The not-so fun part about fitness

“Oh, you’re in fitness? That’s awesome, you get paid to do what you love!” – is often a response I get when I tell people I am an instructor. It is true, you do get paid to be active and to be skilled at different modalities of fitness, which I love. The thing is, it isn’t all as glamorous as it may seem.

Here are some of my personal experiences in fitness that I would like to share for anyone who thinks this industry is all “fun-and-games”.  What got me thinking, was another friend who recently asked me, why do you go so hard? I mean, you are (at times) teaching just as much as some full-time instructors in this city. For me, 2017 was definitely a grind, I took every opportunity I could to teach, including subbing other instructor’s classes.

That’s the thing when you first start out, it sometimes may seem impossible to “break-in” that you are willing to teach at all costs. Getting into a studio is the first challenge, which may seem insurmountable especially if you have no or little experience. The second challenge is staying there. In the studio world there is this constant pressure to fill classes, particularly if there is a financial motivation to do so (i.e. your rate is dependant on the number of people in your class). This is an expectation that never lets up – in some studios I definitely feel the pressure more than others. There are so many factors that contribute to this though that may be beyond an individual instructor’s control. Even good instructors may feel it is somewhat of a popularity contest at times. It is an uphill battle to build a “following” in a particular community, clients are fickle and there is so much choice out there.

Another given fact in this industry is that you give up a lot of your personal time, and for me that has been at the cost of social time, (I personally will not sacrifice my sleep). Prime hours for fitness are often early mornings, evenings, and weekends. So while everyone else is resting, playing, or working on themselves in your classes, you are serving them.

The ultimate fear of any instructor is being told you are “not a fit” at at studio, or that your classes “aren’t working”. This too though, is another reality of the fitness world. The barrier to entry is relatively low, so there will always be new instructors entering the industry, and businesses have a constant pool of human resource to choose from.

Lastly if you think you are going to make money doing this thing, good luck. When you take into account the time it takes to prep your class, travel time in-between studios, and being there early to sign-in and clean up after, your hourly rate is cut at least in half.

So, you may ask if theses are all the down sides – then why do you keep doing it? Well of course there is the upside that balances things out. For me my motivation to keep going is in the connection I find with humans in this industry. It is a connection that is like no other. The fact that just after an hour you can change someone’s energy or improve their entire day. This is my main why, a why that will keep me waking up at 5:00a some mornings and rarely having a day off.


Knock on Opportunity’s Door

Knock on opportunity’s door, and when there is no answer keep knocking. Find all of the doors and keep knocking. Then, find the windows, either someone you know, or someone that sees your effort will eventually let you in.

This post is for anyone that is just starting out, whether that be as a potential teacher or anyone pursuing something new for the first time. I will share my stories, of how I got my opportunities in this city, maybe if just to spark a bit of inspiration. To encourage you to go for things, even if you may or may not know what exactly it is you are reaching for. To ride through the waves of disappointment and rejection, and to keep trying.

I completed my first 200 YTT in 2011, (for anyone that doesn’t know that is a 200h yoga teacher training) and at that point I did not really want to teach. Although I did dabble with a few private lessons here and there, these were far and few in between. This did however plant the seed for the things to come in my life years later.

Coming back to Calgary that year, I did a few random things, one of which was working at Village Ice Cream. I figured after completing my Honours degree in Biotechnology, why not? During my stint at Village Ice Cream I also started teaching MMA Bootcamps at Athlima Fitness, which is run out of the martial arts studio where I had completed my black belt. I had originally asked the owner of Athlima, Master Bobby Triantifillou if he need a yoga teacher, and instead he was looking for a trainer. I began training at Athlima, and started to lead weekly bootcamps.

What started as a hobby for me soon turned into a passion as I found my foothold in fitness.

Seeing results in my own body and mind created the impetus to pursue fitness further. Completing my personal training certification was the start, as I decided to deepen my knowledge in yoga, movement and all things that made me feel alive.

At the beginning of 2016 I took a Yin Yoga Teacher Training with Ning Gao. Ning’s personal story is quite inspiring, and her strength as a yogi and teacher drew me to the Yoga and Beyond community. There was one night I arrived late at the training and was locked out, instead of leaving I decided to stay. Shortly after the training I got a call from Ning saying there were a few spots at the studio open to teach. This was my first official teaching position as a yoga instructor at a studio.

My second try at a studio position was at illume hot yoga, which I chose initially because of its proximity to my house. At first they were not hiring for yoga teachers. One day I was passing by the studio and the owner, Telara Renz called me in and asked if I would be interested in Surfset. Not knowing what that was I took the opportunity to learn and expand. Eight months later I am teaching not only surfset, but yoga as well as spin at illume.

This last story, and probably most interesting, is how I was hired on by Undrcard Boxing Studio. I had applied online and got the generic HR reply, “we are full but will keep your resume on file etc etc”. In the meantime I had interviewed for a few other studios. Around the same time, local photographer Asim Overstands and I decided to do a shoot. We had been in discussion about shooting for about a year but I never felt ready. Asim made the process really casual and I was actually happy with the results. He posted a moving portrait of me shadow boxing on his instagram feed and Joanna Magik, a co-owner of Undrcard came across it. We were introduced via Asim via email and I was invited to Undrcard’s second pop-up event at Commonwealth. I met some of the team and mid-way through the event was told I was part of the crew!


#UNDRCARDPOPUP at Commonwealth, photo via Michael Benz.

So there you have it, a mix of connections, fortune, timing, and tenacity got me to where I am today.

Here’s the video by Asim



Sun Salutations for Surya

What a year.

It’s not even half way through the first month and already, two times has death been brought closer to my reality. During the holidays my friend’s puppy almost died on me, and just recently my friend and fellow yogi Scot Schiebelbien (Surya) had to undergo an 18h surgery for a brain tumour.

Surya has always been the picture of health, with his rock hard abs, fiery spirit, huge smile and his inspiring acro yoga practice. Acro yoga is a physical practice combining acrobatics and yoga. There is nothing like the freedom and strength you experience coming into some of the poses in acro yoga. It is generally practiced with another person or in a group, so fostering trust and releasing fear are also big themes.

Needless to say it was a surprise to myself, and all of us that have known Surya of his emergency and life-threatening condition.

surya3Surya, again going against the odds is recovering and regaining function. I hope to see him soon, but am giving him a bit more space and time with family and those closest before reaching out.

The one thing I love about the yoga community is the willingness to come together and support each other. I am grateful to call both illume hot yoga and Yoga and Beyond studios where I both teach at and call home. Both of these studios are fundraising on behalf of Surya to support him during his recovery.

Last night at illume we held an hour long sun salutation practice led by both myself and the owner, Telara Renz. It was a challenging and lighthearted practice with ten others from our community. That was actually the first time I have done a continuous sun salutation practice, but there is something about moving with breath in that way. It is like after a certain point you get into a zone and it lifts your to a different level of consciousness almost. Last night also highlighted to me the importance of proper alignment when doing sun salutations, one thing that my recent training with YogaWorks has emphasized.

Yoga and Beyond is continuing to hold fundraising classes for Surya, please check the schedule for times and information. Another way to help is online through his gofundme campaign: Help Surya Fly Again.




New life, who dis?

Welcome to my humble spot on the interweb.

This blog is for anyone who is interested in scratching the surface of my mind and learning parts of my story, thank you for taking the time anonymous reader. Whoever you are, I am hoping to build a community here, so feel free to get in touch! This is also a place for fitness, health and lifestyle inspirations.

A quote from the late Maya Angelou reminds me why I do the things I do, and why I do them in the way I do:

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”

At 31 I feel I have reached a point in my life where I have started to “come into my own”, I have more energy than I did in my twenties, am in the best shape of my life (although this is a constant process), and give less ducks than ever. I can say, I do love life for what it is.

2016 was a whirlwind in terms of my entry into the fitness industry in Calgary. I started teaching yoga and surfset in February, learned to spin and teach in October, and am starting with Undrcard boxing studio, opening tomorrow on boxing day. I will be posting my teaching schedule in the new year.

To say the least I have strayed a bit from my Biotechnology roots.

Apart from my passions for movement and fitness, I work for a small start-up called Vivametrica, which produces health analytics using wearable device data. I think however people are so much more than a sum of their parts, so rather than describing the mundane details of who I am I will let you figure that out.

portraitsbyasim-1-of-1-6Photo credits: Asim Overstands