“What do you mean you aren’t going to be trainer anymore? I just talked with the manager at your internship site, and she thinks you are great!”
My face can’t hide my shock as I struggle to understand what my student is saying to me...right before graduation.
“Well...“ My student pauses, as she tries to find words. “ I talked with her too. It was really helpful. I just don’t think I can handle it on top of being a single mother. We talked about how hard it is to make a living, and how challenging the schedule will be. I’m just going to stick with what I have now. I don’t have the same support that you do.” She says.
“The support that I have??” I ask, in complete shock.
“Well you have this full-time job...and you have your husband.” She exclaims, as she waits for me to understand her position.
My mind is screaming, but I manage to smile at her and nod my head yes. Judging by the look on her face, (and all of the conversations we had before this moment) I can tell she has made up her mind.
“ Yes. I do have more support than you right now. But I want you to know that you can do it, even though it will be hard.”“ I say.
“I’m sorry, “ She says, visibly upset. “I didn’t realize how hard it would be. I know you gave me one of your best sites for the internship. I loved working there. But it’s creating too many problems for me. I can’t make it fit.”
I give her a hug, and let her know that I support her decision. I tell her that I don’t know what it is like first hand. I tell her that I’m proud of her for all of what she has learned and accomplished the last 18 months. I do my best to let her walk out of my office, without feeling like she has failed me or herself.
She is unaware that my second marriage is crumbling before my eyes, and I don’t know how to stop it.
She is unaware that I came back after just 4 weeks of maternity leave, not just to make sure that her graduating class had a proper instructor….but because financially, I am supporting my husband and new baby as he looks for work.
She is unaware...that this “safe” job has started to feel like prison, as I watch student after student decide that personal training is “too hard”...and “quit” right before graduation.
The more I look at my skin, the more I realize that I need to have a talk with the manager that killed my student’s dream. I call her to schedule a time, to come and get the student’s final evaluation from her in person.
I can barely smile at her as we begin the appointment.
I can barely begin to speak to her about my anger (with what she had said to my student)...but I did managed the words.
It occurred to me...that maybe this manager was in a similar situation, as I was behind the scenes. Maybe she was hiding how hard it was for her to stay in fitness. I decided that she had done what she thought was best for my student.
I learned a few short months later, that fitness director had quit. That club has changed ownership several times, and has most recently been purchased by Genesis.
Maybe she had seen the writing on the wall.
“Why didn’t you tell me this would be so hard??” I asked.
“If I had told you, you might not have done it. I couldn’t tell you. “ She said.
My own mentor went on to tell me her struggles with staying in the fitness industry as a mother. At the time, I was not a mom...so it didn’t mean as much.
Now that I was a new mother, her words hit home hard. I remembered the pain in her voice.
Just a few years later, she had asked me to give her a recommendation for a new job. Her full time physical education job, (at the community college where I met her as student) was being cut to meet budget.
Was I qualified to give my own mentor a job recommendation? I realized, that since I had been in the industry for 8 years at that point...that maybe I was one of the few people qualified to give a review of her skills. But the new job never called me. She never made it that far in the interview process.
The more I thought about it...the more I felt like this “safety” of teaching personal training, was a trap. The longer I taught others how to be a trainer...the more obsolete I would become in the training space...just like my mentor before me.
My son Jacob was just weeks old...what would happen if I left now?
Would I fail?
After telling the students to be brave and to risk, would I fail in the same industry?
Would I be willing to lose everything I had... if I failed?
I got an excited phone call from one of my internship providers. His friend who owned a small 24 hour club, needed an evening club manager. He knew I was looking to reenter the fitness industry, and he thought of me first.
I called his friend.
To my dismay, it was only a 30 hour a week position...and they could not meet my current full-time salary. I declined over the phone.
As I sat in my office at the personal training school, I started going through a notebook that I had been keeping of my goals. I came across a piece of paper, where I had done the math for what the absolute minimum amount of money would be required to pay rent, food, and utilities for my family of 3.
I began to do the math again...this time to see how far off it was from the gym manager position salary (that I had turned down over the phone).
I decided to call them back and ask for an interview, even though it was still less than they had stated on the phone. I was scheduled for an interview immediately.
After negotiating up to my minimum requirements for rent, utilities, and food… I started just two weeks later. I picked up a second “assistant manager” position at another club for the mornings, and began to split shift.
But that is far from the truth.
My (second) husband left our marriage within 2 months of the change...one week after I picked up (my 3rd job) teaching one class at another personal training college.
I became the one thing I’d hoped to never be… a single mom of a 7 month old....working 3 jobs.
I wish I could tell you, that I was able to stay at that small club and grow my personal training business.
But I couldn’t...I gave it 100% of my effort.
After just one year, the burden became too great...and I had started praying daily for something to happen so that I could stay in the fitness industry...without losing my apartment.
Just in time (a couple weeks before I was set to lose my apartment), I got another excited phone call. This time from an old friend from the YMCA. He needed a fitness director.
Within just 2 weeks...I was managing the fitness department for the YMCA with the second largest membership base in Kansas City.
But the hours were intense, and I spent 2 hours daily in the car for my commute.
The office work was burying me...I hated my little cubicle.
The babysitter that I could afford started coming up ill regularly. I had to bring my son to work with me a few times, and put up his playpen in the office meeting space, because I had already ran out of sick days.
Within just a few short months, my friend…(my boss) could tell that I was suffering...even though he was doing everything he could support.
Just as I was starting to make peace with my position, one of my staff members came up asking me (for the second time) if I was interested in a fitness director position on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City.
I was offered the job at the interview. Within 2 weeks I was leaving the Ymca, with the blessing of my friend... who had brought me to the YMCA just 8 months earlier.
(Fitness Center Director on the Country Club Plaza, Strength Training Coach in Overland Park, and Online Personal Trainer.)
Last fall, I turned down a manager job out of state, making nearly double my current salary.
Last month, I turned down a local manager job, and passed the lead to a younger (male) colleague.
But what I can tell you is (what I told my last job offer)…
“It would take a lot to move me right now.”
It would take so much, that I can’t even fathom what the offer would need to be.
Every single day, I get to do exactly what I think is best for the community I serve, using my own Mai Trainer materials.
Every weekday (for the last 2 1/2 years), I leave the Sulgrave Regency at 2pm… and I get to be with Jacob, or I get to work on furthering the Mai Trainer online platform. On Saturdays I do my strength coaching.
Mai Trainer, LLC had its 4 year anniversary last month....even after all of the transition during that time.
Is it hard???
Oh yeah...every single day.
But if it was easy….everyone would be doing it… Right???
I’ve counted now the number of people who are active within my online newsletters (for the Sulgrave Regency and Mai Trainer), in person programming, and online personalized programming.
Ever single month...nearly 400 people are actively using or are opening the Mai Trainer platforms and educational materials.
Even though I never wanted to be a trainer... the calls for me to keep doing this thing have never stopped coming (for 13 years).
I never imagined that I would be able to send my messages, and have them received/opened by nearly 400 people a month.
What a blessing.
What a gift.
I love you all.
That is all I have for today ;)