I’m not even sure when attending IDEA became an idea. Perhaps it was in the back of my mind, subconsciously, when I took a job selling memberships at a local gym in 2004, shortly after moving to Huntsville, Alabama, with my family. I didn’t know IDEA by name, but I most certainly knew it by connection. I knew there had to be a place to help me become better at what I was doing in the fitness industry at the time, a place bigger than what I was seeing.
I took on that minimum-wage job with a master’s degree in counseling, honestly just to pay for my daughter to go to day care part time. It wasn’t long before I realized I was there by divine assignment and had stumbled into what would become what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
Each day, I walked into that gym and got a little bit more involved in the process. I got a little more involved in the lives, and the progress (or lack thereof), of the people who walked through those doors. I got less and less interested in signing them up for a two-year contract knowing 80 percent of them were never going to come back after a few weeks.
Around the four-month mark, after being surrounded by the trainers and fitness instructors who floated through the door in their cute clothes and with their perfect hair, I knew it was time for me to develop what I knew was within me. I also knew it wasn’t going to happen behind that desk.
It wasn’t long before I realized very few of these trainers looked like me. I was almost 30, very curvy and black. I so desperately wanted to be part of the change.
I decided to jump in headfirst (against the friendly “advice” of everyone around me) and get my first certification—a very inexpensive yoga certification, but my heart was in it, so I gave it my all.
Through that experience, I began to see my mission—to make fitness more accessible and more inclusive for EVERYONE. My classes were mosaics—every size, every color, every age, every shape, every financial background, etc. This was back in 2005.
I did this for years, learning from books I had bought on eBay or taking classes from other instructors. I wasn’t in a financial position to attend most of the events I had seen on the internet that would help me get the education I needed to better lead people.
In 2013, I stumbled upon an IDEA World brochure.
I was a master trainer for Piloxing, and I knew my team was going to be at this event. When I researched, I realized I had missed the deadline for extended monthly payments. How was I going to pay for the event, a hotel and a plane ticket to Los Angeles?
I went to work and told all my clients about the awesome sessions that were being offered and asked them which things they were interested in and what they would like for me to learn.
I was so passionate that one of my clients paid for my very first trip to IDEA.
It was a game changer, and I haven’t missed one since. I have taken so many classes and have met so many people that my view of fitness is as wide as an ocean.
Now in my 40s, my needs and interests have changed and so have the needs of my clientele. Serving as an “out-of-the-box” fitness professional has allowed me to provide out-of-the-box fitness experiences. I’m moving safer and smarter. I’m becoming more clear on nutrition. I have strengthened my brand. And I learned all this at the conference that my clients and students refer to as “there.”
“Are you going THERE this year? What are you going to learn THERE? Will so-in-so be THERE again?” 🙂
There are times when I feel discouraged. While there are lots of female, black, curvy, over-40 personal trainers and group instructors out there compared to when I got started, I still feel that, as an industry, we are behind on inclusiveness—those teaching, taking and training.
These are the times when I realize I am right where I’m supposed to be. This is a time for change, and to be a part of that change is often overwhelming.
My hope is that people look at me and my story and say, “I belong.”