At the age 45, I had lived the life of a Civil Servant. At age 45, I realised I was not living a life I had chosen, but a life that I fell into and chose me.

Fresh out of school I fell into an administrative role at the Anniesland Job Centre on the fringes of Glasgow. After a couple of promotions, I was lucky enough to move to Edinburgh and be transferred to the Scottish Government. However, I continued to get itchy feet and always moved on. I did not recognise this at the time, but this pattern continued to repeat itself for at least two decades.

I was always ambitious and wanting to test myself. So, I jumped at the chance for a high-profile post as the PA to the Permanent Secretary. I was optimistic that this was the job I had always been looking for. However, after 6 months of working 12-hour long days I started to question myself.

Did I want to be shackled to my desk? No.

Did I want to work long days? Sometimes – as long as I was enjoying my job.

Did I enjoy my unchanging day-to-day routine? No.

Should a week feel like an eternity? No.

Did I want to spend the next 20 years doing this? No.

My mental health was suffering. I was frightened that my depression from my teenage years would return. I needed to take decisive action.

It was in those dreary months that I formulated my escape plan.

I had been teaching some spinning classes and thought the fitness industry might provide a more rewarding occupation. I thought that a Personal Trainer was a ‘pretty cool’ occupation. So I studied a lot and earnt my qualifications.

That part was easy in comparison to facing the stark choice of leaving a safe and reliable working environment and heading into the great unknown of freelance – with no regular income, no holiday pay, no pension, no sick pay, no contract of employment – no safety net.

I hatched my escape plan.

I started out by reducing my ‘day job’ working hours, building my client and getting to point where I was excited to tell people what I did for a living.

It wasn’t easy. Sacrifices were made. I sold my car, I took in a lodger, I encountered many ‘oh shit’ moments! I even worked as a Bootcamp Trainer on Portobello Beach (it would rain every time).

But I persisted, and things did improve. With more investment, education and from working with some of the best trainers in the industry – all I needed was the confidence to identify how I could also be the best and offer the best to my clients.

Thankfully, I worked out that my ‘good enough’ was about providing a workout experience that used movement creatively and really got clients excited.

Education that is science driven has allowed me to grow and move into areas that are not typically thought of as part of a trainers role – rehabilitation, skill development and pain science for example.

Acquiring these skills has allowed me to help many clients return to their well-loved sport, regain fitness after starting a family or preparing for a big first-time event like a marathon.

3 years on and things were going very well. I had a full diary of happy clients, and I even had to turn away new clients. Life could not have been better. Or so I thought.

Then one morning I woke up and I could not get out of bed. My back pain was so severe that I was too scared to stand upright. I crawled out of bed and spent the next hour trying to stand up. I have never been so scared.

When diagnosed with a herniated disc and sciatica I feared the worst. What had I done? How long would it last? Would it get better? What would my clients think? How was I going to do my job?

In the early days I did think I might not be able to continue in the job I loved and in the business I had established. I was devastated. I did not want to let me clients down so I did my best to continue. Little did I know then that it would take 2 years until I was out of pain.

Nevertheless, I persisted. I survived to tell the tale. I survived to turn 50 last year also.

Turning 50 can, for some, be a major turning point in their life. I had to pinch myself, remind myself this was real, that I finally had a life that I had chosen and that it was one that I loved.

I get to spend my days working one-on-one with clients helping them realise their goals and build confidence that physically they are way more capable than they think they are. I get to help support them through illness, build resilience and capacity to accept setbacks. We also get to have some fun along the way.

I love to learn new skills and I am currently taking weekly Parkour classes. Think running, jumping, balancing and even swinging on poles. I enjoy stepping out of my comfort zone and I would really encourage more people to do the same.

Step away from your safety net. Do the activities that bring you the most joy. Do them often and make sure you have fun!

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