How I Turned My Passion for Fitness into a Business
I didn’t always know that I wanted to work in the fitness industry. In fact, I had no idea what I wanted to do for the better part of my young adult life. But it’s been an amazing experience to see and feel things fall into place. I believe that things happen for a reason--not everything, but certainly some things. There are pieces of our lives that are meant to be. Sometimes it takes us longer to get there. Sometimes, we’re born knowing our direction. Whatever the route you take, it’s important to keep your eyes open, and never close off to the possibility of something great.
A Brief History
My journey with fitness began at a young age, several left turns, right turns, and u-turns away from where I am today. Growing up, I loved being active. I played all the sports--and was pretty good, and very competitive. As I got older, I started honing in on a few sports that I excelled in, eventually deciding to focus most of my time on field hockey, for which I was eventually recruited to play at Brown University. I knew that field hockey would play a huge role in my college years, but I didn’t yet realize how integral it would be in my future. My greatest takeaway as a college athlete was my passion for, and continued interest in, fitness. I loved being able to see progress in the weight I was able to lift, the power I was able to generate, and speed I was moving at, both on and off the field. But the years went by, and as senior year came to a close, my days as an “athlete” were quickly coming to an end.
The “Real World”
After college, I began working at a digital marketing agency in New York City. Life was good: I had a paying job, and I was living in NYC with 2 of my best friends from school. But for some reason, something felt like it was missing. I missed the regiment of practice, working out, and having a goal to work towards.
In an effort to get back on track, I started working out with a trainer and it reminded me why I loved those college days in the gym. There was still a tiny piece missing, however, and that was the competition. So, I signed up for the NYC Marathon in November 2016, raising money for the American Cancer Society on behalf of my grandmother. While training was BRUTAL, it was an incredible feeling to be working towards a goal again. Every run was another milestone met. Completing that first marathon had me totally hooked. I signed up for my second marathon almost immediately following the first, this time with my sister.
It was an entirely new experience training and running with my sister. She became my biggest motivator and accountability buddy. And, somehow I felt responsible for both my own success, and hers. I wanted to make sure that I was taking her on the best running routes, giving the best recovery tips, and making sure that we were both getting enough electrolytes and the right food before and after our long runs. It was during this time that something hit me. Being in this space - guiding someone else through a new and exciting fitness journey - was exactly what I should be doing with my life.
I decided to chase this feeling further and enrolled in the Focus Personal Training Institute for a 6-month program in preparation to become a personal trainer. I learned about body mechanics, how to work with older clients and clients with injuries and illnesses, and how to build a business. Then I learned how to apply this knowledge in hands-on situations. It was certainly not an easy beginning. Starting out in fitness is TOUGH. Early mornings and late nights mean no sleep, a lot of awkward downtime midday, and, subsequently, a ton of self doubt. But I knew I had made the right decision - or at the very least, was not about to turn back! Eventually, I found my stride. I started building a client list, was able to find more balance in my schedule, and felt more and more confident by the day.
With this newfound comfort in my schedule, I decided to continue developing as a fitness professional and took a leap of faith by auditioning as a coach at Orangetheory in 2018. I loved taking classes myself, but the idea of 40+ faces glued to me while instructing a class over the mic seemed terrifying. My audition was one of the scariest and simultaneously exhilarating experiences of my life. I was hired as a coach despite my nerves going in, which continued for my first six months of coaching. I was so scared of failing, but I reminded myself of the journey that got me here. Looking back at how I continued to take chances on myself, I felt a bit more confident, and if nothing else, I would head into each class with a fake it til ya make it mentality, and eventually, I wouldn’t be faking it anymore.
Eventually, the nerves began to fade away. I felt confident going into classes, I built relationships with members, and was called upon to take on more responsibilities. I was teaching enough that I was able to make Orangetheory my full-time focus. And then COVID hit…
There are some moments in life where you are faced with making a decision. On March 16, 2020, I finished up teaching class at OTF, and headed home to my parents’ house for what I thought would be a few weeks (HA! Still haven’t left, thanks mom and dad!). That night, I decided that if I couldn’t do what I loved to do in person, I would find a way to continue doing it, however possible. I started a Zoom account to teach group classes, which started slow, but eventually - as I had in all other aspects of this journey - I gained my confidence.
As I found my stride teaching the virtual workouts, I decided to get uncomfortable again (are you sensing a theme here?) and take another turn in my journey. Remember when I mentioned that some things happen for a reason? This was one of those things. One conversation over lunch, almost 10 years from the day we met at Brown, Meredith and I were discussing where we were each headed professionally and personally with all of the uncertainty around us. Just talking about how we could combine our health and fitness knowledge into a career sparked more creativity, joy, and excitement than anything we had done previously, and in that sentiment we also found our company’s name: Spark Wellness Co.. It felt like all of the twists and turns in our journeys had led us exactly to the right spot.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do, or who I wanted to be when I got to college. I didn’t know when I graduated college. I honestly didn’t even know at the start of 2020. But I did know that when I allowed myself to get a little bit uncomfortable and trust my instincts to explore new (sometimes scary) opportunities, I always came out on the other side with a little more clarity. So here’s the moral of the story: don’t be afraid to just start. The outset of your journey may look completely different from the destination, but it’s the twists and turns that bring you to exactly where you need to be.