“An awareness of the need for change is the first step to actual change.”
I’m on my second career as a Pilates Practitioner – my first career was in logistics.
I ended up at uni when I was 22 or 23. Between that and high school I did all sorts of odd jobs: office admin work, catering, restaurants. I went to uni because I wanted to do something more meaningful, so I enrolled in an Arts degree with a double major in linguistics and Japanese, with a bit of French thrown in.
Once at university however, I realized it was a bit impractical. It seemed like there weren’t many jobs where my degree would lead me, and I lost my way a bit. Besides, I was struggling with the university life, balancing working and studying.
Then my friend Bruce, who worked in the logistics industry, offered me a 6-month temp job. I decided it might be a way to do something constructive with my time.
I never went back to uni. That was the start of my logistics career – a clerical position in a freight forwarding company. It was like learning a different language. Computers had just started being used, so it was a cool time to be in a progressive company.
Once I got industry experience, I found it was easy to move around – I did a few different similar administrative jobs in freight companies, including a short stint in Sydney, gaining further knowledge and experience.
After working in Sydney I came back to Melbourne, again by the grace of Bruce – he had moved companies and invited me to join his new one. I took on a completely different role, in Customer Service, which I initially really enjoyed due to its problem-solving aspects.
But I found the owners very unpredictable and somewhat hard to work with.
Maybe part of the difficulty was me being young, naive and not open to criticism. But it didn’t help that the criticism was often delivered by yelling and screaming. It was actually quite a toxic environment. But it was also where I met Mark, my husband, so it wasn’t all bad!
I lasted about 9 months there through sheer determination to persist until I learnt all that I could. When it started affecting my well-being, I began looking for other roles.
After a few interviews I took on another customer service job in a company called Gluck. It was a much better workplace – I felt like a part of the team, respected. I worked closely with two owners of the company, both very good businessmen.
Funnily enough, soon after, Mark came across to work for us also.
After about 9 months, they needed somebody overseeing the staff and processes in customer service, and offered me that responsibility. That was interesting because of the operational aspect. It wasn’t just tracing orders, chasing trucks and overseas shipping, it was the bigger picture.
The turning point came when I was chosen to go to an annual logistics conference in Canada and visit our US offices and suppliers.
It was an eye-opening 3-week trip. I realized I was better suited to more operational work, away from the customer service front which never sat well with my introverted personality.
About six months after returning from the US, we agreed to transition my role to a more operational one within a 6 month timeframe, which never happened. The company wasn’t particularly supportive of me changing direction and after some frustrations, I decided to leave.
I went off to do a short stint for a company who had been a client, but again I didn’t choose wisely: somehow I still ended up doing a customer service type role.
I left and joined my husband on an overseas trip to clear my head.
Once we were back, I attended a Christmas party at Gluck with Mark. There, I talked to one of the other managers in the company, and he offered me a role that was much more up my alley – revising processes, quality analysis, working with the full invoicing process – the frustrated accountant in me was finally satisfied.
It was a brilliant job: but then I got pregnant.
For a while, before and after Nick was born, I worked from home, with occasional office visits. Then my daughter Alex came along, who was a much more demanding baby. My work hours became more and more patchy and far in between – and then petered out completely by the time my third child, Cass arrived.
We had decided to move away from the city, to New Gisborne, not long after Nicky was born – something we dreamed about for a while. Mark left Gluck and to set up another logistics company with his current business partners. I did do some work for them, but I felt that my corporate office identity had started to dissolve.
There was plenty of problem-solving going on at home with three little people, so I didn’t have to get my stimulation elsewhere!
I started doing Pilates not long after I had Nick, just for my own health and sanity, and I loved it. As I was getting older, I saw more value in being able to exercise, with strength as the focus.
Around 8 years ago, before my 3d child, I was discussing with my Pilates teacher the idea of becoming an instructor myself. I was seriously considering it, looking into courses, but when I realized I was pregnant with number 3 the idea was put on hold.
Not long after my third child was born I discovered a studio in Woodend called “The Pilates Cottage”, with a practitioner named Wade.
It was like my whole Pilates foundation had been rocked.
Wade delivered his understanding of Pilates in a meaningful and inspirational way, helping me to become a better version of myself.
As I got older, I accepted things like a sore back and stiff shoulders as a fact of life. However Wade got me moving more and I found that my body aches improved: my strength grew, I became aware of how I was sitting, standing, moving.
An awareness of the need for change is the first step to actual change. That was the springboard – whilst I had enjoyed practicing Pilates for some time, I now found a really strong curiosity in Pilates.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to simply continue my personal practice or if I wanted to teach others. The only way to find out was to do a Pilates teacher training course.
I went and did a mat-based, “Classical Pilates” teaching course. Mat Pilates doesn’t involve equipment, but there is a real method to how it is delivered, whereas a more modern or rehabilitative Pilates approach doesn’t necessarily follow that.
I found my teacher training terrifying, because there was a huge performance aspect that I never considered – getting up in front of the room and delivering information. I recognized that that was the start of where I wanted to go, and part of learning the skill was doing it and making mistakes.
I was lucky to have had Wade as my mentor. Most courses today can quite impersonal, while I had an apprenticeship-based training where I could practice and hone my craft, and become confident at it.
After a few months I knew it was definitely what I wanted to do.
I did some further training courses and then decided to do a more of a rehabilitative-approach course. I was already teaching within the studio under Wade’s tutelage.
I did the “Polestar Diploma” course – they are the only organization whose Pilates qualifications are recognized worldwide. That was challenging, because it was Pilates from a whole different perspective from what I was used to.
It’s very clinical; there were a lot of osteopaths and physiotherapists taking the course. It seemed like it was less about Pilates as a method of exercise, the workout as a whole, but an entirely rehabilitative method. It frustrated me a bit, but in time it started making more sense.
Over that time I continued working for The Pilates College.
I was working a lot of hours, and studying as well, not to mention caring for my children: so it was becoming quite arduous. But I loved it.
Still, at some point I tipped the balance from family to work, and I had to cut back on my working hours. As crude as it sounds, I am the primary care provider and the secondary income earner; that’s our family’s reality. This was something Mark and I discussed and agreed on, so I had to “do my bit”. Wade understood that I had to put my family first and have more flexibility.
In addition, over time my ideas and beliefs about Pilates were changing and somewhat moving away from Wade’s. My course was competency-based, with a lot of practice, and observing other practitioners.
My views were becoming more diverse and I was opening up to the idea that there’s no right or wrong Pilates; there’s something for every individual, based on their needs.
I told Wade I wanted to buy some equipment and have clients of my own, to have some freedom and figure out what “style” of Pilates I wanted to pursue.
I ordered some equipment, which is very expensive – I paid for it through a finance plan. It was a risk, but I knew I’d be able to sell it quite easily if I had to. But it paid off.
I aimed for 10 clients in 6 months and 20 clients within a year. I obviously didn’t want to take any clients from Wade, who has been so supportive of me. However, as his business expanded, he moved away from Macedon to a larger premises in Kyneton, so some of the clients ended up coming back to me.
I took on a couple of people first, and in the last few months of the first year I only had 3 clients.
I still found it hard to put myself out there, to sell myself.
But business grew by word of mouth, through people I’d run into, friend and client referrals. I haven’t even printed a business card yet, but now I have 20 clients. I thought at the start that would be my cutoff, but now I’m looking to gain some more – I know I can manage it.
I needed to be at home and work during school hours, and so far I have managed that. I do small groups. Industry standard is 4 people per studio class, but I decided that 2 works better. It is more personal and flexible this way.
Setting up a studio at home allowed flexibility not only to me, but to my clients, who largely are also parents.
As a parent, I knew how hard it can be commit to fixed class timetables, so my personalized scheduling is a big bonus for my business. Also, I find the more flexibility I offer the more flexible my clients are towards scheduling changes which are sometimes necessary because of my own family commitments.
I usually work mornings and sometimes afternoons; on some days I do an hour or two in the evening. I leave some gaps so I can spend time with the kids, which would be impossible if I were working in a studio.
Fridays are my days for professional development. I go down to Melbourne to spend some time with my new mentor, Kellie. We work on both movement and teaching refinement. She has a very diverse movement background, and since I’ve finished the Polestar qualification, I am much freer with what I can do.
I’m earning more than I did working for someone else, doing half the hours. And I’m doing what I love; it’s meaningful and very specific to people’s needs.
It can be an intense workout, but never a one-size-fits-all. I think I have this balance from the combination of classical Pilates training and more modern, rehabilitative/therapeutic approach.
I love when people with injuries or chronic pain get results through their Pilates practice.
They start moving and feeling better: I see them coming in looking taller than 3 months prior, moving freely without pain. I feel that these are my successes too.
One of the things I’m still figuring out is the balance between work and home life. Ideally I wouldn’t work in the evenings and on Saturdays, because the kids still feel like it’s their time. But you have to be available when people want to learn. That’s the only downside.
I feel lucky in being able to be a bit fussy about what I do. If I don’t feel comfortable with someone, I don’t have to train them. I’m setting the parameters of what I do. I don’t particularly enjoy talking over the phone, but sometimes you need it to sort out the details and find out a person’s background and needs.
Working from home is good, but only to a certain point.
We’re lucky to have space in the house, and we also have a barn that we’d love to convert into a proper studio in a couple of years maybe. For now it still works well: people are understanding of the environment – it may be a private home, but once they see the equipment and my professionalism, they are fine with it.
I think I may be doing this for the rest of my life! This is definitely my thing.
My quest now is to continue learning. I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface, so I’ll keep studying – Pilates, anatomy, movement, theory.
I wish I had found Pilates sooner. I am not big on regrets though. Pilates possibly could have been a life career, but back in the 80’s it was still relatively unknown. And a part of me thinks that I wouldn’t have coped with this constant face-to-face communication. At the same time, I’ve learned so much in all of the places I’ve worked; they’ve all been valuable experiences which have shaped the person that I am today.