Name: Stephanie Mwaura
Current profession: Personal Trainer & Fitness Coach
What did you study in college/university? Was it what you wanted to study?
Studied Hospitality & Tourism and added a few sports units then did a post-graduate Diploma in Fitness Instruction. Yes, it is what I wanted to study; I had applied to do Economics but when I went to Kenyatta University I found that I had been placed in English, Linguistics, and Sociology, which I did for a month and realized I just couldn’t do it. I had the option of doing Sports, Recreation, or Hospitality. I picked Hospitality because it has a management aspect in addition to the fact that fitness, leisure, and hospitality are not separable.
What was your first job? Any lessons to share from it?
I worked as a Swimming Coach for a year at Kenyatta University immediately after graduating. I believe I was considered for the position partly because I was the captain of the swimming team for three years. This is also where I developed the desire to learn more about fitness.
I was interviewed for the job together with other candidates who had studied sports science as their area of specialization but I got the job on results-basis having brought the team from nothing to been the best University swimming team in the country. I was asked to stay on and coach the team in preparation for the next Varsity games which the institution was hosting. This of course called for thorough preparations.
The biggest lesson is you can do anything; you don’t have to be qualified fully like have papers’, a degree to start. Just get in there and if you are good, you can do anything. This job exposed me to what was out there in terms of fitness, it gave me the motivation and drive to learn more about fitness. We had requested for the use of the gym for a long period of time but only got access when I became coach. It is then I realized that there are people who take on fitness as a full-time profession. Which further developed my interest in this area. Another lesson here is, take up something that you are good at, it opens up many other doors that you did not expect.
Is there too big or too small a job?
Never, there is never too small or too big a job. I think you need to be open-minded enough to do the small jobs so that you are confident enough to do the big ones. Sometimes people look down on the small jobs yet they are part of the journey to getting you to do whatever it is that you want. This is evident when you start your own business because you are everything.
Describe a normal working day for you?
Currently, with the Covid-19, things have changed. 3-4 days a week I have early morning sessions with clients training from 6.30am to 9.00am. Then I take a mid-morning break which comprises of consultations, meeting new clients, and visiting facilities for the reviews that I do on my blog. Then I have other sessions from 1.30-4.30pm. On a busy day, I train 5-6 clients including training trainers once a week. Sometimes I have 2 days (Tuesday and Thursdays) which are fully free where I get to rest and plan my programs. I also work out for myself. I don’t work on weekends, it is the time I take to rest because the nature of my work can be very exhausting, it also an opportunity for quality time with my family. Now, I am working from home, so sometimes the work is more, I also have to home-school my daughter and attend to other duties, so a free day is important. A typical day for me starts at 5am and is over by 4pm.
What drives or motivates you?
Seeing my clients transform their lives and achieve what they had set out to achieve. Along the way, they discover other things they want to do. So just walking with them along the journey of taking care of their health. Also watching them struggle through it because we all go through a season where it is very difficult to continue doing that, just been there to keep going and choose to be better in terms of mental health, work-life balance and make better choices, it’s a blessing to walk that journey with them.
Ever had a bad /good boss? Lessons learned or advice to offer?
I will talk about a good boss. When I started working in the forest under wellness solutions, our boss Japheth, gave us jobs because he felt we could add value to the company. But most importantly, he allowed us to thrive individually. So yes, we were running his business, pushing his vision but were also encouraged and expected to continue building our own capacity and brand even within the company because if you grew the company grew. He had that kind of mind-set. He opened our minds up to what is possible as trainers because often people assume that you just go out there and tell a client to do this and do that yet there is more to it. Understanding that it starts with how you relate with the client, how much research you do, how much work you put in as a trainer, the level of commitment you have, being there and listening to the client, how you carry yourself, having your own personal work out journey, eating right; it all boils down to walking the talk. He pushed us into growth. It wasn’t rosy sometimes there was business and other times there wasn’t. We chose to stay, some left in this season. We chose growth over business, and now we are way ahead of those who left. It was a perfect time to make the sacrifice in terms of growing your brand and your career. In this regard, he was a fantastic boss.
Your take on ethics and integrity? Is it important to you?
I tell my students that ethics and integrity is the only thing your clients will talk about you to other people. Without it, you cannot run a business in fitness. Fitness is very personal, we work in a very personal space and is also a very sensitive space (clients are dressed in tight clothing, they are moving their body, they are being made to feel uncomfortable because of the exercises that they are doing) So we must carry ourselves with integrity. That’s the only thing that people will talk about. If you misbehave as a trainer, that is the only thing that clients will say about you. If you are able to maintain your ethics and integrity then you do a good job, you will thrive. Our business is mainly based on referrals, because if your programs are working (visible results), then clients will refer others as they have faith to give you the work. There is a thin line between keeping it professional and becoming friends with your clients. In this field you cannot survive without integrity, you will be out before you know it.
When you are not in your work element what do you do for fun?
I cook, spend time with friends and family, go for a swim, watch TV series to relax, go for a drive and dance.
Best money advice you received or would give?
Keep your overheads as low as possible, this way your business can grow. There is the temptation to buy this or that as soon as you make a few coins (e.g. move to an office, go back to school, get a new phone, a new camera) Society has taught us that when you have the money you need to spend it; the more money you have the more spending you need to do. In my case, I do not pay for an office, I only pay for gym expenses based on my use and frequency. If you can work from home, go for it, keep it simple as long as you are doing a good job. Reduce your travel, conduct meetings online, compress your workdays. My mantra is “Do good work” and the rest will follow.
Most notable achievements?
Clients who bring me, other clients, because it means I am doing a good job, My swimming in previous years. Also been able to train good trainers who are doing a fantastic job out there in the gym.
If a client achieves their goals, improves their health, comes back, and brings somebody else, then I have done my job.
Biggest challenge(s) faced and how you handled them?
Running a full-time business in fitness because personal training can be a bit seasonal Sometimes we have clients sometimes we don’t have. There is the acquiring of clients, then there is maintaining of the clients, then there are clients who have finished what they wanted to achieve with you and moving on to something else. So running a full-time personal training business can be quite a challenge; so you have good months in which you work like a horse and then you have downtime. For me, I have learned during the busy season, I put my heart and soul into the work and in downtime, I step back and create programs, create content for my social media pages, offer consultations and restructure my blog. I started an event called “Wellness Conversations” which took off in February, then Covid-19 happened. I have now taken the event online. I have learned to create and grow during downtime. The biggest challenge is we have seasons of work and no work.
What do you do for personal development?
I read books that help me improve my work and with a bias to habits and improvement, I teach because I have to create what I am teaching and then take online courses that are not necessarily related to my line of work but help me grow a skill. I am currently doing a coffee making course on Zydii.
Is reading important to you? what are you currently reading?
Who do you look up to for inspiration? / Most influential people in your life?
My parents; one my mum is very daring to follow her dreams no matter the timing. She has pushed limits in very unconventional and unexpected circumstances. For example, she is currently pursuing her Ph.D. and is almost 70 years of age. She is not stopping yet. My dad on the other hand is extremely consistent and committed. When he is doing something, he does it from start to finish and is extremely reliable, like if you have an emergency, my dad is the best person to have on speed dial. He has taught me consistency and discipline which have helped me in my work. I look up to them.
Employment or entrepreneurship?
It depends on the season when you are starting out, get out there, and grow. Learn as much as you can. If it means being employed in a gym, go learn the ropes. If a trainer is out of school, for example, the first thing is to go get employed because there you will learn how clients behave, how trainers work, how gyms operate, how to prepare classes, and learn how to interact with clients at no expense. You get to learn how to train clients without losing money and your career been on the line by virtue of you being an employee. You can also get to train a client who needs extra attention at no extra fee but you develop expertise in whatever problem they have. So as you start out, get employed, learn the ropes, and create a foundation to build a profitable business.
Final words to young and upcoming professionals
Put in the work and give yourself time. It takes time to grow a skill, look the part, and invest in yourself. If you are doing your best, it shows. Create programs, develop a way of working, be authentic; this has been one of my biggest values. Don’t try to be something you are not.
To contact Stephanie: firstname.lastname@example.org