I’ve been hearing a lot of positive talk about STAGES Cycling since I sent out a query on Facebook over a year ago. That was when the local (City of Grand Rapids, Michigan) Parks & Rec Department decided to invest in a Studio Cycling program…needing space, bikes and team of instructors. The STAGES bikes didn’t make the final cut…SPINNER® RALLY bikes were chosen, but I’ve continued to track STAGES ever since. Not just the bikes, but the whole STAGES program, including “stalking” a few of their Master Educators.
So that brings me to our August Instructor Guest Blog Post…for a change I’ve been searching beyond North America, and connected with Emma (living in Melbourne, Australia)…a motivated and dedicated speaker, educator and instructor with 10 years’ experience in the fitness industry. Emma tells me that her purpose is to empower and educate as many fitness professionals as she can.
LET’S GO…please meet Emma Masters!
Ok, wow…where do I start my story as to how I ended up with my life revolving (excuse the pun) around a bike that goes nowhere?!
I guess we have to start in a place before I understood the power of group exercise, way back in one (I have many) of my previous lives. Where I spent my days singing and dancing up on stage.
One of my deepest passions from the moment I could move or talk was to perform!
I would put on shows for my family, record my own radio shows on cassette (damn! …showing my age there) and sit dreaming for hours in fantasy lands – of a day where I would get to be a REAL actress! Standing in front of a crowd was something that just came natural. I love when you look back on life, it all seems to come together, like puzzle pieces as to WHY skills, or passions were there for a reason.
On one of my contracts as a performer, I worked cruise ships. In those days, I didn’t even consider entering a gym, or playing sports, as dance and prancing around on stage was plenty enough!
On this particular contract however, we would get weighed in weekly. We would all line up for the scales to ensure we didn’t gain weight, or sometimes in my case, they were looking for a drop in weight. I got cut from a dance number early on in the contract, as I was considered too “big” for the number next to the other girls. (Side note…I was no different in weight as I am now.)
Of course, I was upset. A 24 year old girl, away from her friends and family and feeling pretty isolated. I sat with the information presented and realised I had a few options at play: 1) I could give up and go home – not in my vocabulary; 2) I could take the irresponsible route, and diet drastically, not eat, or worse; 3) I could step into the ship’s gym and see if I wanted to get to my “show weight” in a healthy way.
Thankfully, I took option #3, and I made a new friend and personal trainer, Tom!
Cruise ships generally all have trainers on board for their guests, and they are multi-talented! Taking all the group ex classes, nutrition seminars as well as personal training clients and gym inductions.
Tom wrote up a weights program for me, advised me on nutrition AND invited me to attend his spin classes during the week. And that’s where it all began!
Now please recognise, I am not telling my story of cruise ship weight dramas for sympathy or to even push a negative spin on my time there, but more for you to understand how impactful my first experience in a gym, in a group class, and with an experienced and knowledgeable trainer was.
In the months that followed…I realised how much I wanted to impact people’s lives in the same way Tom had impacted mine. So I joined my local gym, and decided to keep up this “spinning” crack!
This is when inspirational human #2 comes into play!
Bec, was my first true indoor cycle instructor. Three times a week, I would be “that” girl…fighting for my spot in the front row, getting in early to save my spot with my towel and water bottle, leaving a sweaty heap! All the time, alongside a group of people that had become my Saturday morning coffee ladies (and eventually Friday night drinks crew). I started to realise that I had become a part of something, a community of people who all lived for the same things, who would move together in a dark room on bikes that went nowhere three times a week…and LOVED IT!
It was this moment – I knew where I wanted the next steps in my journey to go. I realised the importance of community, of belonging to something bigger than yourself, and the power of inspiring and motivating others – no matter the end goal.
I quickly qualified in my fitness instructor and personal training certs. I landed myself a job as a Fit Pro, at the very same Virgin Active where I was a member, and I started on my journey from scrubbing treadmills and taking inductions, to training as a cycle instructor and leading my first class!
I very quickly realised that one on one PT sessions wasn’t truly my passion…but on stage, teaching a group, I would leave buzzing! That’s when my fitness journey became clearer. Group Exercise were the two words that would lead the next decades of my life!
Over the next three years I put my hand up to teach EVERYTHING – Zumba®, Aqua, Body Combat®, RPM® and AntiGravity® Yoga, just to name a few along with group exercise management. In my management role, I transitioned to London where I assisted in overseeing the London region…mentoring, developing, and coordinating other group ex managers. Cycle always remained my #1 baby. Teaching with multiple caps on – from Les Mills RPM® to Team ICG® – Myride®, to freestyle rhythm! I LOVED my job, however I wasn’t loving London life.
For the longest time, since my backpacking days, Australia had been calling. So, after much deliberation – I quit my job with Virgin Active, and purchased a one way ticket to a land down under!
It was one of those decisions that I knew was a HUGE risk, as there was no guarantee of a job for me in Australia. Virgin was brand new there and with limited clubs, I knew it would be only a small chance of me getting a lucky break! BUT lucky I was, in divine timing, I managed to interview and snag a group exercise manager role in Melbourne, and there lies the last 5 years.
I truly believe in EVERYTHING happening for a reason. The last 5 years have been some of the most rewarding, testing and educational years of my life.
Group exercise management of two, 7-studio clubs with a team of over 100 instructors, master educating with STAGES Indoor Cycle (one of the best cycle brands in the world), and presently heading up our very own cycle program for Virgin Active in the Rhythm Cycle space.
Through my opportunities as a Master Educator I educate and present at some of the leading health and fitness conferences around the world…topics cover group cycle, group exercise skills, and studio management. I wear every cap I have ever worn, teaching mindfulness in a high energy group setting through my rhythm cycle program…or teaching with metrics and “power” with STAGES.
I don’t believe in a one size fits all approach. You don’t have to put yourself in a box with everyone else. If something moves you, if something inspires and motivates you – then do it! I have never followed the grain, and I know even in the cycle world that raises a few eye brows (how can I teach party on the bike one day and metric the next?).
BUT, I can always bring it back to that first class on the cruise ship 10 years ago when I realised that I truly just want to improve and inspire others through exercise. That statement never changes. Isn’t that the common purpose for all of us in this industry – no matter where your story began? So, if I can leave you with anything from this story – it is just that. If you are reading this, group cycle is already a huge part of your life. Follow that beating heart of yours – as it knows what is right for YOU, and the rest will follow. And, as the wonderful Oprah says…
“Follow your passion, it will lead to your purpose”
Amen to that!
Thanks so much for sharing and for all you do in the industry!
Emma can be found heading up the Cycle programming for Virgin Active and Master Educating for STAGES Indoor Cycle…and don’t miss her on Instagram, Spotify and LinkedIn too!