INSTRUCTOR BY NIGHT....
by Sarah Shortt
Many instructors hold down other roles in addition to their group fitness careers. As well as delivering amazing workouts for their participants, Instructors are lawyers, emergency room doctors, homicide detectives, developing a COVID-19 vaccine… read on for how these superheroes are balancing their Instructor by night, “other job” by day lifestyles!
Ashley Wyzan, US, Entertainment Lawyer/ BODYPUMP®, LES MILLS GRIT®, RPM® and LES MILLS CORE®
I’m a business affairs executive at United Talent Agency – one of the largest talent agencies in the world. In my role I review and negotiate news and broadcasting employment agreements, talent appearance agreements, endorsement/licensing deals, speaking agreements, and book publishing agreements.
After law school I didn't go with a big law firm job, I took a job in the mailroom at a talent agency and worked my way up. It took some time and hard work, but now I’m so lucky that I get to use my law degree in the most amazing industry with the most talented clients and agents.
I was a dancer, cheerleader and soccer player when I was young and throughout law school, I would never miss the early Sunday morning kickboxing class. When I discovered BODYPUMP I fell in love. I never missed a class and knew all the choreography. I never considered teaching before, but after going through BODYPUMP initial training, I knew this was my true passion.
In both of my jobs I know I’m making a difference – whether that’s reviewing a contract for a reporter who just got her first anchor job, or teaching a mother of three who is getting back to the gym for herself and no one else. Every day you get a chance to change someone's life.
Jerry Cunningham, US, Private Investigator and retired Homicide Detective NYPD / BODYPUMP®
As a homicide detective I investigated murders: domestic violence, gang-related, robbery-related… through interviews, wire taps, surveillance video and surveillance. Now, I’m a private investigator investigating fraud cases.
Helping people was a passion of mine and I got into the police force by taking the civil service tests. I trained for six months in the police academy, working in uniform on the beat, moving up to be a detective in narcotics and then eventually a detective in homicide.
Both teaching and detective work are in the field of helping others. When I was a homicide detective, I ran a gym at our offices to get the guys and gals to workout. It was always important to me to stay in shape and keep partners in shape as our job can be physical. Our hours were also long and varied and eating habits can go out of whack, so my end goal was to keep my heart healthy to live a long retirement.
Jesús Miguel López Urdaneta, Venezuela, Surgeon/ BODYCOMBAT®, BODYPUMP® and LES MILLS GRIT®
I'm a physician with two specialties: I'm a surgeon and a nuclear medicine specialist – which is a branch of radiology. Here in Sweden, we have a branch of clinical physiology where I work mainly with cancer diagnosis. In nuclear medicine, we inject a little dose of a radioactive substance and we follow how it distributes in the body; this tells us where the sick cells are. We do studies of patients to check how the disease is disseminated and then oncologists give treatment to the patients. We also perform studies to check the response to the treatment. One of the studies we perform most is PET (positron emission tomography) which gives a full body image and the possible places where tumors are located.
Teaching Les Mills is one of the best things that has happened to me. I'm usually shy, and to be in front of a group with a microphone and guide them through the class was a challenge that has changed me. I feel more secure in my "other job" at the hospital and I'm more confident to stand up and speak in front of a group.
Every class I teach frees my mind from the weight of work and gives me energy to continue every day after having seen many sick patients. I usually say to my colleagues the question is not how I cope with teaching and being a doctor, but it is more to recognise that I NEED my classes at the gym.
Jordan Moore, US, Technical Animator/ BODYCOMBAT®
By day I work as a Technical Animator/ rigger at Gearbox Software helping develop games like the Borderlands series. I like to think of my role as animation adjacent. It involves setting up (rigging) characters and creatures for animation, creating physics assets for physics simulations, and coding/programming tools for both the rigging and animation teams.
I work at a desk all day, and my job is very sedentary, so teaching provides me with the physical release to perfectly balance my full-time job. Physical exercise and the social aspect of group fitness keep me happy and fulfilled when working from home can make me feel isolated. I also feel much more relaxed after a class, much less mentally clouded at the end of the day, and ready to use my brain at work the next day.
My “why” is to make people happy and share my passions with others! Both fitness and video games can take you out of yourself for a moment to exist more in the moment. Cultivating an environment where someone can go beyond themselves is something that brings me pure joy.
Joshua Davis, US, Emergency Room Doctor/ BODYPUMP®, BODYCOMBAT®, BODYATTACK® and LES MILLS CORE®
I don’t have a “typical day”. I work days, nights, holidays and overnights. In emergency medicine we see patients of all types with every type of complaint regardless of their ability to pay, 24/7. It is probably one of the things I love about my work. It is also really humbling, as there is always something new to learn.
Fitness is an integral part of wellness and is honestly not covered incredibly well in many medical schools. I feel like my role as an instructor gives me an advantage in counselling patients on this – more than the average emergency medicine physician.
My knowledge of anatomy and pathophysiology allows me to easily grasp form, coach effectively even within member's limitations, and rapidly make corrections or modifications on the fly. Also, there is actually a lot of coaching and education in medicine, and I find myself using many of the principles I learned at the Les Mills trainings with patients and when teaching medical students. This is particularly true when teaching new skills or procedures.
During training, I have moved several times and taught in several gyms in several towns. I am always amazed by the camaraderie and support among the group fitness teams and I love the transformations you can see in people over time.
Lisa Patton, US, reducing the impact of opioid epidemic/ BODYATTACK®, BODYCOMBAT®, LES MILLS CORE®, LES MILLS GRIT®, LES MILLS SPRINT® and BODYPUMP®
I'm a clinical psychologist by training. For the past few years, my work has focused on reducing the impact of the opioid epidemic, overdoses and deaths. In my current job, I'm Vice President of Health Optimization for JBS International, a firm based in Maryland that focuses on addressing the health and behavioral health needs of the most vulnerable populations. In that capacity, I lead work focused on reducing the impact of the opioid epidemic in rural communities. We work with 350 community agencies and consortia in 47 states addressing opioid prevention, treatment, and recovery. As you can imagine, addressing the opioid epidemic in the midst of the pandemic has been particularly challenging since most recovery groups and the delivery of medication-assisted treatment (a best practice for recovery from opioid use) is often delivered face-to-face. Opioid overdoses are on the rise during the pandemic, so there's a lot of work to be done.
Teaching completes my day and helps me connect people with other people in a very positive way. Prior to the pandemic, I taught most days and I've been back to teaching three days a week since restrictions were loosened. Teaching makes me better at everything and allows me to de-stress, connect with my own physical self, and get out of my head after long days of meetings and computer time. It is amazing to walk into the gym and connect with members who have taken classes with me for years. I leave the stress at the door and just enjoy my time motivating others and "hanging out" with them. It is a joy to see the members week after week, meet new people at different places in their fitness journeys, and support them in that.
Luca Callini, US, NASA/ BODYPUMP®, BODYBALANCE® and LES MILLS CORE®
I work at NASA in the Human and Health and Performance Directorate, where I am the systems engineering and integration lead and deputy chief health and performance officer for the new Space Suit being built to support the Artemis mission to the Moon and beyond.
My responsibilities include making sure that, as the space suit is being designed and built by engineers, all aspects of human performance are also taken into account: physiology, human factors, lighting, acoustics, anthropometrics, medical considerations etc. That scope is bigger than any one person’s expertise, so I represent our group, made up of many super smart flight surgeons, PhDs, physiologists and other experts at various meetings and activities, and coordinate and communicate information to and from our subject matter experts to the suit engineers.
Before COVID hit, I used to teach live classes at the NASA fitness facility, called Starport, at lunchtime and after work. The lunchtime classes were a great break in the day for me and our participants, who got to take a mental break before going back to space suits, Mission Control, and elsewhere at NASA! Since then, we’ve been live-streaming and occasionally teaching outdoors when possible.
Before this job, I used to train astronauts in space suit operations. All my jobs past and present complement my fitness job well in that they draw from my strengths and experience explaining concepts and training, and the aspect of human performance in general. I’ve always loved the fact that through my fitness job, I serve the same community I am a part of. Our jobs are rather high stress and high stakes – I enjoy knowing that I help our workforce stay healthy. My ‘why’ is to improve life on earth, whether that’s through exploration and technology development, or through improving people’s lives and health by teaching classes. It is all connected!
Melissa Tomcavage, US, Clinical Molecular Genetics Analyst/ BODYCOMBAT®, BODYATTACK®, LES MILLS CORE®, BODYPUMP®, LES MILLS GRIT® and LES MILLS SPRINT®
Pre-COVID, my role was to take the data the lab generated and determine if there were any anomalies that are causing a disease in someone... something small from a one base pair change, up to something that is a chromosomal rearrangement.
However, I’ve been on a leave of absence for the past few months to help run our COVID testing lab since I have had a lot of experience with PCR (polymerase chain reaction: used to rapidly make millions to billions of copies of a specific DNA sample).
My position is supervisory: knowing how to run and troubleshoot all of the stations, while managing the technicians so the workflow remains efficient. I usually remain with the PCR techs throughout my shift – helping them determine what to run, fixing the equipment when it goes down/throws an error, making adjustments when the data looks odd. I also maintain the data analysis, since I am the only analyst that was pulled back into the lab. No two days are the same; sometimes we get a bad batch of reagents from the manufacturer and spend the day figuring out which one it was, others we have to figure out why the robot isn't working.
Sarah J. Cary, US, Prosecutor/ BODYPUMP® and BODYCOMBAT®
My main job is an assistant district attorney (prosecutor). Before quarantine, I would be at the courthouse and in court hearings, client meetings, mediations, etc., most of the day. During quarantine, I do the same thing just via Zoom! It can be long hours. I also hold the job as mum to two children, one with special needs.
My day-job really helps me with teaching and vice versa! In both, I have to speak in front of people with confidence. I teach in early morning hours and on Sundays. For both jobs, I have to keep learning new things and stay on my toes. Both require being a people person, and I love it! Teaching has actually made me better at my job as a prosecutor. It makes me happier and brings me even more confidence.
The best thing about BOTH my job and my teaching role is changing people’s lives. I help people and protect children in my day job, and I help people change their mind and body in my teaching job. Les Mills saved my life two years ago. I started my workout journey with Les Mills in January 2019. I lost a total of 70 pounds (32kg) and feel better than ever. Now I get to change other people’s lives and make them better. Making a difference for people is why I do what I do, and I get to do that in both jobs.
Sarah Voelker, US, Captionist for the the Deaf and Hard of Hearing / BODYCOMBAT® and BODYPUMP®
I'm a captionist for the deaf and hard of hearing. I have software that I use that takes shorthand based on a phonetic alphabet and can turn a letter into a word or a series of letters into a sentence. For example: t = the, hru = how are you, and the like. Without the software I type around 85 words per minute (wpm) but with it, my record is 160wpm (CART providers who use a steno machine can get upwards of 250, so I have some work to do haha!)
The primary place you'll find a live captionist is in college classes, we provide access for students in lectures, group discussions, and the like. Since the pandemic started, we've also done a lot more "platform" work which is any time you're providing general access for anyone who could benefit. A lot of the virtual platforms have auto-captions, but nothing beats a live person who can usually hear a little bit better.
I think the common theme for my work is my passion to help people, be it reaching a weight-loss goal, getting out of the house for an hour and focusing on themselves, or giving them the ability to follow along in classes or meetings. I absolutely live for the rush of seeing someone succeed and being even a small part of that journey for them.
Siddhant Gupta, Sweden, Research Engineer - Self-Driving Cars/ BODYPUMP®
I work on the development and verification of self-driving cars. As a Research Engineer - Self-Driving Cars and a technical leader of a team, my day typically involves the development of strategies and innovative methods for my team to develop and verify the software for autonomous driving cars.
My day-job involves a lot of meetings with our stakeholders, internally and externally. It’s also a varied mix of hours spent in the vehicle workshop or hours spent sitting on the desk coding and preparing relevant material. On top of that, with the current disruption in the era of transportation and automotive industry, we have to be on our toes to keep up with the pace.
Teaching BODYPUMP is a perfect complement to my day job because it challenges me on a different level, motivates me in a unique way and fills me with adrenaline that I eventually find helpful during my day activities. My ‘why’ is making a difference and contribution to humanity – either changing the future of mobility or helping people get fitter.
Zackary Scott, US, Vaccine Engineer/ BODYJAM®, BODYPUMP®, BODYATTACK® and BODYCOMBAT®
I'm an engineer with a major vaccine manufacturer, and I work with vaccines for a living. A typical day for me is meetings, meetings, and more meetings! I'm typically on the phone (and pre-COVID, in large in-person meetings) with suppliers, external partner representatives, or another one of our manufacturing sites to discuss project timelines, upcoming work, etc.
Teaching is my ‘fun’ job – it's something I get to look forward to when I have a bad, stressful, or busy day at work! I manage to find time by listening to the music on my one-hour commute (pre-COVID) or at my desk while I work from home, and practising the movements as I memorise the choreography. Sometimes, if it's a slow day at work, I'll actually have the Masterclass playing while I watch and work on other things in the background – there's something oddly satisfying about watching Gandalf smash a back-half of BODYJAM while writing a memo related to the stability of a chemical used in manufacturing!
I LOVE what I do! Vaccines are such an important part of the scientific world and knowing that my work helps protect others across the world is so amazing. I went to school for immunology, so I find vaccinology incredibly fascinating! Knowing what we do about the immune system and how we can stimulate an immune response for life (usually) is just an incredible feat! And thanks to COVID, I've gotten to be on projects directly working towards a COVID vaccine through my company, letting me see how much work is involved in vaccine development.
Teaching Les Mills has honestly saved my life and improved my overall health. I used to be morbidly obese (my heaviest weight was 312 pounds (142kg)) but I’ve been able to lose a large amount and keep it off, thanks to taking and teaching classes. Teaching also helps me inspire others to take an active role in their own health, while also maintaining my own. It's also helped me get my kids healthier, as I bring them to the gym with me for other activities while I teach. My goal is to ensure they understand the importance of their health as they grow up!