Letter to my younger self

I know you’re anxious, and a bit excited too, at the start of your career in fitness. The academic stuff has reached the end of the road, and you’ve turned your back on cycling, at least for now. So this is it.

You’ve got to make your own way in the world of work.

I also know that you feel like a failure and you’re going through your first heartbreak and everything, but It’s going to be O.K. It really is. So here are a few things I’d like to tell you about yourself and the industry, before you jump right in.

Firstly, and most important of all, you should know that who you are is going to be more important than any of your qualifications or achievements up until now. So when you go for that first gym job interview, just be friendly and open, because you’re not being judged in the way you might expect. And when they ask you “If you were an animal what would you be?”, FFS don’t be a rabbit in the headlights, just say SOMETHING, because your prospective employer is only trying to tease out your personality.

You see at the moment, you’re a bit one dimensional. You can’t help it, you’re 23. You think you know everything. But all those A levels and that degree from Loughborough only show that you’re clever in one way. They don’t really tell anyone what you’re like to work with or be around. The fitness industry is personality driven, it’s not like a bike race. You won’t get a placing or ranking, you will just have to figure out where you fit, and that will have more to do with who you are than with how many exams you’ve passed, or how well you can ride a bike.

Something else that you’re going to find difficult to start with is that some of your colleagues who are a lot less academic than you will have a lot to teach you, so don’t be an arrogant twat just because you went to university. Experience is going to be your best friend, so grab every opportunity that comes your way, and try not be be defensive when you feel insecure or challenged. Just be honest about what you don’t know or haven’t seen before, because people will like you all the more for that. Dare to give your opinion, but be ready to shape it and change it as you learn and grow.

You’re going to find the ‘performance’ side of your work difficult to adjust to at first, especially when teaching large groups, or when you’re on a big stage, but try not to be too hard on yourself, especially with the way you look. You’ll probably never have a visible six pack, or a body that’s at its best in a bikini, but that won’t matter by the time you’re in your 30’s, and most of your clients are in their 40’s and 50’s and wanting to feel and function better more than polish their Instagram profile. (You won’t have Instagram yet, or even a mobile phone, but trust me, its going to be big in the business). You’re not going to be as strong or as athletic as a lot of your colleagues, but try not to feel inferior because of that either. There will be lots of people who need a slow and steady approach like you, and you will be better able to help them because of your own experiences.

Those ideas you’ve got about the importance of free weights over cardio machines, and of having more squat racks and more space, you’re on the right track with all of that. But its going to take about 10 years for most people to catch up, so try not to ram it down their throats quite so much. And when people think you’re a bit mad for making these suggestions, don’t get frustrated, just confidently explain your ideas and let people come around to them in their own time.

You should know that the financial side of this kind of work is going to be a bit of a roller coaster. I know you haven’t even thought about this for a second, because you’re just doing what you love, but maybe that studio you want to open should wait a few more years until you know more what you’re doing, and have figured out how long it takes to pay off debts with modest earnings. And maybe try not to swallow that American shit about the laws of attraction quite so whole-heartedly. Admittedly much of what you learn to be useful will come from Americans, but temper it with a bit of British reserve and it will work for you a lot better. You will have to go it alone to make a living in the fitness industry, but you can do it, so have faith in yourself, tempered with a tiny pinch of caution.

Many of your contemporaries in their 20’s, will no longer be involved in fitness in their 30’s, but you’ll find its true enough that if you share your passion and knowledge and keep learning, people will find you and want to work with you. Even more surprising, you will find that being older actually becomes an asset, bringing with it a wisdom and temperance that you can’t imagine now with your crazy spiky hair and your bright red track suit and matching trainers. Learn to measure your success by the relationships you build with your clients, and with the progress they make with their health and fitness, not by your bank balance or your monthly income. That’s never been what you’re about, so don’t be surprised if your assets come in the form of self-efficacy and job satisfaction, rather than a house and the nice car.

What you don’t know about yourself yet is that you are creative and adaptable, and you’re going to need these traits in spades to navigate the trends and fashions as they come and go, and still hold true to your values of what works and what you believe in. Yes, you’re smart and you know what you’re doing, but your empathy and your kindness are really very important, so don’t be shy to let people see your sensitive nature.

So with that in mind, go on and get that gym instructor job. And then get on every course you can, and learn to teach and coach, and show off a bit. It suits you.