australian fitness academy graduate shelly laskHow long have you been in the fitness industry?

I’ve been running my business for one year now, but worked in a gym through my studies 2 years ago.

What did you do before fitness?

My background is in professional indemnity insurance, but I was boxing and kickboxing fairly seriously on the side for 7 years before I made the change to a fitness career. The day before my final Cert IV exam I had to spend some time in hospital which meant I had to put my fitness industry plans on hold for a few months. I spent a year working in disability support before I launched my business, which sharpened my communication skills and gave me a refreshing perspective on the benefits of physical activity and joyful movement for all bodies and abilities.

What has been your biggest achievement?

It sounds cheesy but every time a client does something they never thought they’d be able to do!

What mistakes did you make along the way?

To begin with I didn’t want to feel like I was pestering people with follow up phone calls if they had made an enquiry and not turned up to a class. Later I realised that people often get nervous about starting, and appreciate the opportunity to clear up any concerns.

What are the best bits of running your own business?

I get to run and market my business in a way that aligns with my values. I don’t have to sell any products I don’t believe in or use metrics that I don’t find useful or positive. I set my own schedule, choose my own clothes and because the business feels like my “baby”, I don’t resent putting in the extra hours to make things awesome.

What are the hardest parts?

The hardest part is maintaining a healthy work-life balance. I sing in a band that plays shows regularly, and the music and fitness industries work to very different clocks! Even though I’m my own boss, in reality each client is my boss and I need to try to work around their schedules. I’ve learned to know my limits and tweak my timetable to allow me enough rest so I can start every day feeling fresh and bring myself fully to each session.

How have you differentiated your business? What’s different about you and your services?

From the beginning my plan was to be a body positive voice in the fitness industry. I want to help people connect with their bodies and all the amazing things they can do, rather than see exercise as something they have to do to try to take up less space. Rather than weighing or measuring my clients I encourage them to focus on adopting healthy behaviours, finding ways to enjoy being physically active and improving their body image.

Where did you seek advice from when setting up your business and along the way? (specialists, mentors, etc)

I spoke to a careers counsellor prior to setting up to get some advice on how to tackle the project and overcome any mental blocks I had (starting a new business can be scary and it’s easy to make excuses about why you think you’re not ready!)

How has the fitness industry changed in the time you have been working in it, and how have you adapted to these changes?

I’m seeing more and more personal trainers offering tailored meal plans, despite this being outside their scope of practice if they are not a dietitian, and as a result a lot of clients are seeking trainers who will do this. I make sure I talk to my clients about what a personal trainer is and isn’t, and why, and refer them to one of the dietitians I work in with if they are wanting personalised dietary advice.

What are the key lessons you have learnt along the way?

  1. Keep any nice messages of thanks you’ve received from clients somewhere special so that you can look over them when you’re finding things difficult, to remind you why you’re doing what you do.
  2. Embrace minimalism. You don’t need to spend a fortune on fancy equipment. Start out simply and get creative with body weight exercises and the equipment you do have. You can buy more as you go along, but a few key pieces is all you need to start with.
  3. Build strong connections with allied health professionals you admire – they are invaluable for advice and referrals (to and from), and working closely with them will get much better results for your clients.

You can find out more about Body Positive Health & Fitness at www.bodypositivehf.com.au

Australian Fitness Academy 1300 232 348 info@afa.com.au
701 Glenhuntly Road
Caulfield Victoria
3162 Australia
3/535 Milton Road
Toowong Queensland
4066 Australia