A couple months back my old boss Jennifer O’Neil, who is head of the recreation department at Wilfrid Laurier’s Athletic Complex invited me to host the Group Fitness Staff’s training today March 13th 2016. The vast majority of the Group Fitness Staff at Wilfrid Laurier University are students, it is where my passion for fitness and my career in fitness first began. So, when she asked me if I would be interested in coming to give a presentation and teach a Group Fitness class, I jumped on the opportunity! I was so excited to have the chance to give back to the same place that gave me so much.
So my best friend and number one fan Thansha joined me to visit the school where our friendship, and my fitness career first started. We got there early, so we decided to drive around to see where we used to live, and to take a walk around campus. It was so weird to see how much Laurier has changed, but also how much of it stayed the same. I mean it even smelled the same, as weird as that sounds! Walking through the concourse and the dinning hall brought back so many memories of the best 4 years of my life. It really felt as if we were coming back home in a way. This school has given me so much more than just an education, it gave me a passion for fitness, my closest friends, and so many life lessons that had shaped me into the adult that I am today. I think it’s good to remind yourself of where you started. We so often forget how far we’ve come in life because we are always so focused on how much further we need to go. We can so easily become disappointed with ourselves because we don’t feel as though we are where we’re “supposed to be.” Today was a great reminder to me of my purpose, or the reasons why I love what I do. I feel as though I got just as much from giving my presentation and class to the students at Laurier as they did. Or at least I hope they did…
So here is the Coles notes version of my presentation today… Basically, when I entered my second year of university I no longer recognized myself. I had gained the so called “freshman 15” because I stopped dancing and cheerleading in first year, and I was no longer the active person that I used to be. The traditional gym setting however, was intimidating to me at the time because I was so used to training in a studio setting. I had absolutely no idea how to use the machines. So, I decided to join the group fitness classes. It felt like home. I loved the classes so much, I found them motivating, empowering and inspiring. So much so, that I included a fitness class into my daily routine Monday to Friday and even sometimes on the weekends. I started to see results from joining the classes, so I decided that because I was feeling so good from working out, I should translate this into my nutrition as well. So I started really researching, and looking into how to improve my health through my diet. This is where meal prepping was born for me. At the end of second year I decided I wanted to be an instructor. I was hired, and I got my certification that summer before third year. I even went to the Canfit Pro Fitness Conference in Toronto all by myself that summer. Even though I’ve never taught a single class, or knew anybody there, I wanted to learn as much as I could before going back to Laurier so that I could be a good instructor. After a few months of teaching classes, I knew I wanted to be the Group Fitness Coordinator. So I met with Jenn and asked her what she was looking for in the student leader position. I even met with the current Coordinator at the time and asked her what she did to prepare for the interview. I knew I was an underdog because it was only my first year teaching, but I was determined to get the position. I even wrote a full proposal for my interview outlining exactly how I would hypothetically run the program. It was because of this proposal that I got the Coordinator Position for my 4th and 5th year at Laurier.
During my time as Coordinator I felt as though I really exploited my resources and tried to learn and gain as much experience as possible, because I knew then that I wanted to make fitness my career. I wanted to share with the world how fitness empowers me, and how it can empower them as well. I taught at several gyms in the Kitchener/Waterloo area. I was the Recreation Assistant for a summer. I made two Zumba DVDs and sold them to the Zumba following I built while teaching at Goodlife and Laurier. In my 5th year I was teaching 6 Zumba classes a week, 8 classes in total! Crazy right?! That was while I was still in school, managing the Group Fitness Program, and I still managed to have a social life. I did an Aerobathon for mental health awareness for a Student Presidential Campaign. I really did try to get involved with the school as much as possible, and tried to bring fitness to the general population of Laurier through the friends that I knew in the Student Union. There are so many more little things that I did, like participate in flash mobs on campus, but you get the idea. It was at Laurier that my passion for fitness was born, and it was through the mentorship of the staff at the Athletic Complex like my boss Jennifer, that really allowed me to feel safe to take the risks that I did to grow within the fitness industry. To be honest, working for Laurier as the Group Fitness Coordinator, outside of having my own business right now, was my all time favorite job! Not only was Jenn the best boss I ever had, someone who was so caring and easy to talk to, she really gave me a lot of autonomy which gave me plenty of room to grow within the role, and as a person. I will never forget the opportunities and experiences I gained while I was at Laurier and I was so happy to be able to give something back today. I really do hope that I inspired some of the students today to continue teaching fitness outside of Laurier, or even to just stay fit for themselves. Either way, I’m happy to have had the opportunity to meet some new generations of golden hawks, and to be able to re-visit the same gym that changed my life for the better. Thank you Jennifer for inviting me, and Thank you Laurier for the adventure of a lifetime! I’m so proud of what I did while I was there, and I’m so proud of how far I’ve come, and how much further I’ll go? I guess we just have to wait and see 😛