I have been a fitness instructor for nearly 20 years, first working for a local Rosemary Conley Diet & Fitness Club franchise. After getting healthier and fitter by attending classes the instructor offered me a job as cashier and said that if I got myself through the Level 2 Exercise to Music qualification she would employ me as an instructor! I started teaching in January 1998 and one year later began studying for the Level 3 Personal Trainer Award with YMCA Scotland. Once I had completed the Gym Award I took a job at a local health club to gain experience in the gym environment. This meant working shifts starting at 5.30 am and we were expected to do everything from cleaning the equipment to providing induction sessions in the gym, covering classes when a teacher didn't turn up and mopping the changing room floor. In November 2000 I was appointed as Graduate Assistant in the Centre for Sport and Exercise at Heriot-Watt University, undertaking a MPhil in Psychology part-time and teaching classes, conducting fitness assessments and offering health and wellbeing assessments to staff, students and the local community. In 2003 I gained my MPhilExploring Health Behaviours and Low Back Pain and became full-time Exercise Development Coordinator. I developed health and wellbeing programmes, Staff Learning and Development workshops and worked hard to ensure that all of the services offered were in line with the needs of the community of staff, students and community. In addition to my work at the university I became a freelance trainer with Paths for All Scotland running training sessions in the community and in workplaces to assist in the implementation and development of health walks. I also created bespoke training sessions for the Royal Edinburgh Psychiatric Hospital as part of their efforts towards having a completely smoke-free site. This led me to work with another professional to create a buddy-training programme called Walk with Me which I initially delivered for the Social Work Department in Angus Council and for Health for All, a community programme in Edinburgh. I also started to explore cancer and the use of exercise for prevention, during treatment and as part of recovery. I was invited to facilitate the exercise sessions for Breast Cancer Care's Moving Forward programme in Scotland and also had the opportunity to develop workshop materials on cancer-related fatigue which was finally starting to receive recognition as a significant consequence of cancer treatment. My best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2008 which added enormous poignancy to my work. At the start of 2012 I became one of the first fitness professionals in the UK to hold the Level 4 Exercise and Cancer Rehabilitation qualification and Alison was the focus of my case study for which I received a distinction. Sadly Alison died in September 2012, just a few months after I relocated to North Yorkshire.
Since 2012 I have run programmes for men with prostate cancer, having been commissioned by Prostate Cancer UK to run my Can Ability programme from Newcastle down to Scunthorpe and from Middlesbrough out to the Dales. I undertook Pink Ribbon Program training with MBodies Academy and have also been working with young people with autism and mental health issues. I ran an occupational health advisory service for people living with cancer in the workplace in Leeds for one year but am now happily sticking closer to home, teaching classes, seeing people for one-to-ones and working for Waterstones.