I was unfortunately made redundant from pilot training in the Royal Air Force and, as I had always been involved in fitness in one form or another (and loved it), a career in fitness seemed like a logical progression. The Training Room had been recommended to me by the RAF PTI's and the 6 week intensive course would get me all the qualifications to get out there and start work as soon as possible!Â
The course was excellent and allowed me to meet some great people. Another guy on the course, Aeron, like me, lived in St. Andrews so we ended up commuting in together. Aeron had always had his eye on becoming a personal trainer, and after time spent living abroad and travelling, decided it was time to make it happen. I had a great time on the course and although I had to get up at 5am every morning for the 2 hour journey, I could wake up knowing I was going to enjoy my day. The content was in depth and well explained and, although my gym based knowledge was extensive before starting, I still learned a whole host of new information in every lesson. Our group got on incredibly well and it was sad to have to move on at the end!
One thing I hadn't looked into was the chances of getting a job in my home town. St. Andrews is quite a small place and although there were two gyms, neither was looking for any staff. I was struggling to get interviews due to my location. Aeron had moved back to England at this point and was in a similar bind to me.
He then messaged me one day, telling me that he had been given an interview for Fitness First, a company he knew I was very keen to work for, and said the guy was looking for English Speaking trainers to work for them...in Saudi Arabia! I immediately jumped on the news, asking him to give me the details of the manager so I could also try my luck and it seems my luck was in as I too was offered an interview.
The guy was impressed with the number of qualifications we had and within a few days the e-mail came through. We had both been successful and would be starting work in the New Year at a brand new club in Saudi's second largest city, Jeddah. It took a while for it to sink in. Our first job as trainers would be thousands of miles away in a country so completely different to our own. I have to be honest, I questioned how keen I was to take such a massive leap, but the opportunity was just too good to pass up.
When we got out there, these feelings soon evaporated. Jeddah is incredible. The culture has taken a bit of getting used to but the fact it is so different almost makes it better, more of an adventure. The gym is fully state of the art and an amazing place to work. We arrived before it opened so we have literally been here from the start, getting to learn the ups and downs of opening a business in a new city. This is Jeddah's first branch, and only the second Fitness First in Saudi. We work with trainers from all over the world; India, Phillipines, Syria, Egypt, Saudi and the client base is just as diverse (although only men are allowed!). We are learning the language, the culture and getting vast amounts of fitness and life experience. We have already been told that there are management positions available if we work for them, and that we are welcome to put our name forward to be transferred to any branch around the world.
I never would have thought I would be working in Saudi Arabia when I was doing the course in rainy Edinburgh in November 2011! It goes to show that the possibilities in the fitness industry don't stop at your local club.