Where can a Career in Fitness take you?

Written by Coryn Littler

March 11, 2020


Author: Kristine Beissner
Fitness Institute’s National Training and Compliance Co-ordinator

Having been in the Fitness industry for just over thirty years, I often smile when I hear people say a long term career in sport, fitness and recreation isn’t possible.

While the role I have today helps Fitness Institute with systems, support, course materials, writing blogs and profiles, I started working in a fitness centre over three decades ago, and have been working in a variety of fitness related roles ever since.

Recently, I was asked to put together some words about resilience – possibly due to my professional and personal experiences and also because of the buzzword status resilience now has – particularly in relation to our careers.

It occurred to me that without explaining a little about my fitness career, there’d be no context around why I believe it’s important to invest time and effort in self-development and finding strategies to help us adapt to change….or why my thoughts are even relevant.

So, I had this idea to pop together some of my memories and career highlights, as well as some of my favourite pics (aka evidence) and help others believe:

  • A long term fitness career is possible and rewarding – when you understand where you’re strong and figure out how to deal with what challenges you the most
  • All knowledge is worth having – we can learn from history, situations, research, pop culture and the experiences of others – we don’t have to make a mistake to know it is one and valuable lessons are learned in many ways
  • Preparing for change is essential – it’s inevitable
  • Calculating risk and determining what you want are good first steps – asking yourself the “what’s the worst that can happen and can I live with the outcome?” questions are a good place to start when opportunity knocks and you’re ready to open that door

Which means there are two parts to this story…..

Part one in which I’ll share some of some of my career highlights and part two in which I’ll share why I believe developing resilience in your career is important.

So…. where can a career in fitness take you?

I’m going to say … where can’t it take you?

My fitness career started with gym supervision and group fitness instructing before progressing to personal training, health promotion seminars, working with training organizations, management, project work, VET and developing training and assessment materials.

Along the way I discovered many of the skills I learned were transferable, transportable and gave me the flexibility to accept part time contracts, move locations and study while continuing to earn a sustainable income.

Let’s go back… way back…. 

A teenager in the early 80’s, I saw Jane Fonda revolutionise the concept of “Fitness” and the impact of Jamie Lee Curtis doing her aerobics instructor thing in the movie PERFECT….

I was never the most sporty, athletic person in the room. And I wasn’t the chattiest, most fashionably dressed one either… I was the girl in the background, in awe of those amazing people working out and inspiring others to move….

But I did (and still do) love music and the 70’s disco and now classic 80’s dance music was magic and tailor made to move the masses!

A journey of a thousand steps….

My fitness career started in the late 80’s, when I was working as a receptionist at Slim City Fitness and Jim’s Gym in Cairns, North QLD.

Like many others who saw the fitness industry explode in popularity in the 90’s….we embraced the excitement of Step Reebok, sweated through Hi-lo, Interval and Fatburner classes and tracked down designer hand weights for our New Body classes….

We dressed in lycra of many designs and styles and colour matched our socks and accessories….

Music playlists were on cassette tapes copied from records – there was no pitch control on our tape decks then!

And while the industry didn’t start out this way, we were eventually given a stage to elevate us, custom made music to move us and microphones and groovy sound systems to enhance us…

We felt like stage performers…. and there’s no business like show business!

These were exciting, ground-breaking times and all who were there helped build the foundation on which our industry now stands!

The Rise & Rise of Fitness Ed….

I remember the very first fitness courses offered in QLD.

I couldn’t wait to become a qualified aerobics instructor in 1991 and do my resistance training module so I could become an accredited member of the Queensland Keep Fit Association (QFAC) in 1993….

Back then, qualifications weren’t essential, but for me, education and knowledge were!

In 1997, I was in Canberra, working with the team at Kippax Pool and Fitness Centre – a converted squash centre with an amazing fitness community, interesting mirrors above the stage and lots of green carpet. Freestyle, dance based, instructor-choreographed classes were still really popular…. but change was coming…

By the late 90’s, the fitness industry was evolving and diversifying. New formats and concepts were emerging and instructors were encouraged to learn them all!

Athleticism returned to group fitness and we were lining up to train as Johnny G Spin instructors and learn about this new concept of “pre choreography”.

New Millennium – New Opportunities….  

Five Les Mills programs later, I found myself teaching BODYPUMP, BODYATTACK, RPM, BODYBALANCE and BODYSTEP.

After the building which housed KPFC was closed down and demolished in the late 90’s, having lost its battle with progress, I started a small business with a friend offering group fitness, personal training and remedial massage (having gained a Diploma in massage a few years earlier).

This led to being offered a role with Les Mills Australia as Master Assessor, then Training Manager, co-ordinating instructor training around Australia and South East Asia. I also got to help Les Mills International in Auckland with contract work ranging from proofing choreography, developing certification materials and helping set up the training and assessment department of LMI’s first North American agency.

So many memories of those early quarterly workshops!

It was during this time I was very fortunate to meet industry legend Monty Dortkamp, who invited me into his business and trained me in my first Certificate III and IV in Fitness and Training and Assessment qualifications in 2003.

In 2005, having just come back from helping set up LMI’s Californian agency, I came to that proverbial fork in the road.

I was on the lookout for a new challenge – which I found in managing clubs for The Club Group, now Viva Leisure. I was able to look after Club Pink at the Canberra Indoor Sports and Aquatic Centre (CISAC) and help with setting up the Club Lime / Club Pink centre in Greenway.

During this time I was also able to help Dr Dion Klein at Wise Academy with training and assessment while continuing to teach group fitness.

In 2012, I accepted a two year, part-time admin contract in the ABC’s Northbourne newsroom and got to learn radio and news operations as well as supplement my income working weekends in Club Lime member services and teaching group classes. As I was studying a Bachelor of Communications at the time, this was most definitely a unique, exciting, not to be missed opportunity!

Then, it was 2014 and I was invited to help YMCA NSW establish the Gungahlin Leisure Centre’s Health Club in Canberra….

And this brings us to 2016 when I found myself in a meeting with Dean Bodle and Philip Sherriff at Fitness Institute which led to a role that allows me to use all I’ve ever learned in a diverse position encompassing course development, training and assessment support as well as compliance management.

How good is looking back…and forward…..?

The ability to do what I do today directly relates to the range of opportunities I’ve enjoyed and the people I’ve met throughout my career….many of whom I’m pleased to see, are still involved in sport, fitness and recreation today….

I should say though, not every career decision, choice and change of direction was easy or as I expected. Amongst the highlights are a range of other opportunities and projects I’ve tried my hand at, some more successful than others.

But I’m a firm believer in owning your choices…. And mistakes and things not working out can be opportunities to learn…… So I’ve learned sooooo many character building things throughout my working life!

And practical ones too, like take lots of photos…..

Over the years, the concept of Fitness transformed from an ideal to a credible industry and this in turn brought a higher level of government regulation and consumer expectations, which are of course, good things.

I have to admit, seeing where and how far we’ve traveled brings with it a mix of emotions, but as much as looking back is fun, so is speculating on what lies ahead and seeing all the new trends and ideas coming through – even though I find it’s getting a little harder to keep up with some of the more physically challenging ones nowadays…….

I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the great many talented, dedicated, inspiring people with whom I’ve shared this journey with…. Some are pictured here and there are also many others who I hope, know who they are…..

People often make fun and some are judgemental of the things we did (and didn’t) do in the past, but I’m always quick to point out, that without the pioneers, true believers, trail blazers, visionaries, risk takers and early up-takers of fitness as business, we wouldn’t have the diverse, energetic, constantly evolving industry we know today…

There were no “how to” guide books to follow when we started that’s for sure…

Which brings me to part two – Developing Resilience and a Strong Fitness Career that works for you…. 

You can head on over and learn more about Career Resilience HERE.  

Learn more about Fitness Institute’s full range of Health and Fitness courses HERE.    

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