Sue Nixon is probably the nicest person I know and she doesn't even slightly resemble those shouty, alpha-type personal trainers who seem to bully their victims into performance. Sue's approach is friendly and constructive. She gets great results by helping her clients get clear on their goals, designing a challenging and achievable program, then offering relentless encouragement to push, push, push through the mental 'give up' barriers. I interviewed Sue recently to learn why it is that she loves her work.
What is your job exactly?
I’m a personal trainer and group fitness instructor, and have run my own personal training business since 2006. I specialise in Mums and Bubs fitness (pre and post natal fitness). I’m a Pilates Instructor and run private and group sessions. On a casual basis, I run group classes in various gymnasiums, doing circuit, spin, boxing and pilates. I’m also Lifestyle and Wellness Coach.
What do you love about your job?
I really enjoy helping people to improve their lifestyle by getting them outside and active, as well as encouraging them to be more aware of what they eat. I love it when they reach their goals. I’ve always been an active, outdoorsy type so love that so much of my work is done outside. I love that what I do helps people both physically and mentally and I believe the more active we are now, the more active we’re likely to be in our later years.
Where did you previously work?
I was a PA, working mostly with stockbroking companies. I liked it, but being inside most of the day made me feel really felt cooped up. Eventually I worked up the courage to leave the security of an office, and set up my own business.
What was your first ever job?
During high school, I worked at a newsagency in Wagga Wagga on Saturdays. I liked it because I earned a bit of money, got some experience and began to feel independent.
Can you remember what your child-self wanted to be ‘when you grew up’?
I wanted to be a schoolteacher, or a PE teacher.
What did you study?
I did a BA in Administration in Canberra with a view to studying further in economics (but that didn’t happen!). Since then I’ve done lots of courses and training to support my current work: personal training, group fitness instructing, pre and post-natal group instruction, pilates and wellness coaching.
What makes you choose the things you study?
Interest and passion! That’s how I make choices on most things – I think if you really love what you do you’ll be a happier person and this reflects on everything else in life.
What’s your work schedule?
It’s a mish-mash. I run about 4-5 sessions a day – individuals and groups around the Eastern Suburbs and CBD. I do about 25 hours face-to-face time and another 20 hours on administration and business development. There’s also work to catch up with on the weekend, so it’s basically a 7-day a week job.
What do you wear to work?
Compression tights (long or short), dry fit top, cap, runners and blockout. During winter, I add a fleece layer.
Are clothes important in the workplace?
Yes they are. You should look professional in your job to show respect for your clients – and yourself! From a practical point of view, I need to dress appropriately to keep warm, keep cool or avoid the sun. It’s also important for me to wear the right gear for fitness work to keep my body in one piece.
What is your standout proudest career moment?
Gosh, standouts, that’s hard because most of the people I work with are goal focused – so I get to feel a sense of achievement when my clients hit their targets. But a couple that particularly come to mind: one of my Mums and Bubs clients wanted to lose 9kg. She was really motivated, and had a quick initial loss of baby weight - but I set her up with a program and made it interesting so that she’d turn up for training 3-days a week, as well as maintain activity on her own. She stuck with her program and hit her target in two months.
Recently, I felt proud watching a Lifestyle and Wellness client I’m coaching turn a big corner. For months she'd been stuck and wasn’t able to set goals, never mind achieve them. Over a period of time, I helped her crack the issues that had been blocking her and she continues to move in the right direction. It's really is fantastic to see her feeling more upbeat and positive about what she can do.
If you had the possibility to go back and change anything in your career, would you?
Probably not – but then maybe not staying in my last PA job as long as I did and getting into what I’m doing now, 4 years earlier.
Is there anyone whose career you really admire?
My Dad was really dedicated in his career as an Ophthalmologist. He was totally giving to everyone, studied hard, was always conscientious and a really good role model for anyone looking to build a great work ethic. He worked seven days a week ensuring everyone was being well cared for.
Do you have a mentor?
No – though there are people I follow in my industry because I’m interested in the work they do.
How do you unwind?
During the day I just go for a walk and get some fresh air, even if it’s drizzling – I love being outdoors. At night I reach for a glass of good red wine! Also, I spend a bit of time at a friend’s farm where we work during the day doing fencing or moving cattle or gardening, and I find all that quite relaxing.
What do you want to do next in your career?
Continue working as a personal trainer and further expand the work I’m doing in the mental/psyche side of things with Lifestyle and Wellness Coaching – particularly goal-setting and motivation.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing personal training?
From a work point of view I can’t imagine doing anything other that what I’m doing right now. If I wasn’t working, like many people I’d probably be at the beach or playing more tennis and golf.
What do you want more of in your career right now?
New clients are always welcome and I’d really like to be doing more with people on goal setting and structure. A bit more free time would be nice – I probably need to do some Lifestyle and Wellness Coaching on myself!
And less of?
Definitely less administration and computer work! I love being with clients, so anything that takes me away from them in the work sense is something I want less of.
If you knew me really well, you’d know …
That if I say something I mean it; and if I say I will do something, then I will do it.
What kind of impact do you think you have on the people you work with?
A positive one. People come to me because they want to bring some more positivity into their lives – they also want a great experience, and that’s what I work hard to give them. I offer good advice when they need it, and help them build more balance into their lives.
What are you like when you’re stressed out?
Impatient, but that can be quickly sorted with a walk or run.
What are you like when you’re relaxed?
I guess I’m calm and content (not pacing up and down trying to do something!). I’m generally happy, laughing, smiling.
Other than work, what are you loving about your life right now?
The bit of flexibility I have day-to-day. I’ve worked hard enough to be able to make choices that suit me. My whole lifestyle is great – my relationships, where I live, the area of work I am in – I’ve got a great life.
If you enjoyed reading about Sue's career, here's a link for more interviews from people who love their work.