My little family helping me celebrate an important day
I’m currently sitting in my hotel room in the very lovely No.1 Pery Square with a whole 2 hours to myself so I said I better get this blog post typed out before I return to my real life which rarely sees me with 2 minutes uninterrupted! Yesterday I graduated from the University of Limerick with a degree in Exercise & Health Fitness. It was a very proud day for me and my family as I didn’t exactly take the easy route to get to this stage and a lot of people have been invested in getting me this far. I thought it would be nice to write a little about my education journey so far as I get asked a lot by other people, particularly women, if I would recommend doing what I did, which was to leave a permanent, pensionable job to pursue what I am passionate about (and encase it’s not glaringly obvious that would be health and fitness in every sense of the word).
A snap from the lads on my first weekend in college in 2014
Frankie was 9 weeks old
In 2013 I left my job in banking. At that stage I had studied part time to certificate level in exercise and health fitness. During the first year post-banking I repeated leaving certificate Irish with Primary School teaching in mind. I sat the exam while 8 months pregnant with Frankie. In September of 2015, when Frankie was 9 weeks old, I returned to UL to do my diploma year and then went on to complete the degree year in 2016.
Put a Plan in Place
My answer to anyone who wants to leave a job or career that they are unhappy in is yes BUT!. I’m not one of those people who will quote a motivational meme like “JUST GO FOR IT!” because that’s not realistic if, like me, you have serious responsibilities. I knew I wanted to leave banking for about 2 years before I could actually leave but, because the recession was tough on us and we had mortgages to pay, I had to be sensible about it. So what I did was put a plan in place and I advise anyone who isn’t yet financially secure enough to take the leap to do this too. It may mean taking on an extra job to help you bring in more money. I always had my fitness business running alongside my permanent job and that really helped. I started to clear old loans, didn’t take out any new loans, kept the holidays to a minimum and so on so that I put myself in the best possible position to do it. You’re still going to have to work in some capacity if you do have a mortgage but if you can cut down on the excess stuff it will become more realistic.
Parenting & Studying
For any parents out there who would like to go back to study but have small kids again I say yes BUT!. You seriously need to think long and hard about doing it because it is very hard. I can’t lie about that. I went to college part-time which was generally every 2nd weekend for the whole weekend. In addition to going to college I had a lot of coursework to do from home. That meant that even if I had sleepless nights with Frankie I still had to get up and make my brain function either in college or at home the next day. You need to be really sure that you want to put in the work because the going gets really tough at times. Heading off at the weekend and leaving the two lads behind, or even worse when Frankie had been sick the night before, I could easily have thrown in the towel.
Two of my biggest supports, my mother and stepmother
I get comments from other women and mothers constantly about how I manage to juggle so much and the term Superwoman has been used more than once but I’m very, very conscious of other women and particularly mothers measuring themselves against me so it’s important to me that I be very honest about my situation. I am NOT Superwoman. Yes I’m determined and I do work hard but what I do would be impossible if I didn’t have such a strong support network of family and friends. Dermot, my family and his family as well as some of my good friends, have really pulled me through the last 3 years. So if you want to do something like this I strongly urge you to look at the support you have and be sure that you have plenty of good people to turn to because you will need them.
My Education & Fitness Pathway
Some of my NCEF college friends
It was tough but we made it!
For my fitness followers and the people who have been asking me about what fitness courses I have done, all of my pathway to this degree has been through the NCEF, that is the National Certificate in Exercise and Health Fitness. They are affiliated with UL and there is a four year pathway to the degree which you can break up and do at different stages. It’s all part-time so perfect if you are working or have a family. I was about to say that in my opinion it’s the best fitness course to do in Ireland but it’s not just my opinion. I know a number of gym managers who insist on job applicants having their qualification through the NCEF. It’s a very professional organisation and that’s important because there are so many dodgy courses out there now.
In terms of a career in fitness I love what I do and have done for the last 10 years. I started off teaching classes in other peoples gyms then set up my own business and was a mobile instructor and personal trainer for a number of years before setting up Fit with Bríd which offers online courses for busy women and has totally exceeded my expectations for it’s success. It’s a tough industry though. You’re up against a lot of gimmicky people who are just trying to make a quick buck and you have to work hard to be heard and respected in all of the noise.
Taking all of the hard stuff into account I would still really encourage anyone who is unhappy in their current situation to do their best to change it. It is so worth it. Life really is too short to not be living the best one you possibly can. My plan is to continue my studies later this year, most likely in education. I’m a learner and am starting to realise that I will possibly spend most of my life learning new things even though when I’m in the middle of a college year I SWEAR that I’m done this time. I’ve received a lot of lovely messages of support from people through social media over the course of my studies so far and I really appreciate every one of them. I hope you find this post helpful and if you have any questions at all either about studying in general or a career in fitness just give me a shout. You can email me or you can contact me through Facebook or Instagram.