Ex-Military dental nurse, Melanie Gill explains how she turned her hobby of keeping fit into a life changing career.

With news of the rise in unemployment hitting the national headlines, now might not seem like the best time to be considering a career change. However, amongst the doom and gloom of the recession, the fitness industry has grown by 2 percent in the last year alone. As people are becoming increasingly disheartened by their 9-5 office job, as well as the importance of good health constantly being in the media spotlight, now could be the best time to consider a career move into the active leisure industry.

Here, 36 year old mother Melanie Gill explores her journey from dental nurse to fitness instructor…

When I left school at the age of 16 I knew I wanted a career that would enable me to be active so I decided to join the army. I became a medic at 17 and quickly progressed to a military skills instructor. As a result my lifestyle was extremely active, which was great; I trained three times a week including running, circuits and numerous aerobic type exercise work outs.

After serving for eight years with the WRAC, my partner, who was also serving in the army, was relocated. We married and moved to Cyprus where I decided to make a career change and retrained as a civilian dental nurse, which fitted in with my husband’s schedule. For nine years we travelled around Cyprus, and later, Germany.

When my husband retired and we returned to England, I felt I really needed to do something for myself. It had always been my lifelong dream to train in fitness and become an instructor but I had never had the courage before to confront my dream head on. After returning to the UK I knew that I needed to bite the bullet and take a new direction in life.

With my daughter at such a young age, I wanted a career that I could enjoy and be passionate about, as well as allowing me flexibility. This seemed impossible as people always say you can’t have it all, but I knew that the fitness industry offered a variety of jobs.

Making the change

I did a lot of research in to fitness training programmes and found ‘Lifetime’. When I came across Lifetime’s Exercise To Music (ETM) course-it seemed perfect. The course fitted my lifestyle down to the ground, as I could complete the classroom based practical learning during the week while my daughter was at school. The practical lessons mixed perfectly with the distance learning as it meant that I could study the theoretical content at home with my family-I signed up immediately!

The course was made up of two components. There was a distance learning module, Exercise and Fitness Knowledge Level 2 which took approximately 40 hours to complete via CD Rom and workbooks. It covered topics such as muscles, bones and joints, as well as energy systems, concepts of fitness, cardio respiratory systems and nutrition. To complete this section, I had to take part in a 1 hour multiple choice exam.

The second phase was the practical element of the course. I attended a five day course, Monday to Friday where we learnt about the use of Music, Teaching Skills, Choreography, Class Design and Structure, Relaxation and Stretching and Health and Safety.

I had not studied for a long time so I felt nervous on my first day, but the tutors were so welcoming that I felt at ease the moment I joined the class. My confidence grew over the five days; it was extremely creative and very fun learning to choreograph our own routines. The tutors understood our differing learning styles, and even stayed late to direct us with theory topics and help fine tune our choreography.

Two weeks after the course, I attended two practical assessment days and qualified! I made some great friends while I was on the course and found the whole experience really motivating and open too, people felt happy to ask questions.

Mel’s job of a lifetime

Once I had completed ETM, I approached a local village hall, so I could set up my own classes, and used this to build on my experience and client base. I then extended my teaching to Daventry Leisure Centre; at first I started on their cover list, where as now I have three permanent classes per week.
My life is so different now. Meeting new people every day and knowing that I am helping them to feel good about themselves gets me out of bed! I laugh everyday and keep fit too! My teaching hours fit nicely around my family life, so I couldn’t ask for more.

My three classes per week include 50+ aerobics and Fat-attack-a class that I designed myself based on my army days. These classes are extremely loud and motivating; I shout a great deal and it’s very military-esque! Fat-attack specifically, is high impact aerobics and at the moment I teach women aged around 30 years of age. Men are very welcome too, but at the moment my ladies seem to be leading the way!

Looking to the future

In terms of my next move, I am due to complete a Body Pump course in October, ultimately though, I plan to become a Personal Trainer. I really enjoy teaching classes in groups but I would love to offer one-to-one tuition and witness their progression-providing support and motivation along the way. I will definitely register with Lifetime to train for this qualification.

Ideally, I would like to get to a stage where I can be a self employed personal trainer with a strong client base, but for the moment I am really just enjoying every day. For anyone else who is thinking about a career move, my advice would be just go for it! Believe in yourself and if you have a passion, follow it and enjoy every minute! As soon as you are qualified, knock on as many doors at possible; cover lists, village halls, gyms and health clubs. Be yourself and let your personality shine through!

Lifetime is the UK’s leading training provider in the active leisure industry. For more information please visit http://www.lifetimehf.co.uk/