Where Will Your Journey Take You – part 2

Follow the link below to read part one of my journey!


“There are no wrong turnings. Only paths we had not known we were meant to walk.”
Guy Gavriel Kay, Tigana

The first day I stepped foot into Breakthru Fitness I accidentally entered through the backdoors, already 5 minutes late for their Metabolic Kickbox & Conditioning class. I had no idea what the facility was like, but my friend invited me in to take a class and meet the boss. After one of the most exciting fitness classes I’ve ever taken I had a chance to speak with Phil about the possibility of working as a trainer for Breakthru Fitness. We had great discussions about the art of training, such as knowing when intuition overpowers science, or how to make a deep connection with a client. It was the start of my new career, and I hadn’t even signed any contracts yet!

The first few weeks looked like any new job would: a couple days of on-boarding, some shadowing, a few trial classes, and working with the boss. As time went on, I got more and more clients. I started teaching a few fitness classes. I made a natural progression into the Breakthru Fitness family, and before I knew it my desire for working in the fitness industry was reinvigorated. For the first time ever, I was working for an amazing boss, I was working with a team of individuals who took their job seriously and professionally, and there was plenty of opportunity to grow.

I asked a lot of questions and questioned a lot of the answers.

My first promotion came about 3 months after being hired. It started with a simple question about one of their membership levels and the exercise programming. I was curious who was responsible for the workout programming because I’d like to pick their brain a little bit to get an idea of what the goals were. As it turned out, there was no fitness manager, or program director, or anyone responsible for programming the semi-private workouts. They were just randomly selected and rotated every few weeks. Naturally, I had to intervene. Exercise programming is very important to ensure client progression, so I asked if I could try writing a few workout plans for the clients. This put me on a path to working alongside the boss on a weekly basis, and eventually led me to taking on more responsibilities.

Two jobs, twice the fun.

Not long after I joined Breakthru did Phil introduce me to Tom, the president of AFNA, for a work opportunity that I might be interested in. There was an opening to be a lab instructor a few times a week, and it worked perfectly for my schedule. I met with Tom and went through an interview (obviously I nailed it) and soon after was brought onboard the AFNA team as well. Just a few weeks before my start date, Tom approached me and asked if I was interested in picking up some teaching hours too. This was a huge step for me. I’ve never been a teacher of any kind, but I have always loved explaining to my fitness clients why working out is so critical for good health.

I gave it a shot. I taught my first quarter in early January 2018 and absolutely loved it. I had no idea teaching could be such an amazing platform for interaction. I met students from around the world, became very close with many of the graduates, and unlocked a passion I never knew existed inside me. Throughout the year I developed my schedule around personal training clients and teaching hours. My personal training business was doing exceptionally well — I was at the point where I was having a hard time fitting all my clients in on a weekly basis. My teaching business was doing exceptionally well too! I often had to turn down more opportunities to teach because I was so busy between the two jobs. It was a healthy balance of both.

Torn between Lake Ave.

With both of my jobs excelling, I found myself struggling to choose one over the other. After about a year and a half of doing both jobs, I realized I was not making any significant progress in either career. It was sort of like a giant conveyor belt. I was putting in a lot of work, but at the end of the day there wasn’t any forward movement. I had to make a decision between full time teaching, or full time training. I was torn between Lake Ave, with AFNA’s school sitting on the east side and Breakthru on the west side. I spent many weeks contemplating which career path would be the right choice for me. I weighed the pros and cons, met with advisors, and took long walks trying to figure out which I’d prefer. I spent about 6 months contemplating between the two career paths before I finally came to a conclusion.

Fitness management

I eventually decided to pursue my fitness career with Breakthru. I was offered the position of Fitness Manager, which was a full-time salaried position that included hiring and managing trainers, overseeing the group exercise schedule, and developing new challenges and themes for the members. It felt like the right choice, and I could see myself working up into a position to running the entire gym down the line. If things went well, I might even be able to open a second location. I had big aspirations and tons of responsibilities. Fun fact, on my second day as a manager we had to completely redesign the entire group exercise schedule as one of our most popular coaches took a personal leave of absence. This meant we had to shuffle 11 classes and 13 clients! But that’s what this job was about: organizing and managing all of the fitness components at the gym.

When I was receiving my diploma from San Francisco State University I never thought I’d be working such an amazing job within the industry. I had been in and out of training so many times prior to Breakthru that I had given up on the industry and wanted to do something completely different in my life. It felt like all of the hard work I’d been putting in was finally paying off. I loved my job, I loved my career. Things were looking great.

And then COVID hit

With the onset of COVID we began taking as many precautions as possible. Our cleaning staff was placed on full-time, there was a dedicated disinfector, and we had hand sanitization stations everywhere. But the inevitable shutdown forced us to close our doors. I had been the Fitness Manager for 45 days so far, and I’d never been busier in my life. As COVID got worse, and the financial stability of Breakthru got worse, I was relieved of my duties and had to file for unemployment. I was both angry and frustrated that I had lost my job so quickly after working for years to get there. But I was one of millions out of a job, I knew I had to pivot.

AFNA part II

I am extremely grateful that Tom put out an opportunity for me to return to AFNA as an instructor now that the education platform has shifted online. I now spend my workweek shuffling between clients and classes. With Breakthru out of the picture, I had an opportunity to take my training independently. At first there was some difficulties establishing workflow, a place to train, and business practices, but now I am making more money training 1/2 the amount I was prior to COVID. Furthermore, my teaching schedule works perfectly with my training schedule.

I’ve had to make a lot of choices with my career to get to where I am now. I felt like I had always made the right choice, even if the end result was not what I was expecting. I never put teaching down as my dream job. But here I am, living and working the dream I never knew I had. So here’s what I tell my students: your journey will inevitably take your through turns and twists, and sometimes you can make all the right choices for all the right reasons and find yourself somewhere you hadn’t planned to be. But this is the most important part: if you aren’t happy where you are, it’s up to you to make a change and continue your journey.