“I feel a call to fitness is not a job, it’s a vocation. To work you need to ‘feel’.”
The pandemic has forced many of us to reckon with different feelings and situations and its having a documented negative impact on people’s mental and physical health; and one powerful tool people are turning to are practices like yoga, mindfulness and other fitness formats, giving rise to many entrepreneurs in this space, observed Ruby Sinha, founder sheatwork, in a conversation with Natalie Pote, fitness entrepreneur, who wears many hats. She is a fitness coach, who is present here for the Athletics & Fitness Association of America, certified trainer from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, USA, certified nutrition coach, a licensed yoga and zumba expert, choreographer, teacher and event planner.
Read on, as she discusses her journey, the team, support system, the challenges faced, the marketing mantras she follows, some fitness tips and more….
RS. Take us through your journey. How did you become a fitness coach?
NP: Honestly, it’s something inborn, something I always wanted to do, but didn’t know how. For our generation, while growing up, it wasn’t really a profession or a career option for women or young girls. Now, thankfully, it’s accepted.
It was my students and clients who inspired me. I started off as a zumba instructor and I was inspired by my students seeing how much fun they were having and how much they were letting go! I saw how physical fitness made them feel so good and I realised I wanted to take this further. One thing led to another –zumba to group fitness, personal training which led to nutrition, yoga….I keep learning!
RS: When you started the venture, you were alone. What sort of a team do you have to help you?
NP: While conceptualizing, the creativity – first let me tell you I have a bit of OCD! I want everything my way and I want it done perfectly. The backend work is mostly done by me but sometimes I need help. I have a team of dedicated people like if I am working with schools I have a group of young college students, who have grown with me.
RS: Basically if you’re running it solo, you created a network, a support system, who is there, if you have a big project coming up.
RS: What are the important pre-requisites for setting up your own fitness venture?
NP: Fitness is contrary to what people believe. For a lot of them approach me and one of them said that he had space and no pillar, so a studio can be started! I feel a call to fitness is not a job, it’s a vocation. To work you need to ‘feel’. Your client is not just a client you are responsible for their lives, their well-being and I mean their mental well-being as well.
Once I stopped a trainer telling a lady not to try zumba and he said – “Look at you!” I stopped him and chastised him. Then there was a lady in her 60s, who was motivated and I didn’t expect her to do what I do; for people it’s their belief, it’s that one hour when they can be them! Coming back to the trainer, I told the owners that if he did not apologise, I am not working here!
RS: You’re saying that you should respect your client, build a bond and have a passion. It’s not like any other job – a Mom&Pop store and get someone else to do the job for you.
NP: Absolutely. You cannot tell a client that, for then, you have demotivated her!
RS: Throughout your journey, especially during the pandemic, have you seen more and more people come for training virtually, or what are the challenges you were facing?
NP: To be honest with you, when it was a complete lockdown, it actually worked in my favour! I had more people online. One reason is that people have started realizing the benefits of working out, of fitness.
RS: Do you see more of women in this business? How is the gender issue here, according to you?
NP: For zumba, yes there are more women. When it comes to personal training, I see more men. Coming to the earlier stereotype, girls did not do this. It was men for fitness and girls for dance and zumba. Now women are doing it and women clients are more comfortable with women. It’s changed now.
RS: While training, clients come from metros. Do you have any clients from non-metros?
NP: Not really!
RS: How important is marketing for you, especially during the pandemic. Have you been using digital marketing tools amplifying your social media account to promote your business?
NP: To some extent yes. I don’t have a paid account, it is still a general account but it has translated to work. I have quite a few students, especially from other parts of the world, like right now, after this interview, I have a class for students in Chicago! It’s making world so much smaller. Being online has taken a lot from us, but at the same time, you have to weigh the pros and cons and make it work for you!
RS: Does most of your business comes from reference (through your website)?
NP: A lot of it is through referrals of late, and LinkedIn has actually helped and also my social media account on Instagram.
RS: As a woman entrepreneur, we lead very stressful lives. What are your fitness tips for women entrepreneurs?
NP: My advice would be – just like when you go to work, you have a routine, create one. Have a routine, and stick to it.
Also have a ‘Do not disturb’ sign (which I put up on the back of my chair and my kids know ‘Mummy is not available now’)
RS: You have yoga, zumba, cardio and a host of other terminologies. What would you recommend for Indian women?
NP: I would recommend a little bit of everything. Everyday I teach something different. You will have something different to look forward to everyday. So, it really works.
RS: I was looking at your qualifications and you have a lot of international degrees. Do you feel it helps, that it should be a pre-requisite? Or can you go with Indian degrees?
NP: Sadly there is a difference between a license and certification. A license is something you get after doing a workshop you pay for; and then you are licensed to teach. A certification is when you actually study, do an exam and them practice. A lot of people are confused and assume if they are licensed to teach one thing, they can teach everything, they can go to Youtube and copy-paste workouts. Unfortunately, they are getting by, because of the rates they charge. But many question crop up. As far as clients go – how consistent are these workouts? How good is it for the body? What is going to happen in the long run? These are questions that trainers cannot answer and clients don’t ask for people mostly have a particular immediate reason – like getting ready for a wedding, so losing weight for a short period.
What I feel is that consistency is key and I feel clients deserve it. As for me, I am empowered and I empower them.
RS: As an entrepreneur it’s so difficult to take off time – one or two hours to exercise. How do you manage it?
NP: It’s putting the cart before the horse sometimes. You need to prioritize. It’s more of a lifestyle. It’s a vicious cycle. What I would say is – just find the time! Like a quick 15 min surya namaskar to start your day with. Once you start your day you will be motivated to come back to it!
As for me, my yoga mat is on the floor always, and as I get time, I move to a quick exercise and then, it’s back to work. That’s how I keep myself fit!
RS: Any finishing tips for any aspiring fitness coaches in the younger generation?
NP: First get into it, get a feel of it. It’s not about coaching the body, but the mind. Know you are unique and you can do it! Enjoy the journey, celebrate your body, celebrate the little things on the way!!