I remember the day well…It was the first day at my new job working at a place called Females In Training (also known as “F.I.T.”). I was 26 years old. I just got my certifications as a personal fitness trainer and group exercise instructor. I was so excited to actually get a job doing what I loved; everything food, health, and fitness!
I was hired by the manager, but it wasn’t until my first day working that I would meet the owner. I was kind of shy, and a little intimidated by her, seeing that she was the *boss*. I’m not even so sure we were officially introduced, but she knew about me. Specifically she knew that I just came from my *white-collar job* of working as a staff accountant at a CPA firm, downtown.
At the end of the day when we were getting ready to close, it was just her and I in the gym. I was sweeping the aerobic floors in my staff t-shirt (a change from my business suit, for sure). But as I swept the floors I couldn’t stop thinking about how happy I was to be there, instead of stuck sitting at a desk with a time sheet where I had to keep track of what I did every moment of the day, including when I took a bathroom break (standard procedure for any job where you have billable time). I spent nearly two years working that desk job which I hated.
The owner finally speaks to me and says, “so Kim, I hear you used to be an accountant…this must be a big change for you having to sweep floors. Hope you’re OK with this.” My response, “Yes, I am. I’d much rather be here sweeping floors than stuck behind a desk. I am really excited about my job here.” She smiled and said, “well, we’re happy to have you.”
I look back on that time and remember that it was the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. It was the only time I can remember being excited about each new day, feeling as if I knew who I was, where I was going, what I was doing, and why I was doing it. It all came together.
It was a time I was the most motivated to learn and grow. I signed up for every workshop and conference I could go to. I continuously read. I could never seem to get enough information, I always wanted more.
I worked hard to build a clientele. I practiced, (and practiced, and practiced…) teaching group fitness so I would be good at it (a hard skill to learn and do well). I came up with wellness programs and seminars, marketing and teaching them with the utmost enthusiasm. I put so much time and effort into my job, which I still have proof of with the filing cabinets and boxes in my house full of programs, handout sheets, games, lectures, ideas, client folders, and more.
Things soon changed, though, as I welcomed my first child. Wanting to be the best mom in the world (don’t we all), I decided not to place her in daycare but to stay home with her. My husband, at the time, was building a business of his own and worked around the clock. So I took care of our daughter around the clock, which left no time to work outside of the home.
I tried getting out of the house just one night a week to work; Mondays. But I found that while I had back-to-back clients, they needed me more than once a week. My head was no longer in the game, it was at home with my daughter and husband. And as much as I would never regret the choice I made to support him and be there for my little girl, I lost myself in the process.
Over the years I turned into my husband’s cheerleader, personal assistant, and accountant/payroll/human resources person at his new company (though eventually I got out of that job once his company grew and we needed someone full-time). I did anything he asked of me, and was always supportive. I was also super mom, doing everything from learning how to make cakes the Wilton Way to joining Mom’s Clubs and sewing blankets. It’s my nature to want to take care of people and make them happy.
Ever since that first job, though, I have had one dream; to open my own women’s health and fitness center. I have so many great ideas to make it work. Bring something to the market that no one has seen before. I picture women, just like me, coming in through the front door and greeting them saying “Welcome!…here is a place to get healthy, feel good about yourself, and make friends!”
The greatest thing about working at F.I.T, wasn’t teaching someone how to do a leg press or why they need more fruit in their diet; it was seeing the bonds that would form among the women. We had many *regulars* and everyone knew each other. It was a place to share your stories, good and bad. A place to get a break from all the day-to-day problems and just hang with the girls. Members looked forward to coming to the gym, not because of the exercise, but because of the positivity of the place. I have always said, it was like “Cheers”, only instead of serving beer, we were a gym.
And as life continues to change, last June, my marriage of 15 years came to an end. So here I am, a single mom still in shell shock over my new life (we share the kids 50-50). I have spent most of the past nine months trying to cope and heal, but finally realize I need to start making decisions about where to go from here.
I haven’t really thought at all about myself in many years, thinking solely of my family, and honestly have come to find out I don’t really know who I am anymore. I keep wanting to bring that 26 year-old girl back, who had drive, ambition, and enthusiasm, but I often think she’s gone.
But in my perhaps blind optimism to reconnect with her, and try to heal, I wonder if I should re-visit that dream. I spent most of today driving around looking at property that might be suitable for what I envision, just to get my mind off of things and think about something positive, really. At the end of the day, I half-joke with myself that it would be easier to just buy the old gym where I worked than to start from scratch. That’s when I discover…
“Gym closes suddenly, members shocked…”
Females In Training shut their doors in August of 2011. 2011?? Where have I been?
And suddenly I break down crying… After 30 years in business, they closed. The place that brought me so much, and has inspired me all of these years. My beginning. The place I was the happiest. Is gone.
I then realize that I’m crying not only for the loss of this memory, but because it hits me that many things in my past, which I put so much work and effort into, are gone. I keep losing pieces of my life, and myself, and I don’t know where to go next…
Then I start wondering why did they close. Could it be that while some of us are passionate about a great place for women’s fitness, that logistically its a bad business model? Or was it something else? And if it can’t survive, the one dream I’ve held onto for so long is gone, too? What’s left for me?
I may not have all the answers, today, but I do know one thing; women need a place of refuge. We need a place to feel good about ourselves. We need a place to get away from all the negativity that bombards us daily. We need to feel supported and reminded that we have friends who are always there for us. And I’m not sure what I’m doing yet, but whatever it winds up being, I’m still passionate about helping women find that place. So maybe that 26 year-old girl isn’t totally gone, but is just waiting to re-discover herself, in a new and improved way.
As always, while writing is certainly cathartic, I publish what I think will benefit others. I know many women out there go through what I go through. Balancing career and motherhood, family and individual, we all go through it. And I hope my stories help you find some solace in knowing you’re not alone.