Shining the spotlight on a valued FitPro member. Today we speak to fitness instructor Kate Davies to learn more about her history and experience.
FitPro (FP):What was your route into fitness?
KD: While working initially in the computer industry in the mid-70s, I joined a gym in London and soon discovered the Dance Studio, Pineapple Dance and Lotte Berk. I tried everything. One snowy morning, while driving to an IT job in Stockport, I misjudged a motorway junction and ended up in a ditch – the job really was trying to kill me. Without any hesitation, I changed career and a year later gained a Distinction for my Certificate in Exercise and Health Studies run by the Physical Education Authority (PEA) at Bristol University. This was a thorough, in-depth course but, looking back, it was only the start of my fitness education. Joining FitPro was the icing on the cake. I attended every convention FitPro offered and added many of the AIM modules to my PEA certification. I would not be the instructor that I am without FitPro.
FP: Tell us more about your work as a fitness professional and any additional qualifications or training you have achieved.
KD: I taught ETM classes for 30+ years. A typical week would include aerobics, body conditioning, step, over 50s, helping young stroke sufferers and rehab clients in a chiropractic clinic, and sixth-formers in two local schools. This variety was essential in keeping me motivated and passionate. Also I have made many lifelong friends and had a lot of laughs.
Creating a fun, encouraging class atmosphere is perhaps the hardest to achieve and, in my opinion, the one that is the most worthwhile. To achieve this, you need to spend time before and after a class ‘socialising’ with members. It may only be a one-minute conversation but that will make such a difference to that member and not just during that one-hour class. When you have a class that is so chatty that it is hard to get them to start, you know you are winning.
More recently, I have concentrated on the over 60s – the baby boomers. I have run one particular class for over 15 years. Many are in their mid-80s, with the oldest man soon to be 91. They are a loyal, happy, chatty group and support each other outside of class. I have done all the research that I can find to create a safe and effective hour for them. As a result, because they trust me, I believe I get more from them, especially in the balance and cognitive elements. I continually praise them too. The fitness market/centres need more of these classes – but don’t make them too easy!
FP: What is your fitness journey highlight?
KD: The highlight of my fitness journey was approximately 10 years of teaching a weekly step class with 50 participants of all abilities – from literally first-timers to advanced steppers. To enable this, I used two steps to teach from, so that it did not confuse the beginners. Choreography was complicated and all my own. Sometimes my regulars would try to second guess where I might be going in the build-up – great fun! I, of course, was in step heaven.
FP: If there is one thing you could change about the industry, what would it be?
KD: Looking to the future, there are two tricks I feel the fitness market is missing:
- The 21st century lifestyle is having a profound effect on our posture and ability to move freely. I would like to see more effective stretch classes that counter the impact on our bodies of spending so much time in cars, sitting at laptops and peering at smartphones and game consoles.
- It follows that I am seeing a major increase in the number of youngsters with really bad forward head posture. Exercise regimes should not stop at the shoulders. We need a major programme to reverse this damaging trend right now and roll it out nationwide. Prevention is better than cure.
The fitness business is hard work and almost always involves working unsociable hours. It’s not well paid either. I wouldn’t change the last 35 years for any other career but I would wish that management would appreciate us more.
FP: What advice would you give to your younger self/someone just starting up in the industry?
KD: The best advice I can give to anyone starting out is to learn – and never stop learning. Listen to your clients. Laugh lots. Enjoy!