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.

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What you, werking wit?

As a recent joiner of the #sweatlife movement, I have been exposed to a variety of different types of movements, exercises and modalities of training. However, my earliest memory of any sort of physical discipline was when I was about 10 yrs old and my dad had enrolled him, myself and both my brothers at Yoon’s Martial Arts School. This was a defining moment in my life and led up to 8 solid years of HapKiDo training; a huge part of where my love of movement stems from.

When I finally achieved my blackbelt in HapKiDo, I was just graduating high school. University life brought many new experiences and interests and is actually where I first found rugby. What started as a fun thing to do with U of C Dino’s Rugby Club became a bit more competitive with UBC Women’s Jr. Varsity team and later as a Saint. As this was my first foray into competitive team sports, I absolutely fell in love with the feeling of physical performance not as an individual, but rather as a member of a whole. The memories I made with those badass babes will last a lifetime.

Fast forward to Japan, circa 2007.

As part of my degree I spent one year in Japan as a co-op student developing a biological screening system for olfactory receptors in murine cell lines for Kao Laboratories. Yes, it is as nerdy as it sounds, but at the time I was all about the science.

One day, one of my co-workers asked if I wanted to try yoga. I remember my first class vividly, my Japanese at the time wasn’t the best so I followed along by watching those around me. I immediately connected to this form of movement. It was an interesting process going from not understanding much of the language to being able to have a conversation with my teacher in Japanese by the time I was to return back to Canada.

Yoga has stayed with me until this day, and has helped me through the darkest, saddest days of my life. Although I haven’t developed a consistent practice until this year after training under Ana Forrest, it is something that I have always gone back to.

Fast forward to Calgary, present day.

From yoga to spin to boxing and crossfit, my training and coaching has evolved over the past few years to encompass a bit of all things that I love. Although I can only dedicate about 25% of my time to fitness, it has become as passion that fuels me daily.

The fitness industry has shown me ups and downs, but I am still so excited to pursue this thang, and to see where I will eventually end up.

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Photo by: Jonathon Smith

“There is no formula greater than consistency. It is the most insistent way on telling the world and universe that you are intentional about where you are going.”

 

 

 

 

MISSBISH X Undrcard

This blog is a place where I will begin to store any promotion things that I take part in. Last November with Undrcard we did a photoshoot for Women’s Fashion, Fitness & Lifestyle Magazine MISSBISH.

The piece was a brief primer for anyone new to the sport of boxing:

Boxing 101 with UNDRCARD Boxing Studio

“Boxers are known to be fit and tough, yet agile and rhythmic. The sport is rapidly growing, aided by a recent influx of super models and influencers throwing their dukes up – what Victoria’s Secret Angel doesn’t box? Traditionally, boxing was dominated by crooked noses and gritty gyms where only million dollar babies survived. However, a new breed of boxing studios is emerging that makes boxing a little less intimidating. They alleviate the fear of cauliflower ears, and some even give you lemongrass-scented towels after your workout. These studios promise a “fighter fit without getting hit.” Read full article.

Here are a few of the shots from MISSBISH:

Photos by the ever talented, Asim.

It’s about the Music, and much more

One of the things that I have learned through my journey as a spin instructor is the power of music to move people. More and more I find myself deeper in appreciation of music, and the artists that create it. There is nothing quite like that feeling on your bike when the energy, your body, and the entire room is on the same wavelength.

Also, as a person who enjoys dancing on occasion, finding music that moves me off, as well as on the bike is important. I think the later part of this year will find me delving deeper into dance as a form of self expression. For now, here is my playlist via spotify from last week for your listening pleasure.

 

For me, spin is much more than a group fitness class. It is an opportunity to connect and inspire people on other levels. Last week, I chose to speak on John Legend’s Marching Into the Dark.

Legend explains the song briefly in the Los Angeles Times:

“The idea of struggle and the idea of putting your life on the line for an important cause, the metaphor we use is that they’re chasing a fading star into the dark. They’re struggling for an end they may never see. Everything I talk about – improving our schools, prison reform, making sure everyone has an equal opportunity – I don’t know if we’ll ever get there, frankly, I’m pessimistic. But I’m optimistic enough to know that even the little wins count. So the struggle is worth it.”

In my class, I used the metaphor of marching into the dark to reflect on moments in life where you don’t know exactly where you are going, the outcomes are unknown, but you believe in what you are doing so you keep going, you keep marching.

For everyone facing adversity in the moment, keep marching. The light is near at the of the tunnel.

Blessup.

Fear of Failure

Some people are afraid of failing, so much so that it paralyzes them, preventing them from reaching for goals or working toward any dreams they may have. I will share a recent story of one of my personal “failures”, in hopes of inspiring you to go for what you want in life – all in, balls out.

As many of you who have been following my fitness journey know, I had been with Undrcard Boxing Studio up until recently, when I stopped spamming my ig feed with self-promo for my classes there.

Truth is, I got cut. Notwithstanding I had some of the shittiest time slots, but at the end of the day people weren’t coming to my class in numbers that were expected. At first when this happened I was really sad, it shook my confidence as an instructor. Overtime though, I came to accept the fact and realized, maybe I am just not marketable as a boxing coach. It sucks.

Lessons learned though, you will never know until you try. At this point, I have no fear of failing, there are far worse things in life. So my friends, fail greatly, fail publicly, fail often but keep your head up and try again.

I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying. ~Michael Jordan

This experience though, will not stop me for trying to be the best fitness instructor I can. I still work at all my other studios and have recently joined the team at Fithouse, which is a beautiful space with amazing coaches. Crossfit is another challenge I am excited to take on. I also have no regrets being at Undrcard for the time I was there, I have met some lifelong friends that I know will continue to inspire me throughout life.

I don’t know where this fitness thing will eventually lead me, I only know that I have big dreams that are bigger than any one studio.

 Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~Winston Churchill.

I miss all the trainers at Undrcard, but I still go there to box, this was awkward for me at first, explaining to people why I wasn’t teaching anymore, but I got over it. It’s still one of my favourite boxing gyms in the city, even though they did fire me.

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Photos by Jess Bobyn

 

Portraits by Asim Pt 1/3

Last year I was lucky enough to step in front of the lens of Asim Overstands. Being in front of a camera is an awkward thing, it exposes our vulnerabilities in raw and vivid moments that are captured real-time. I absolutely love photography, and have a true respect for all of the shooters out there.

This is the first of a three-part series with Asim, shot all in the same day. It focuses on my passion for movement in various forms.

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Whole time they wanna take your place

“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”
L.R. Knost

Recently this was read in one of my yoga classes led by the lovely Bobbi at illume. No matter what happens in my life, it seems that yoga is where I find myself again. Yoga is both my therapy and my celebration, it is where I connect with both my true and higher self. It is where I find my edges and smooth them out, where I find my potential, my challenges, where I workshop my roadblocks.

I for one know, (as many others know all too well) that life does not always go as you plan. Sometimes the things you put your heart into, that you work in earnest for do not always work out the way you envision. All of the hours of sweat and toil and sleepless nights may, in the end lead to disappointment. Life is full of disappointments, of heartbreaks, of situations that will test you in one form or the other. Everyone will have their own individual struggle.

Often though, there will be “collateral beauty” in even the worst situations. If you haven’t seen Collateral Beauty I would highly recommend it, Will Smith knocks it out of the park with his performance as a bereaved father. Understanding how death ultimately makes us see life in a new light. In the same sense how recent hurdles have made me take a step back to re-evaluate my life and the things I want to focus my energy on.

They say that you only fail when you quit. Sometimes it feels as if you are fighting an uphill battle though, where the odds are against you, people doubt you, and you feel perpetually exhausted. Taking a timeout is sometimes the best thing you can do, either on or off your mat. When life takes the wind out of your sails you can either change direction or start paddling.

Just because something is ‘out of your comfort zone’ does not make it out of your capacity. If you currently feel deflated, I’ll leave you with this:

For now, I’m going to keep pushing upward and onwards, I hope that you do too, my friends.

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portraits by Asim

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!

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#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