How I Left The 9-5 To Start A Career In Fitness

"I've found what I'm meant to do."

09/11/2017 14:00 GMT

Would you leave the career you know behind to start fresh? 

According to a recent Investec report79 per cent of Britons agree that there’s no age limit on making a big change to your life, and that they would actively rather work in a role that they love than in a job that’s well paid.

The report, published this year, revealed a new trend. ‘Resetting’ is all about taking charge of our lives and and reinventing ourselves – including going for a job that makes us want to get up in the morning.

The survey predicts that over 32 per cent of the British population will switch it up over the next five years. And that’s exactly what Lucie Cowan – a Lead Instructor at London’s Third Space gym – went and did. 

With a lot of letters after her name, (BA, MA, PhD) Lucie spent over 10 years in academia. During and after she was working as a Veterinary Scientist, based out of a lab in Surrey. 

“I’m a positive person on the whole. Generally, I would usually be described as very upbeat,” Lucie says. “Yet I found I was incredibly unhappy and I couldn’t put my finger on why. I was going through my life ticking all the academic boxes, I made all the necessary changes, except the obvious – I was just deeply unhappy in my job.”

Outside of work, exercise became her outlet. “I was always interested in sports and fitness, but never as a career,” Lucie explains. “But over time I was simply living for the gym. It became an obvious choice, I knew this was what makes me happy.”

So, she set out to make the change. 

With teaching classes part time and balancing her job on the side, the transition was quick. “I was lucky that I gained all of the fitness instructing qualifications at a rapid speed.” Over the period of a year, her job in the lab eventually became part-time, and fitness took the focus. “At Third Space I was covering any class I could do, to learn,” Lucie explains. “Then they developed me as a full-time trainer – I feel incredibly lucky for that.” 

She went on to create The Method, a body-sculpting workout designed specifically for women. Based on tri-sets, a training system which works specific and opposing muscles to maximum capacity, the workout strengthens every area of the body over a 45 minutes class.

For Annabelle Breakenridge, the story was similar. Working as a primary school teacher in London, she found herself “training at the gym five or six times a week.” 

Deciding that this could be something to pursue professionally, she went to night school to get her level 2 personal trainer qualification, meaning that she could work in a gym and take classes. She was inspired to enter Women’s Health magazine’s ‘The Body’ competition in 2016, which she went on to win. 

“I had this epiphany when I was out with friends that I wanted to do fitness full-time,” she says. So she quit teaching, got her level 3 qualification and now runs her own fitness events, under the ‘Fit As Fugly’ banner. Fusing intense workouts with a big feast after, it’s a new way of approaching the fitness game, which can often have an overly glossy image. 

Of course, these transitions weren’t a walk in the park. 

“There are obvious battles,” says Lucie. “But nothing worth having is ever easy.” For her, the big pressure came from her academic qualifications. “People do often ask me if I feel I have my wasted time, energy and money on them,” she says. “But I always explain that it comes down to waking up and doing what you love every day. Each Monday I wake up energised and thrilled to start the new week.”

For Annabelle, the stress of leaving a steady salary was scary. “I used to live for pay days,” she says. “But you can wish your life away waiting for the next holiday, or promotion.” Her advice to other people thinking of following their passion?

“Do it. Follow the dream. When you need to make money, you graft harder – and you can always go back to your old industry, if you need to.” As to the best part of her new life, Annabelle says: “It’s the rewarding feeling of training people and giving them their bodies back. I work with a lot of people who would have branded themselves ‘unfit,’ and now, they have confidence.” 

Lucie is on the same page. “I feel pretty lucky, I’ve found what I’m meant to do. To have a sense of belonging and a sense of accomplishment at work is very special. In my previous job, as soon as it hit 5pm I would be gone. Now, you have to drag me out the gym door.”

For these women, making the change has been tough – but endlessly worth the challenge.