For my entire adult life, I have been teaching group-exercise fitness classes. I have taught in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Silicon Valley, Aspen, Manhattan Beach, and Granite Bay. I taught at some exciting times for the fitness industry at some amazing health clubs. I suspect I have taught just north of 7,500 classes.
I’ve met hundreds upon hundreds of people who made my classes part of their regular fitness routine. Many became lifelong friends. I’ve counted at least seven marriages that grew out of my classes. Teaching these classes was incredibly fulfilling; tapping into parts of myself, my 9-5 jobs didn’t. Teaching classes was my avocation – my side hustle.
This teaching and motivation were unknown to those who knew me in my vocation as a sales executive. The secrecy wasn’t planned. Teaching fitness classes started long before my career did. When I finally started working, it just seemed awkward to bring up.
“Hey, do you know I teach aerobics?” “Um, yeah, so what?”
So, I just never talked about it. Plus, I didn’t want to explain the spandex of the early days.
It’s hard to explain if you weren’t there, but for about a decade, my classes were, in the words of Ron Burgundy, “kind of big deal!” I had what they called a “following.” It was a bit like the movie Flashdance living a double life. Instead of “welder by day – dancer by night,” it was “sales executive by day, fitness instructor by night.” That is not a hit movie.
A strange dichotomy arose in my work life (plural). During the day, I’d put on my tie, go to work, be restrained, professional, methodically execute the countless details required to be successful at enterprise sales. Then at night, I would let it all go being the crazy person required to lead a class in high-intensity sweat-drenching, choreographed exercise.
I moved from aerobics to high-impact aerobics, to funk and then spinning. I’ve stayed employed in fitness for decades. Most importantly, I showed up, night after night, year after year, with high energy and a fun demeanor regardless of what was going on in my life. All done concurrently with my sales career.
Having a vocation and an avocation like this made for a fantastic balance in my life. Many know and tap into this.
- Tough day at the office? Well, redemption with a great class full of smiles, high-fives, and thank-yous was around the corner!
- Terrible boss? Having this fun avocation, endurance is easier.
- Feeling the day job isn’t pressing the “meaningful” button, helping people stay in shape did.
As the years moved on, my day in the sun of group exercise passed, and my classes were no longer any big deal. But, they were still fun for me. I still teach today only to much smaller classes.
It turns out this fitness instruction side gig was pretty sweet for me. I started young and was able to adapt through all its iterations. Teaching got me focused on others and taught me how to better deal with people. Putting classes together developed an otherwise dormant creative muscle.
Plus, it helped me stay in shape. It gave my life, as I think all meaningful side projects do, a sense of balance. Good and the bad. Exciting and not-so-exciting. Best of all, I met my wife in class.
Lately, side hustles became a thing – they sound cool. Having a hustle can be indicative of someone who is scrappy, motivated, and multi-talented.
Over the past decade, I’ve heard many open conversations about side hustles at work. I have heard stories of employees selling stuff online, doing consulting work in other fields, and doing group exercise instruction as a yoga instructor. I get it. Yoga isn’t weird; it’s hip.
As a result, I became more comfortable talking about my side hustle at work and elsewhere. I could write this article (so long as it was broad). Few, if any, are interested in the nuance of aerobic choreography. But, trust me, it is fascinating.
If you have a side hustle, I hope yours is as fun and rewarding as mine has been. A good one can provide a hedge against life’s difficulties in the workplace and elsewhere.
I also hope you don’t have to defend photos of yourself like this one from yours.