My Transition from a 9-5 Office Job to the Health & Fitness Industry (Part 3)

my-transition-story-part-3I’m such a loser! Before I left for Australia, I thought I hit “schedule” for this post to go up, but apparently I hit “save to drafts”. My bad. Four weeks after Part 2, here’s the third and final installment of my little mini series. If you need to catch up, here’s Part 1 and Part 2. When we left off, I’d just gotten laid off from my corporate job…

Universe Guides Dumb, Unprepared Girl into Fitness Industry

Part 3 | Becoming a Full-Time Blogger and Fitness Professional

Chapter 5 | Baptism by Fire: Surprise! You’re Now a Full-Time Blogger

Help-Me-I’m-PoorMoney. That was now my biggest problem. I was technically a professional blogger by default of not having any other job title, but Pumps & Iron was making only about $500 a month at the time. Full-time blogger, middle school babysitter salary. While I did find that by having more time to put into the blog I was definitely able to monetize it better and grow my audience more effectively, the rate at which revenue was increasing wasn’t fast enough to financially support me before my small savings and even smaller severance package ran out.

I couldn’t just blog—I needed a second job. But the thought of getting another corporate position physically hurt. I had just gotten out, I couldn’t go back in. My former coworkers were so amazingly kind and supportive in offering help, recommendations and connections in getting me another job, but I turned it all down. It wasn’t the logistically smart thing to do, but it was the right thing to do.

I thought about moving back in with my parents temporarily to save money while I built up the business side of my blog but my parents live … on an island. And their second home is … in the middle of the woods with no internet. Neither would be a good career move (nor done my sanity any favors).

I called my parents (probably crying again) with my predicament. I couldn’t leave Boston, but I couldn’t afford to stay in Boston. I couldn’t get a real job, but I needed money. I couldn’t yet teach fitness or train because I had no certifications, but I couldn’t afford to sign up for certification courses in the first place. I couldn’t pay rent. I couldn’t buy groceries. MY PETS’ HEADS WERE FALLING OFF.

(For those of you living under rocks or born after 1995, that’s a reference to Dumb and Dumber. I don’t actually have pets with severed heads).

I felt really stuck and frustrated, and then once again was given the gift of guidance. This time it wasn’t from the Universe, it was from my mom and dad. I remember my dad asking me, “Bottom line: Can this blog become a livelihood? Are there other people out there doing this as a career?” Yes. Yes. I believed so fully that I could make this happen. And, as has been the case throughout my whole life, my beyond-words-amazing parents believed in me, too.

If not for their confidence in me, and support of the notion that if it makes you happy, it’s worth pursuing, I would have had a much different journey to where I am now. I still would have gotten here, but it would have taken a lot longer. I would have had to get another “real” job quick (probably unrelated to health) to pay the bills; it would have taken me months to slowly save up enough to afford the CPT and Btone certification courses; and with less time to put into my blog, it would have grown at a much slower rate. My parents told me not to worry about money—they’d pay my rent and help with other expenses as needed—they just wanted me to focus and work my ass off at this thing.

You don’t need to tell me how lucky I am to have parents willing and—equally important in this case—able to do that for me. I know. Lord do I know. And I’m thankful for them everyday. That’s why when I get reader emails asking for advice on transitioning into the fitness industry, I almost feel a little guilty even responding. I had it easy with this grace period of financial support. I know that’s not the norm.

Chapter 6 | Getting My Personal Training Certification & Teaching at Btone

10 Reasons I Love Teaching Group FitnessAs appreciative of my parents’ help as I was, I also hated that I had to accept it. I felt like a complete loser. Twenty-five years old and getting a check from Mommy and Daddy every month to pay my rent. At first I couldn’t even admit it to my friends I was so embarrassed. I felt like a failure every time I deposited that check, but used that feeling to drive my pursuit of career success. I wanted to close my account with the Bank of Dad as soon as possible.

Step 1: Get my personal trainer certification. Except, in hindsight, this should have been step 2. That’s my biggest piece of advice for anyone looking to get into teaching and training—start teaching group fitness FIRST. It’s cheaper to get certified, it takes less time (yoga and some other specialties notwithstanding), and you honestly don’t need a personal training background for most disciplines. Does it give you a leg up? Yes. But it’s by no means a deal breaker. You’ll start making some money right away and will get hands-on experience that will be far more valuable than anything you read in a CPT textbook.

I didn’t know that though, so I signed up for the NASM personal training certification (you can read my review of it here if you’re interested). Even though I didn’t necessarily want to be a personal trainer, I wanted the knowledge base—both for teaching group fitness and to legitimize myself as a fitness professional (vs. enthusiast). While studying for that, I randomly stumbled across Btone. A couple of my friends were going to a class one Sunday and asked if I wanted to tag along. Apparently the classes were amazing and done on some sort of torture device machine. I decided to go with them, and it was love at first burn. 20-Minute HIIT Torch Workout (offered at Btone Fitness)

I didn’t have a lot (any) money at the time, so in order to afford Btone classes I stopped putting gas in my car, cancelled my cable service and reverted to old college methods of eating and drinking as cheaply as possible (fill up on free samples at the grocery store for lunch, sneak your own Bud Lights into the bar, etc.). I’m serious. Even then, I couldn’t afford to go a ton, but I still cherished every single class I could attend. Ballin’ and Btonin’ on a budget, yo!

With perfect timing, the week after I passed my personal training test, I saw on the Btone Facebook page that they were looking for new instructors and going to hold a teacher training. I immediately put all other projects on hold and set to work putting together a letter and my resume to send over. Looking back, it’s hilarious how much time I spent thinking and over-thinking my application because Jody (Btone’s owner) is the most laidback boss ever and I was treating it as if I were applying to be President of the United States of America.

The training was spread out over several weekends, and then I had to complete some co-teaching classes where I’d teach with a current, experienced Btone instructor. There were definitely some nerves those first couple classes, but I was surprised at how quickly the pre-class jitters faded. And I loved teaching! It felt like it just clicked for me. I was where I was supposed to be, doing what I was supposed to do. “Happy” is a pathetic understatement.

It was now about five months since I’d been laid off and I felt like all the pieces were starting to fall into place. I was making money teaching one of my favorite workouts in the world, all the while watching my blog quickly grow in both following and revenue. I woke up happy and excited for the day, every day. And as someone who has struggled with depression in the past, I know that happiness is and will always be my biggest goal and marker of success.

It was with a lot of help and a little luck, but I was finally doing it.

Chapter 7 | Continuing to Grow My Business

20-Minute Tabata Workout with some of my go-to exercisesSince then (about a year ago), I’ve continued to work at figuring out this whole blogging as a business thing and furthering my fitness career. I’ve gotten a couple additional certifications (Spinning and Indo-Row), and am always hungry to learn more. I’ve heard great things about NASM’s Corrective Exercise Specialist course, want to do a kettlebell training, and one day would love to work towards my Master’s degree in Exercise Science or Nutrition. I also love alternative medicine and holistic healing so who knows where the future will lead me—a few years from now you might find me meditating with a shaman in the rainforest learning about herbs and spirits. Don’t worry, I’ll blog about it the whole time. 🙂

When I first started teaching, Btone was definitely paying the majority of my bills. Over the last year, I’ve seen the blog grow to equal it and now surpass it, which is really cool. Even when I don’t need the income, I would never stop teaching because I love it so much, but it makes me so proud to watch my little blogging baby become a viable livelihood on its own. I’m not there yet, and some months are better than others depending on sponsorships and project opportunities, but it’s getting there. My mind is always overflowing with ideas and aspirations for Pumps & Iron, so there’s no shortage of inspiration to drive it forward.

And with that, there’s really no other way I can end this series than by saying “thank you.” To all of you reading this; to anyone who has ever unknowingly shared a picture of mine on Pinterest; to the company that laid me off; to my parents; to the Btone family; to the Universe.

Oh wonderful, now I’m crying in fucking Starbucks.


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  1. I loved these posts Nicole! I thought they were very inspiring and a great example of never giving up and always working hard. The honesty and realness of the posts make them very relatable.

    Also, the last line “and now I’m crying in Starbucks” made me crack up 🙂

  2. Loved reading this! I stumbled upon your site on Pinterest looking for a little fitness inspiration (because unlike you I hated working out) and found that your workouts were the only ones to keep my interest. So thank you for that and wish you much more success in the future!

  3. Hey Nicole, I discovered your blog a year ago, and it’s posts like this that keep me coming back. Even if we don’t work in fitness, I feel we’ve all had experiences that relate to what you’ve written in some way. The fact that you’re so real with your readers about accepting help from your parents and doing so graciously is admirable and many bloggers would just omit that part, so thanks for being honest. Also, congrats on your success and for sharing stories like these!

    • Aw thank you so much, Diane! This put a huge smile on my face 🙂

      • You’re very welcome! I’m in a situation now where I’d love to supplement my current job with a fitness side gig. All the new studio offerings in the US energize me and I’ve always had a passion for fitness. But being in France where the rules are different (and the fitness scene is seriously lacking), it’s really hard because I KNOW in the US I could get a personal training certification and just run with it. Here, you have to have a degree from a special fitness school as the base for anything. So whereas in the US, if you love BODYPUMP, you can do a certification through Les Mills (even if you work in banking, for example at an office somewhere) and then you’re ready to go and can teach BODYPUMP. But here you have to have this special degree from a French institute to pursue anything in group fitness. And it’s an expensive, several year program. So there’s no such thing as training on the side or teaching classes here and there. Really discourages me because I know I’d be pursuing that path in the US. Gonna figure it out…

        • Ugh that must be so discouraging! Have you thought of maybe opening a franchise location? I know that’s a massive undertaking, but studios like Barry’s Bootcamp and methods like Lagree Fitness have international locations–it could be a way to get around having to get that specialized degree. I really know nothing about the laws in France so this is probably a useless suggestion, but just a thought! 🙂

  4. Haha, you rock Nicole! I loved reading this little series! You simply are such an awesome badass blogger XOXO

  5. Perfect line to close this story. I think it’s pretty awesome you’re doing what you love. And with blogging and fitness, you’ll learn something new every single day — that’s for sure! Props to you on pursuing it and continuing to grow! 🙂

  6. This is amazing. I wish I could follow in your footsteps!

  7. Thank you for sharing your journey so transparently. I gives me hope with my own!

  8. Thank you so much for this series Nicole! As a recent grad figuring things out in Boston, it’s nice to know I’m not alone in my struggles. I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog and I’m looking forward to seeing it grow!

  9. Ok props on so many levels. First, for the Dumb and Dumber reference.

    Second, for just f*ing going for it! I similarly ditched the rat race to follow my dream job/life/etc and it hasn’t been easy but I love the challenge every day. I didn’t get a loanski from mum and dad but I did move home, and even though it wasn’t the easiest bullet to bite, I know it will be worth it – plus, posts like this remind me of that. Thanks for all you do Miss!

    Polly wanna cracker?

    • I’m trying to work “So you’re saying there’s a chance!” into this response, but I’ll just leave it at: you’re 100% right–biting the bullet is worth it! 🙂

  10. I had been wondering where this final installment was–glad to know I didn’t miss it! Congrats on your success thus far, and best wishes for continued success.

  11. Thanks so much for your thoughts/inspiration. I want to eventually leave my corporate job and have a similar career path that you are on. What an inspiration! Thanks for not sugarcoating how hard this was for you.

  12. Thank you for being so honest about your journey! Loved reading this series and wishing you continued success…

  13. I’ve been following this series (and the blog!) and this one got me teary eyed! I was laid off about 1 month ago and rather than going back to a corporate job (same boat as you – tons of references and I could probably get a job tomorrow, if I wanted), I’m pursing the dream. Trying to do fitness full time – do personal training, teach more classes, figure out this growing the blog thing, hopefully get a nutrition cert. It’s tough and scary and makes me emotional, but also so exciting at the same time. I’d been feeling a little overwhelmed the past few days and this post was just the bit of encouragement I needed I remind me to keep sticking with it!

  14. I just read through parts 1-3 and am seriously so inspired by your story! I think we might be the same age, I graduated college in 2010 and have been a middle school math teacher the past five years. I am so miserable at my job because of all the extra stuff teachers have to deal with you don’t see when you’re in school. I to have always been into working out and health and fitness and am regretting not studying it in college but then I never would have met my husband who was a PE teacher at the school I was hired at. He has taught me so much and made me realize health and fitness is my passion. My sister is in PR and this Jan she helped me set up a blog ( Long story short I am just starting out and hope to get some certification and your story is extremely reassuring that it is possible and I’m not too old to make a major career change. Thanks so much for sharing your story! I also love your workouts and share them with friends and family all the time!

    • Aw thank you so much–I’m so glad you found the series helpful! I was actually just lamenting the other day about a similar thing (not sticking with an Exercise Science degree in college) and my mom reminded me that had my path been different, I probably wouldn’t have met my boyfriend, ended up at Btone, or come across some of the other great things in my life today. Everything happens for a reason!

  15. Hi Nicole- loved reading this post! It was very inspirational! I am currently a teacher, mama to a sweet little girl, and blogger. I would love to stay home and grow my blog into something that makes money!!! Any advice on how you started creating an profit from your blog?!!
    thank you so much!

    • The most important piece of monetization is growing a following. Once you’re getting a decent amount of traffic, you can put up ad units (I use Google AdSense) that will generate income. Also, with higher traffic numbers comes more sponsorship opportunities from brands. So it all comes down to your wonderful followers–focus on creating engaging content that draw in readers, and as the numbers increase so will the profits. 🙂

  16. Thanks for sharing this! I’m in the “starting to grow my blog, getting more freelance magazine articles but still work for the government” place right now. Oh how I dream of getting out! Doing both has allowed me to get my certification and start my own business (mainly online coaching) but I am terrified to give up my cushy corporate job. This was inspiring to read and I will keep it in the back of my head until I finally take the leap. Thanks for sharing!

  17. This series has been incredibly inspirational to me. I just graduated college with two separate degrees (one in English, one in marketing) in May 2014, and fought so hard to finish in four years to start my career. I struggled to find a job for six months, making ends meet with a job at Starbucks and living with my boyfriend (the lucky man has an associate’s degree and has a corporate job to boot). I finally landed a B2B copywriter position for a software company that serves convenience stores/gas stations and, three months in, despise it. I debated up and quitting like you did, but unfortunately chickened out of the chance because my bills won’t be paid if I drop back to retail. I am still at this job without the references and ability to get a new job the next day like I wish I could. I am also in the process of bringing a blog off the ground while applying to new jobs. I have multiple interests/passions, so it’s hard to find one focus for a lifelong career. Seeing you come from a miserable place at a job you hated to being the happiest person in the world a year later shows there’s hope for even a person like me. Thank you for sharing this story. I only hope some day soon I can report back and tell you I’m in a better place as well!

    • Hang in there! The post-grad life can be so overwhelming–very few people know exactly what they want to do and what will make them happy at that young age. Keep at it–eventually the pieces will start falling into place, I promise! 🙂

  18. Wow, it’s so inspirational to read about this! Props to you Nicole for going for it 110%. Can I ask you something: about how long did it take for your blog to really gain a following?

    Also, I totally agree with your thoughts on teaching group ex classes FIRST before pursuing personal training. You are right – it’s way cheaper to obtain the cert and, at least in my case, the exercise science content is exactly the same (might differ between different cert agencies, though, I’m not sure). But regardless, having the cert and teaching classes has, at least in my case, made me feel WAY more confident in having clients.

    Lastly, it’s SO nice to know there are others out there wanting to make fitness a full-time career along with blogging and teaching. I’m a group ex instructor right now trying to grow my blog (I’ll admit, desperately) and I don’t know where to turn next. It’s only been active since October so I know I just need to stick with it. Anyone else having this problem?

    Anyway, thank you Nicole for your honesty in this series. Know that it’s been a HUGE help in at least one other person’s life and I hope to return the favor to the world eventually. And while I’m not in a Starbucks, I was teary-eyed too at the end of this post. 🙂

    • Ah I love hearing that this series was helpful! I know it can be SO hard having patience when it comes to blogging, but definitely hang in there. One thing I’ve learned over the past couple years is that you never know when something will go viral or an article will get shared that brings in a bunch of traffic and readers (it always seems to be the most random posts that blow up!). I started my blog in March, and it wasn’t until that summer that I got my first “break” with WordPress featuring one of my workouts. Even then, my readership was still mostly other WordPress users. I’d say it was a full year of blogging before I had a sizable following. Keep at it and don’t forget to enjoy the ride–blogging is so fun (even when your mom is the only one commenting…I’ve been there haha).

  19. Love your Btone classes and this blog so much. You’re a true gem in the blogosphere–quality workouts *and* candid posts! It’s really refreshing to get an honest perspective, especially when there are so many fake bloggers out there. Wish I could have you come talk to my high school students about your career path!

  20. Such great advice, I love how real you are and your use of the f-bomb is always on point. #YGG

  21. Hasn’t everyone ordered a teary-eyed vanilla latte at least once? I sure as hell have. Great post Nicole!

    – Amy

  22. Ahhhh I loved this series so much!!!!!! Thank you for opening up Nicole! I’ve been following you for a long time and it’s amazing to watch you grow into a pro blogger 🙂 I quit my job in September to launch into health/wellness/lifestyle coaching and creative entrepreneurship and it has been a RIDE. Complete identify and career shift, but I’m finally feeling like myself for the first time ever. So worth it but so hard, and knowing that I’m not alone and trusting that things will be ok because I’m 1000% sure I’m on the right path, being able to see your story and success is incredibly motivating!

    • That is awesome! Congrats on the new venture–even through the obstacles, isn’t it the best to feel like you’re doing exactly what you’re meant to do??

  23. Thanks for sharing your story Nicole! You follow your dreams, and keep dropping those awesome movie references. Your fans love it 🙂
    Self deprecating humor, class (but not too much), brilliant writing, and passion for fitness. You rock! I’d say I wanna be like you when I grow up but we’re the same age sooo… I wanna be like you if I get laid off 😉
    Thanks again!
    -Kalli, Auckland New Zealand

  24. Love these posts! Thanks for sharing your journey 🙂

  25. This is the perfect post to read for me today, very inspiring and helpful! I am so ready to become a full-time blogger and say goodbye to the 9 to 5 lifestyle, whoo hoo!!! I feel seeing this on my bloglovin feed was a sign from the Universe that I am on the right path with my new beauty and lifestyle blog. 🙂

  26. Having had my fair share of fresh starts (divorce, return to job I love, and life as a working mum) I love to hear a story of someone being brave enough to follow their dreams, and also love the honesty behind this and other posts! I have found this blog so different from other fitness blogs, love the workouts and the enthusiasm – keep it up!

  27. I admire your positive outlook all throughout your journey, a thing to always remember is that great things never come easy. I am currently in school working towards a bachelors in Exercise Science and Nutrition. Now, this was after I did Art History at a Liberal Arts College. I love art, but I also love Health and Fitness… I love my classes and of course I maintain and live a healthy active life. Just wanted to share this with you, I enjoy your workouts!
    Love, from Atlanta!..

    • Good for you for going back to pursue your other interests! It’s an idea I’ve been throwing around as well–I’d love to pursue a Master’s in Exercise Science!

  28. Love love this post Nicole! It’s so great that you’re out there doing what you love, and you are VERY good at it 🙂 It’s crazy how things work out!

    xo, Jen

  29. Im glad to hear that you had support on your journey. I am currently on the same kind of path and have been feeling discouraged because my husband is working while I am getting my training certification and shadowing to become a coach at a local studio. I am taking all the steps to further my career and have time to put into growing my blog, but I hate not having a substantial income to bring into the house. I want everything to be done RIGHT NOW and have trouble being patient and waiting for the results. Thanks for letting me know that it will get better.

    Also thanks for posting this; I thought I had missed it somehow!

    • I hear ya–it’s a process, and when the end goal is something you’re SO excited about, the time it takes to get there can feel painfully long. Hang in there–sounds like the light at the end of the tunnel is already in sight for you! 🙂

  30. Nicole- You are making it in blogging and personal fitness. Any reason why you didn’t want to go back to the corporate world. Hey also I want to see more Sydney pictures from your recent trip. Good Luck

    • Working on a blog post about Australia right now! And the corporate world just isn’t for me–so much happier blogging & instructing. 🙂

      • The corporate world is not for everyone. Working your own hours is the best thing. You seem happy in your blogging/instructing career. (:) Smily thing now working on my computer.

  31. Thanks for sharing this inspiring story. Your dedication is awesome. It’s easy to see through the post how genuinely you love what you are doing and how happy it makes you. That’s awesome, keep up the good work!

  32. You are AWESOME. And that last line of your blog post made everything even MORE awesome. I loved reading your journey! I’m approaching things from a slightly different – although maybe opposite – spectrum. I’ve been a CPT and group instructor for a few years now, and ready to dive into more blogging. You’re an inspiration!

    • Aw thank you!! And best of luck with the blogging journey–it’s the best! Even when the business side of it isn’t great, the creative side is so addicting and fun!

  33. That’s so inspiring!!
    I wish I had the guts to do it 🙂

  34. You rock! Thanks for sharing and for providing some much needed hope. I will knowingly share/pin your awesome workouts. Best of luck and may your business bust at the seams. 🙂

  35. I know I already commented (lol) but I just finished this chapter and I have to say again, thank you for sharing. As lost as I feel right now, this made me feel so much better.

    • I’m so glad it helped–even in a small way. Hang in there! It’s stressful, but just remember that very few people have it all figured out at 23–it’ll work itself out eventually! 🙂

  36. I don’t know you, I can barely do some of the moves in your workouts but holy shit do I love reading Pumps & Iron. There are a lot of fitness and lifestlye blogs and websites out there but yours is genuine and real and therefore more inspirational. Everything you share sounds realistic, attainable and worth the hard work. You seem to have found the perfect mix of straight up relevant information and hilarious injections in your writing and it’s always a good read.
    Thank you for choosing this as a career and please never go away.

    • No no, thank YOU for this comment! Totally brightened my day! And don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere–you would have to drag my cold, dead body back into an office to get me to leave this career haha. 🙂

  37. Thank you for sharing your story – it was very inspiring! My husband wants to leave the 9-to-5 world to focus on teaching and blogging about his sport, so I definitely plan to share this with him. I love your blog and your workouts – your passion for both definitely show! 🙂

  38. Thanks for sharing your story! I love your writing style!

  39. AHHHMAZING article:)

  40. Jacqueline Chaszczewicz says:

    Hey Nicole! Love this post and following you is amazing! Looking to get into working full time as a trainer. What did you mean by “Get my personal trainer certification. Except, in hindsight, this should have been step 2. That’s my biggest piece of advice for anyone looking to get into teaching and training—start teaching group fitness FIRST. It’s cheaper to get certified, it takes less time (yoga and some other specialties notwithstanding), and you honestly don’t need a personal training background for most disciplines.” Can you get jobs teaching group classes without a personal trainer certification? Thank you so much!!

  41. Ok, you are HILARIOUS! You have described exactly my decade of college and post college of 2000-2010! I love the Bridesmaids and Dumb and Dumber references lol

    I’ve been coming to terms with my life, what I’ve truly loved my whole life, and when and why I’ve let myself talk myself out of taking big chances and playing the “safe” card. I luckily now have enough savings that I’m not too concerned with a change in income temporarily or even a small absence of one (thank God), and I’m in the process of putting myself into a position to seize opportunities. All I did was google “best ways to transition into a career in fitness” and your blog came up in the first page or two of results! Congrats to you and your big moves!!! Thank you for the laughs and additional inspiration! 🙂

  42. Congrats! I’m another Boston girl who wants to quit the 9-5 to live her dreams. You’re an inspiration even if you feel like stuff is out of control. Thanks for the inspiration!

  43. Austin C says:

    Hi Nicole! Just wanted to say this 3 part post is amazing. It’s so relate-able and hilarious to read. I’m a city boy myself in NYC and been out of college a few years and had faced depression myself and the struggle to figure out what comes next!

    Your article was really inspiring and helpful as I’ve really been unhappy in my different 9-5’s and considering getting into the fitness industry. I know it’s a few years old but I hope everything is going strong with your fitness journey and business =)

  44. kaitlin says:

    Similar path, I am near tears at my cubicle while I read this, thank you for the push your story is incredible!

  45. Nicole, I know these posts are two years old, but I have to say, that it’s EXACTLY what I needed to read. I’m currently working the 9-5 grind job with an easy commute, awesome co-workers, interesting field, etc. But I’m always thinking about health and fitness and feel a calling to that world, even if it’s just part-time. Reading your story (going back to college) has been such a gift to me! I can’t thank you enough for sharing this with the public.

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