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Fit for a living!

Want to get paid for doing what 
you love? A career in the fitness 
industry means you could do just 
that!

fit a living

In fact, many of us might not develop a passion for exercise until later in life; whether that’s due to getting into shape after having a baby, meeting a partner who introduces us to the joys of working out or catching the bug after taking up a fitness challenge. By this point, our lives may seem mapped out, and changing paths to turn your passion for fitness into a nine-to-five might not seem viable. But here at WF, we reckon it’s never too late. So we’ve rounded up the top fitness careers you could break into this year – yes, you! 

Why? Les Mills has a reputation for running some of the best gym classes around. And whether you’re sculpting muscle in BodyPump or unwinding in BodyBalance, there’s one thing each class has in common: an instructor who’ll encourage you from beginning to end. ‘One of the best parts of being a Les Mills instructor is the social element,’ says Dave Kyle, head trainer at Les Mills UK (lesmills.com/uk). ‘You’ll make friends not only with fellow instructors, but class participants, too.’

How? You’ll need a Gym Instructor qualification or equivalent, and you’ll need to be a member of the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs). Some classes like BodyJam require the Level 2 Exercise to Music qualification, too. After this, you’ll need to take a module in whichever programme you’ll be teaching. A quick search online will help you find a course for you.

One on one

Why? Ask any personal trainer why they do what they do, and it’s likely they’ll say: to help others get in shape. ‘Being able to have a positive impact on people’s lives has to be the best thing about being a personal trainer,’ says Paul Dorkings of Premier Training International (premierglobal.co.uk).

How? It’s a common misconception that once you’re qualified, you’re successful. ‘You also need to develop your business based on what your clients want and what helps them progress,’ Paul says. 

Fuse fitness and fashion

Why? Helping people feel and look great while they’re working out can really help keep them motivated to hit the gym regularly. Fitnesswear designer Charli Cohen (charli-cohen.com) knows all about this, having burst onto the fitness scene with her sport luxe range last year. ‘Designing fitnesswear opens the doors for potential innovation,’ says Charli. ‘The fitness industry is so friendly, inclusive and collaborative, too, in a way that the fashion industry sometimes isn’t.’

How? Learn as much as you can about the industry first – speak to people in various areas to understand what’s necessary in releasing a line. ‘This will help you decide which role specifically you’d like to work in such as product developer or designer – or if you’d prefer to take on all the challenges of setting up on your own,’ Charli explains. ‘And an industry focused course is important to team your creativity with strong technical skills, understanding industry standards and learning how to be commercially successful.’

Set up your own studio

Why? If you live and breathe fitness, starting up your own studio is the perfect way to share your experience with others and spread that love. Lisa Campbell, who set up Yotopia yoga studio (yotopia.co.uk) in 2011, discovered her passion for yoga in a class and the rest is history. ‘I wanted to bring yoga to others who may have had misconceptions about it, as I had done,’ she says. ‘Now I love everything I do – every day is different, and having a business enables you to leverage from your strengths while providing a platform for development in other areas, too.’

How? Being passionate goes a long way, but you’ll need a business head, too. ‘A big misconception about running your own studio in the fitness industry is that it’s not a business,’ Lisa says. ‘It’s a business like any other, and requires the discipline to match. It’s important to be excited by what you do as the business will reflect this.’

Fix up sports stars

Why? Working in the fitness industry doesn’t necessarily mean getting down and dirty on the gym floor. Alison Rose, director of Coach House Sports Physiotherapy Clinic (cspc.co.uk), treats patients just like you and me, but is also responsible for the wellness of world-class athletes like Jessica Ennis-Hill and Dame Kelly Holmes. Her work makes it possible for our country’s sports stars to bring back those medals. ‘The best part of my job is seeing people get better,’ she says. ‘The more complex the injury or the longer someone’s been suffering, the more rewarding it is to see them recover – it gives you real job satisfaction.’

How? Alison didn’t know she wanted to be a physio right away, but discovered it while training as a marathon runner at university. ‘I was doing a degree in anatomy and physiology, and by doing that, realised I wanted to go more down the physio route. So once I’d finished that degree, I took on another in physiotherapy.’ Aside from official qualifications, though, experience is paramount. ‘It’s such a competitive field, so anything that shows you have an interest and awareness will work in your favour,’ Alison adds. ‘I’d recommend volunteering, observing and taking in all aspects of physiotherapy.’

Make a difference

Why? Volunteering is a great way to gain experience. ‘It can help you develop new skills and experience a number of roles,’ says Emily Lewis, Head of Sport at Join In (joininuk.org), a London 2012 legacy charity. ‘Whether it’s coaching or managing accounts, there’s something for you.’ And Emily reckons it could really pay off. ‘Without volunteering I’d never have started working in the sports industry,’ she says. ‘As a result of the experience I’d gained volunteering as an assistant to the media officers at the World Cup, I was able to get a job in the media team at UK Athletics and have built my career from there.’

How? One of the biggest misconceptions is that you need to come from a sporty background. ‘I’ve always loved sport as a spectator, but was never very good at it myself,’ Emily says. ‘I don’t think people realise how many different roles there are and the wide range of skills needed. I’d definitely suggest volunteering – volunteers are an important part of athletics both at grass roots and elite level.’

You can do it

Don’t believe us? These two women reveal how they changed their careers to break into the fitness industry

Nicola Baybrook, 43, Virgin
Active personal trainer and group exercise instructor

‘I’d been working as a TV producer for 12 years before I started a career in fitness. After the birth of my second child, I found that running a home, feeding a toddler, feeding a baby and then feeding yourself also means that having a healthy diet is difficult to maintain. I found it harder to get my stomach back into shape second time around so I was determined to work on it (and I still am!).

I started doing exercise DVDs at home while the baby slept. I was fortunate that my children’s age gap meant that my toddler could be at the local nursery for a few hours a week, which gave me and my new baby time to ourselves. She would watch avidly as I would crunch and leg-kick my way back into shape, then I would make us something nice and healthy for lunch.

Once I started, I couldn’t stop. Not only did I feel better in myself, but doing a little bit of exercise every few days helped keep my energy levels up, as well as relieve the stresses of motherhood. Now I teach Group Cycling five times a week and Body Conditioning, too, plus I train clients of all ages the rest of the time.’

Cheryl Thornley, 39,
personal trainer and Les
Mills instructor in BodyPump, BodyAttack and Grit series

‘Three years ago, I was a size 16, and after a GP check-up and suffering from palpations, discovered I had a heart murmur. I decided enough was enough and headed to the local gym in a bid to lose weight. Like most people, I made excuses not to exercise – I was too busy, tired, didn’t have childcare, doing shiftwork… But after this wake-up call, I decided to finally take action.

I headed to my first ever group fitness class – Les Mills BodyAttack – and, since that moment, I haven’t stopped. I’ve dropped four dress sizes and lost three stone. My advice for people considering taking the plunge into fitness? Don’t be afraid or nervous. I know that’s easier said than done, but once you walk through those studio doors, you’ll never look back.

I’m now a serving police officer, a personal trainer and Les Mills instructor. I also care for three children, one of whom is sadly severely disabled. But I still make the time to teach up to 10 classes a week where I try to inspire and motivate others like me. I’ve also overcome the health issues with my heart and am now fitter and stronger than ever. Don’t ever give up – the real you is out there. If you want it, go and get it!’ 

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