Creating Your Brand As a Fitness or (insert dream role here) Professional

“I just want to drink coffee, get sponsored by Nike, get paid to workout and eat peanut butter.”  If you’re not familiar with this social media meme, now you are.  The first time I read it, a feeling of gratitude passed through me as I realized “yes, that’s me!”  And while I’m not exactly sponsored by Nike, as a certified trainer and fitness professional, I work in an industry that encourages us to eat peanut butter (all 50+ varieties of it!), squat among fellow health nuts and gym rats as we lead class, and survive those early morning (and sometimes evening) sessions with plenty of caffeine.  The income is nice, but I’ve always preferred to chase my passion rather than a paycheck.  Is it possible to attain both?  Yes.

The fitness industry is filled with opportunity.  Life is filled with opportunity.  Years ago, when I started college, I pursued a degree in Commercial Recreation and a degree Program Management.  Though I had just recently joined Women’s Workout World and experienced my own weight loss journey, the thought of studying Exercise Science seemed “irresponsible.”  I wanted to find employment upon graduating, and the first option seemed much more broad and inclusive of such opportunities.  As I approached my fourth year at Illinois State University, rather than finish college a semester early, I added an Exercise Science “emphasis.”  A year and a half later, I graduated with a degree in Commercial Recreation, a degree in Program Management and, because there was a growing amount of interest in the program, an Exercise Science minor.  Fast forward to present day, and I’m amazed at how much the industry has grown.  Now more than ever there is opportunity to impact our youth, provide for the “baby boomers,” increase productivity in the workplace and inspire people of all ages and fitness levels to improve their health–all as a fitness professional.

So how exactly do we chase our passion?  Do you ever feel like the buried scoop at the bottom of a tub of protein?  While our true purpose calls, we’re hidden among all of the “good stuff,” our passions.  It needs to be sifted through so we can get to the top and take things one scoop at a time. The following suggestions will help you determine where you should be and what kind of work you should be doing.  If you feel particularly drawn to any of these ideas, follow through with that internal “tug” and act upon it.  Someone out there will benefit from your skills, your story and your passion.

Grow relationships.   I was tempted to say “build relationships.”  But on second thought, most of the relationships I’m after take time, attention and nurturing to grow.  Regardless of what you call it, connect with others.  Find out what fuels them and how your own experience and knowledge can contribute to that.

Share your story.  When I began this entry, the thoughts came quickly and my fingers moved along the keyboard trying to keep up.  “Stick with the bullet points, Megan.”  “If it’s too long, no one will want to read it, Megan.”  My inner critique (yes, I have one) came out.  I thought people would be more interested in actionable items than in my college experience.  After all, what does that have to do with anything? Well, a lot.  Your past is a reference point.  It doesn’t define who you are, but it contributes to your perception of the world and of yourself.  When we allow others to see our flaws and vulnerabilities, it encourages them to let down their own guards.  And when
we’re open and honest with each other, we are no longer weighed down by a facade.  No story or person should ever hold you back, especially the story you tell yourself.

Lead.  When do you experience “flow?” Flow is that state of mind made famous by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.  It’s when the amount of challenge isn’t so great that you feel anxious, but it also isn’t so simple that you feel bored.  What kind of activities cause you to feel “in the moment?”  These are the types of activities you should be doing for life, the ones that will have the biggest impact on others as well as your own.  Embrace those skills and become an expert in that area.  Lead others who want to find flow in those activities.

Be led.  Leave your ego behind, along with any excuses you’re still holding onto.  No one wants to be a follower, but sometimes it takes humility and sacrifice to improve.  This is one of the most misunderstood parts of learning and development.  Most of us want to do it on our own-to sweat, sacrifice and move mountains just to stand at the top and see the view.  The view is much better when you’ve been accompanied by others.  Give up (to gain insight).  Let go of the need to know what will happen (and grow).  Some of the best experiences in my life have resulted by doing something before I’ve been ready, by working with people who know more than I do and have talents I hope to one day possess.  Surround yourself with people who agree with you, and people who disagree with you.  Challenge yourself to move through the resistance, just like you move through that final set of push-ups.  Not only will you develop strength, but you’ll develop a profession for yourself as well.



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