Our 1st ‘How They Did It’ Featured Fitness Instructor is…

Claire Gurney

Claire is this month’s Featured Fitness Instructor and has kindly taken the time to share her experience in the fitness industry and the journey she has taken to offer the sessions she does today. She has done a lot of amazing things and I hope it motivates and inspires you to continue working towards your fitness goals. Let’s hear from Claire…

Hi, I’m Claire Gurney and I’m the director of Claire Gurney Pilates Health and Fitness. I have been working in the fitness industry for 6 years taking on a variety of roles and I officially started my business in 2013.

My journey into the health and fitness industry started in 2011 when I began working in my University’s fitness centre as a gym and class instructor. I was studying Sports Science and Injury Management at York St.John University at the time and the job complemented my degree. Before going to University I had trained in Sports Massage, Gym Instructing and exercise to music, which allowed me to work in the university fitness centre as a qualified instructor.

As part of my degree I had to undertake a work placement and I arranged to assist with a physio-led back and knee class held at a community hospital. I loved doing this as I realised the exercises people were completing seemed very simple and similar to exercises I had clients performing in the gym. I realised these same or similar exercises were very effective at helping patients with knee or back pain to reduce their pain, become stronger and get back to doing more activity. After completing the placement I decided I wanted to use my fitness qualifications in a more specialist way and I gained further inspiration from time abroad.

My time at York gave me the opportunity to complete an exchange semester at Victoria University in Melbourne Australia, where I studied exercise physiology with other students on a clinical exercise physiology course. During this semester I learnt about the different health conditions that can improve with exercise, the science behind how and why, and how to train these clients successfully. In Australia Exercise Physiologists deliver exercise sessions to people with long term health conditions and injuries as part of their healthcare system, (similar to how Physiotherapists work over here).

I returned home to England after completing this and on realising that when I graduated I was facing completely different health and fitness industry and healthcare system. Not to be put off I did my research and decided to train in exercise referral and to devise a career for myself in the fitness Industry. To me this seemed to me the easiest way I could follow my career goals and work with people who weren’t classed as “Healthy” yet could still benefit from fitness training.

Upon graduating in 2012 I went on to gain a level 3 exercise referral qualification, which allowed me to get work in this area. Since then I have trained in Pilates, Phase 4 Cardiac Rehabilitation and Cancer Rehabilitation.

Since 2012 I have worked in community gyms, devising gym programmes for older adults and exercise referral clients. I have delivered exercise referral classes for serval afferent organisations, I have trained in and taught many Pilates classes across Norfolk. I have even organised Pilates retreats and activity days for cardiac rehab clients! Although it hasn’t been easy and I’ve worked long hours and made a few sacrifices outside of work, 99% of the time I have been able to say I genuinely love my job(s).

I would count my main successes 1) getting work in exercise referral through the Broadly Active Organisation 2) working for Acle community gym as their main instructor for 3 years, 3) Gaining a contract to deliver classes and co-ordinate referrals for the Mid Norfolk Cardiac Rehabilitation and Exercise Referral Scheme and 4) getting the opportunity to teach exercise classes for clients affected by cancer after applying for and receiving a grant from the Big C cancer charity.

It hasn’t been good all the time however; and I have also had “downfalls” where I’ve taken on jobs which did not take me in the career direction I expected or was aiming towards. I’ve had “failed” fitness classes with very small numbers or no clients! Usually due to my lack of understanding how best to market or advertise the class.
I would advise any new instructors to learn how to successfully grow their list of clients and potential contacts and then to market their classes or services targeted to these people. I’m no expert at this now and I’m still learning, but there is information available to help. It is possible to learn how to market yourself successfully via social media, blogs and websites, even leafleting! Having failed to do this well in the past I’d advise new instructors to get some training or assistance with marketing.

At present I am studying for a Master’s Degree which I started at the beginning of 2017.
Since then I have reduced my instructing time and am currently working part time teaching my own Pilates classes, and instructing specialist exercise classes for Cancer rehab and Cardiac rehab clients for other organisations.

In 5 years’ time I hope to have completed my degree and to be back on a full class and client schedule. I’m aiming to grow my number of classes and clients back to a level where I’m busy all week and I can afford to employ a PA to manage my emails and social media for me, as desk work drives me mad!

You can find me here:

Website: www.clairegurneypilates.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cgfitnessandtherapy/

Thank you again Claire for sharing your fitness journey. We wish you all the best with your Masters degree.

If you would like to be featured as an instructor in future months then get in touch.

Emma