options in my area. I knew I did not want to work in a big box gym because it’s a competitive environment amongst trainers and you have to sell as a primary part of your job.  While that’s to be expected to an extent, it’s a bit more cut throat and I simply do not feel I would thrive in that type of environment.

Instead of a big box gym, some of my trainer friends recommended that I start with coaching rather than personal training and suggested I look at Orange Theory, F45 and other similar places. I know a lot of people who love that style of training so it was a good idea, in theory.

However, there is a reason that I chose personal training rather than large group coaching. I am an introvert and the thought of being on a microphone, full of energy for classes of 15+ people, for multiple hours a day makes me want to crawl into a dark closet. I don’t think I’d last a week in that environment, honestly.

So, I kept searching. Some places required a certain number of years of experience and others simply weren’t hiring. I was looking for a smaller gym with a mom & pop feel to it where I would feel like I was serving my community. I did not want to feel like just another trainer, another number for an establishment, or a mechanism for more sales. I wanted more than that – and yes, I know I have high expectations!

Not only do I have high expectations for the gym that I work at, but I have high expectations for myself. After researching nearly every facility in my city, I decided that the best way for me to translate my education into practice was to start with an internship. Could I have jumped straight into a job? Absolutely. But I decided that I wanted to learn from other trainers, get hands-on experience and truly learn more about the day-to-day of training before jumping in completely. I want to best serve my clients and for me, that means starting slow and learning from others in-person rather than just from a textbook.

What I learned in the search process is that personal training internships are few and far between. Some even require you to pay for an internship, which is a huge barrier for many, myself included. At this point, I had been unemployed for nearly 10 months and while I knew I was putting off an income for a little bit longer to intern, I simply couldn’t afford to pay anything on top of that. So I kept looking.

It wasn’t easy, but when opportunities are scarce sometimes you need to create your own opportunity with a little help from a friend. My husband’s Hebrew tutor, whom we both know quite well now, works at the local Jewish Community Center (JCC). She simply gave me the Director of Fitness and Wellness’ phone number and email address, and suggested I reach out. If you’re unfamiliar with Jewish Community Centers, they are usually large facilities with gyms, exercise classes, summer camps, cultural programs and more. They provide a place for community and belonging for anyone, Jewish or not. I’d never been a part of one before but it sounded like a great option.

It started with an email introducing myself and asking about internship opportunities and turned into an in-person meeting with the Director of Fitness and Wellness. She did not have any formal internship set up but we got to know each other and she offered to let me shadow her trainers for as long as I’d like. She reached out to her trainers and connected me directly with whomever was interested in letting me shadow them. It was so simple yet so helpful. I worked directly with the trainers to arrange times where I could shadow and learn from them as they trained their clients, and I also shadowed various group classes as well.

It was the most supportive and welcoming environment that I could have imagined. The trainers were all incredibly friendly, knowledgeable and willing to help me in any way. It was not competitive at all and I could feel the sense of community and purpose everywhere I turned. It didn’t matter that I was switching careers and completely new to training while most of them have been training for 10+ years. They treated me with respect, provided encouragement, shared a wealth of knowledge with me and truly wanted me to succeed. Even when I was simply shadowing, they introduced me to clients and staff as a new trainer there. You can’t put a price on that type of environment.

It felt like the perfect fit for me and I’m so grateful that the director felt the same way about me. She gave me as much time as I wanted to shadow and encouraged me to reach out to her when I was ready to do a demo session for her, so she could learn my training style. This past week I went ahead and completed the demo session and now I’m in the paperwork process to formally become a personal trainer at the JCC! I couldn’t be more thrilled to join this team and serve my community. 

I’ve finally found my footing on this new path that I’ve chosen for myself and I’m really proud of myself for pushing through the challenges along the way. It’s been a lot of hard work, dedication, overcoming self-doubt and fear, standing firm in my choices and trusting my gut. I am forever grateful to my patient, loving and supportive husband for believing in me throughout this long process. Still rising!

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