This is Cat, she’s 43 and changed her career to become an exercise instructor for older people. Here’s how she did it…
My hours as an Office Manager were reduced and I was looking for an additional income when I heard about Move it or Lose it! The thought of being able to work for myself, help others and keep myself fit at the same time was very appealing so I booked on to the FABS training course to become an exercise instructor for older people.
I was really nervous about attending the two-day course because my only previous experience was weekly PE lessons with 5 year olds and that was like herding cats, but the instructors were so helpful and supportive that it turned out to be hugely enjoyable. I diligently completed the online course which gave me some valuable knowledge however, I got a great insight into what to expect by being able to ask questions from those with experience who had already been teaching classes.
Setting up a new business can be daunting but it’s a bit like eating a whole elephant, one piece at a time. I decided to try and get work in care homes and run my own classes in local village halls. The first task was to decide in which villages or towns to run a class. I chose affluent villages with a strong local community and received a mixed response with attendance. I sent flyers to Doctors surgeries, Osteopaths, care homes, WIs, local community groups attended by those over 50 such as Bridge, afternoon clubs and stroke clubs. I also stuck the flyers in Post Offices, Pubs, cafes, community notice boards, doctors, village halls, you name it, I tried to put a flyer on it. The best form of advertising has been Parish magazines and village news within a local newspaper as these are often read by those over 60. I have a website and a Facebook page which may be useful for middle-aged people who are looking on behalf of their ageing parents but has not yet been effective for targeting the over 60s directly.
It has taken a few months to build up the numbers in my classes but the success of this has been down to word of mouth and people bringing others along with them. I do have an angel in one of my classes called Pam who literally rallied half the village and told them to come to my class.
I also wrote to my local hospital physiotherapy department and they invited me to talk to their physiotherapists about my class and how it could help their outpatients. I have already received some enquiries from them and am hoping that there will be a steady stream of patients who need rehabilitation after knee and hip operations amongst other things.
Doing some research about what already exists in your local community is vital, rather than seeing other keep fit classes as competition, see them as opportunities. There are more than enough over 60s to go round!
Another great way to get people along to classes is to do taster sessions for organisations such as the Town Women’s Guild, Women’s Institute, Rotary or other clubs where older people meet up to socialise.
My advice for making your classes appeal is not to be a cheap skate and use royalty free music, it’s just not the same. Nothing is as uplifting as hearing 20 Doris Day wannabes singing Que Sera Sera or belting out Elvis’ Don’t be Cruel. Music is a vital component of the class and can cost as little at £1.50 per session.
The FABS class from Move it or Lose it is easy to promote because it is ideal for its target audience. Not all 60 year olds are the same so don’t be disappointed if the mountain climbing, marathon runner finds your class too easy, there are lots of people out there who need this type of exercise class and not just for fitness but to combat social isolation.
I have an 84-year-old who recently moved to the village and didn’t know anyone. After a social get together, other members of the class have offered to visit her during the week so that she has someone to talk to and she genuinely calls coming to my class “her tonic”.
Every week there are news stories about the increase in diabetes, obesity and heart related illness. Providing exercise classes for the over 60s is incredibly rewarding when you meet people who are determined not to let age slow them down too much. There is an amazing can-do attitude from the men and women that attend my classes and you will get as much energy back as you put in.
If Cat’s story has inspired you, you could change your career and become an exercise instructor for the over 60s!
You can read more about the the FABS Training Programme here.