Her Story with Emily Harbourne: Going All In For a Life She Loves

Photo by: McKenzie Compton  @avistoria

Photo by: McKenzie Compton @avistoria

There's a book by Gay Hendricks called, "The Big Leap: Conquering Your Hidden Fear and  Take Life to the Next Level." The gist is that there are four zones  we live in when it comes to the work we do:

The Zone of Incompetence

The  Zone of Competence

The Zone of Excellence

The  Zone of Genius

Emily Harbourne, this week's Her Story Spotlight, is such an example of what life can be like when you're living in your Zone of Genius. She is currently living her best life as a group exercise professional instructor and helping others get their bodies and minds happier and healthier.

But it hasn't always been that way.

Because she is also an incredible writer (hello Masters of Journalism from Northwestern!), she had been going through the motions in her Zone of Excellence for years and living life according to all her "should's." Not unlike so many of us, myself included.

Being a spin instructor and, maybe even one day owning her own studio, was something she always talked about whenever "dream jobs" came up. But, that was silly though, right? That wasn't a real career path. And even if it was, could she really make a living doing this thing she loved?

I know Emily struggled with a lot of those types of questions for years while trying to ignore this ping that kept pulling on her heart.  I think a lot of do this. 

We get on this path to get into the good schools, to get the degrees that will get us the good jobs and it isn't until we get there that we ever even start to question what a "good' job even means.  For at least 90% of the people I talk to, it mainly means good health insurance. And if we're lucky, 10-15 days out of the working year we can use however we like, maybe a company-matched 401K and a steady paycheck. 

All of those things are important and should be considered and so is how you feel about your life and the unique gifts you are sharing with the world. Are you thriving or just surviving?

What I love about Emily's story is that while she taught on the side, she was still a good instructor, even before she went all in. Like really, really good and I'm not just saying that because she's also now a really good friend. She's a pro in every way. But, there was a definite change when she became a full-time instructor. She got even better, if that was possible. I saw it unfold in front of my eyes from her playlists to her energy in class to the way she carried herself in and out of the studio. 

I know that every day isn't glamorous and super motivational for her. She's had to take on other part-time jobs when she first got started and deal with making sure ends meet. She's been stressed, burnt out and sore I'm sure just as many days. But what I do know is that when it's because you're doing it all for something you love, it's worth it and it will pay off.  

Find out how Emily made the leap from steady paycheck to professional instructor and how she makes sure she's living her best life possible everyday.

Meet Emily:  Fun Facts

 I have a cat named Macklemore. I got him as a kitten when I moved to Chicago and would be living alone for the first time. He’s kinda the love of my life.

 I could eat tacos every single day of my life.

My guilty pleasure is for sure reality TV. When I need to just check out and decompress I turn on real housewives of New York or Beverly Hills.

I got my bachelors degree from University of San Francisco in International Studies and then my masters from Northwestern in Journalism. Neither of which I really use today. Whoopsie.

One of my favorite things to do is travel. In college, I studied abroad in South Africa and Zambia, I’ve been to Thailand, Japan, all over Europe, Brazil and most recently the Galapagos!

Emily Harbourne Cyclebar

Where you can find her:

Louisville, KY helping others be happier and healthier at Cyclebar and Club Pilates

What's it like being a full-time instructor?

I have been a full-time instructor for almost a year. It will be the year anniversary of quitting my job on September 15th!

I started teaching at Cyclebar St. Matthews when we opened in November of 2016. It was clear to me from the beginning that this was my passion and it gave me so much joy. So, when the owner of Cyclebar said she was opening a Pilates studio, I decided to get my Pilates certification, quit my job and start teaching full-time.

Now we have four studios open - two Cylcebar and two Club Pilates - and I am blessed to be able to teach at all four which is about 21 classes a week. Usually, I teach every morning and then have a nice little break to plan my classes and nap and then go back to teach in the evening.

Photo by: McKenzie Compton  @avistoria

Photo by: McKenzie Compton @avistoria

How did you get into teaching? Did you know this is what you always wanted to do?

I started indoor cycling when I was in college. It’s crazy to me, but cycling pretty much saved my life. In college, I was suffering from an eating disorder and my doctors banned me from going to the gym. I didn’t listen because cycling class was the only thing that kept me sane.

The dark room and loud music allows you to quite your mind and for me that was all the voices in my head. For an hour of my time I could be free. It was then I decided I wanted to teach and I was immediately hooked. I know what cycling and fitness overall has done for me and I want to be able to bring that peace to everyone else.

What gave you the courage to make the leap from employee to instructor?

I saw I was going through the motions. I got the “big girl” job that I was supposed to. But, I was not happy.

I would wake up in the morning so excited to teach Cyclebar but then be miserable the rest of my day at work. Or I would spend my days making playlists instead of actually working. My mind and heart were elsewhere. I took me a long time of being unhappy to finally get the courage to quit, but with planning I was able to take the leap!

So many of us have limiting beliefs that need to be overcome or we've "failed" and might need some encouragement to keep going. Can you tell us about a challenge you have you had to overcome to get where you are now? How were you able to overcome that or what are you doing now to overcome that’s working?

With out a doubt my limiting belief is that I am not enough. Not confident enough. Not smart enough. The list goes on and on. It’s crazy to think that every day I get in front of 50 people and inspire them to workout, yet I lack all the confidence in myself.

After 14 years of suffering from an eating disorder I have become very good at the negative self talk, but what I have learned is that just because you think those things doesn't mean they are true. Everyday I can look in the mirror and think my skin looks terrible, I’ve gained weight, my face looks fatter, but just because those might be the FIRST things that pop in my head doesn’t mean they are right.

You are in control of your thoughts and you have the power to flip the script. I know it sounds corny, but I have written little sayings on sticky notes and put them around my mirror to help remind me that I am not defined by my looks. I am not defined by the size of my waist. I am not defined on how much money I make. I am not defined by my mistakes. YOU have the power to decide to be happy and positive every single day and in every single moment.

Emily Harbourne Club Pilates

What would you say has been the main key so far to helping you get to where you are? 

Honestly, hard work. You have to be willing to hustle in order to make your dreams happen. Massive change requires massive action. When I quit my job and was working to get my Pilates certification, I had 5 different part time jobs from working at Cyclebar to retail to freelance writing. I had to hustle in order to make ends meet. It would have been easy to stay at my job with a good salary, but that would have meant sacrificing my happiness. When I was working 5 jobs, I was tired and worn out but I knew I was working toward my end goal of doing what I love full time.

What advice would you give to other women looking to take the leap into a full-time instructor/trainer career?

Make a plan. I decided to quit my job 6 months beforehand and then made steps to make it happen. It will just create added stress if you haven’t created a game plan.

For me, I started applying for part time jobs in July, that way I had secured a position and felt more comfortable quitting come September. Additionally it is important to keep track of your budget and earnings. Trust me, if you have to stress about how much money you make per class it will start to take the joy out of teaching.

What are some tools that help make life easier/better? 

I am very old school and I like to have things written down. I know there are a ton of apps for money management and scheduling, but I prefer to write everything down in my calendar.

Every Sunday, I sit down and look through my schedule at all four studios. I write in all my classes and additional appointments. I carry my calendar with me everywhere so that I can check it at anytime. I also have a journal that I write all of my classes in. That way I have them all in one place and can look back to see what I have done in the past.

Photo by  Estée Janssens  on  Unsplash

What routines do you have that helped you be successful? /How do you start your mornings/end your days?

I usually teach every morning, so that forces me to get up early, but no matter what I am an early riser. I like to get up and get my day going. Then, I usually teach again at night, so that’s how I end my days too!

However, with my break I always make time for my own workouts and time to get some work done. I think with being a full-time instructor you have to give a lot. You are always giving your energy to others, so it has become very important for me to also take time throughout the day for myself.

You can’t give to others without filling yourself up first. For me, I fill my cup by taking yoga or a cycling class. By reading or listening to a podcast. Whatever it is for you, find the thing that refills your cup, so that it overflows and you can spread your light to others. 

What is a book and/or podcast you would recommendation for others looking to start a career in the fitness business or just for general positive mindset motivation?

The book that really got me thinking and motivated to quit my job was "You Are A Badass" by Jen Sincero. She really talks about knowing your worth, filling yourself up with positive thoughts and putting your intentions out there.

I also love all of Grabrielle Bernstein’s books like "The Universe Has Your Back" and "Spirit Junkie." Right now, I am reading "Mandela’s Way" by Richard Stengel. Nelson Mandela is my hero and this book outlines some of his key lessons. For example, Mandela doesn't see courage as innate, something we are born with, rather it is the way we CHOOSE to be. None of us are born courageous, it is all in how we react to different situations.

Emily Harbourne Cyclebar

What are common mistakes you see other instructors make when they first get started and what tips do you have to help?

Burnout! 100% was the biggest mistake I made and I see a lot of other young instructors making. When you make the leap to full-time, you want all of the classes, not only so you make money, but it’s now your career so you feel like you need to teach all the time!

Recently, I had to teach 90 classes in 27 days with no day off and trust me, burnout is a real thing. As an instructor, you are giving so much energy in each and every class. You can’t really have an off day. You have to give 100% and create the best experience for your clients, so you need balance. You need time to recharge your batteries.

So, make a schedule that works for you. Work with your owner to make sure that you have at least one day off a week. I teach three to four classes a day six times a week and then I have one day off.

Another important lesson I learned early on was being organized. With subbing classes and changing schedules every week looks different for me, and it’s easy to forget where I am supposed to be when. So, it is essential to write down at the beginning of the week all of your classes, that way you don’t miss one!

How can people find out more about you and when they can catch your next class?

I teach everyday at either Cyclebar St Matthews, Cyclebar Middletown, Club Pilates St Matthews or Club Pilates Middletown.

For more instructor advice follow me on Instagram at the.instructor.life.

Are you an instructor too?

Join Emily over at The.Instructor.Life on Instagram to share tips, tricks and inspiration for avoiding burnout and being the best instructor and human you possible can!