A big brave change

08 February 2016

When someone dear to me passes away it sparks a revelation about how they lived, which is why I was so intrigued by what my friend Kate decided to do shortly after we lost our friend Erina. 

I met Kate and Erina when I was fresh out of uni, we worked together for a few years on a current affairs show based in Sydney. Now Kate lives in Wollongong with her partner Lucas and their two little girls, Grace and Sophie, and she’s just started studying to be a personal trainer. It’s a pretty big shift from being in the media, and I couldn’t help asking how losing Erina prompted the shift, and how it’s going so far.

Can you tell me about @active_kate? It popped up on my Instagram feed one day but I know that it was inspired by something far more serious.

@active_kate is a really unoriginal name for my new Instagram account. I started it to share my experience of making a career change from journalism/communications to a qualified personal trainer. I had always been interested in health and fitness and often said “I’d love to be a personal trainer” but never really had the guts to make the change. 

At the end of last year a former colleague and our mutual friend, Erina, died suddenly of a cardiac arrest and that spurred me into action. I remember sitting at her funeral looking at photos from her life, and I just had that “Life is short, you need to do what you love” moment. It’s a bit of a cliché, but that’s how it happened for me. 

A lot of people know you as a journalist, what is it like to start something completely new and tell people about it? 

This has been the most challenging aspect of attempting this career change so far. For the most part people have been very supportive, but occasionally I get a few comments about how it’s a nice hobby to have on the side, or that I should still focus on journalism/PR because that’s a real job. I also have my own fears and insecurities that constantly pop up - things like failure and wasting my university degree, but I’m trying very hard to embrace that fear and face it head on by being so public about what I’m doing. 

Working as a journalist and in PR I was always behind the scenes, pushing other people out in front of a camera, or promoting what someone else was doing. To now put myself out there and say “This is me and this is what I’m doing” makes me deeply uncomfortable. But I want to challenge myself, connect with new people and make the most of this change.

The organisation I'm doing my course through have also been amazingly supportive and have helped alleviate many of those fears I have about making such a big change. Knowing you have people in your corner makes it so much easier.

I'd love to know how your daughters motivate you to study and train.

My girls make me want to be the best mother and person that I can be and a huge part of that is taking care of my mental health. I find being a mum really, really hard sometimes - it’s challenged me in a way that I never knew was possible. And at times I have found that my mental health hasn’t been the best. Prioritising my health, fitness and studies has such a wonderful impact on my mental health, which obviously in turn has an impact on how I parent. So this is a huge motivating factor.

Secondly I want to be a good role model for my children. I want to set them up for a full and healthy life and I want them to have a positive relationship with their own body image and food as they grow older. I try not to focus on physical appearance when I talk to them; instead I try to talk about how great it is to be healthy and strong. I figure that I also need to lead by example.

What's one thing you've learnt in your course so far that has surprised you?

I am in the early stages of Certificate III in Fitness and at the moment I’m learning about anatomy and physiology. Basically every sentence I read, or lecture I watch, I think “OH MY GOD, THE HUMAN BODY IS AMAZING”, so at the moment everything is surprising (in a good way). 

What are you looking forward to doing once you're a qualified personal trainer?

I’m looking forward to meeting new people and being able to help others integrate health and fitness into their life on a permanent and balanced basis. There’s so much ‘fitspiration’ out there on social media, which in some ways is great, but in other ways I don’t think it’s realistic. It would be great to help others achieve a balanced and healthy mindset about fitness. It shouldn’t be all or nothing, or about how you look, but how you feel and the impact that has on your day-to-day life.

Finally, can you share one thing you really admired about Erina?

Definitely Erina’s passion about EVERYTHING. She never sat on the fence. And at times I think this could be polarising, but you always knew where you stood and how she felt. We worked on a current affairs program and she’d always want to produce shows with a science focus – they definitely weren’t my cup of tea. I would try to talk her out of it, but she’d talk about it so passionately and determinedly to get me across the line. 

I remember once agreeing to work with her on a program about rising sea levels after she’d given a passionate demonstration at her desk using ice-cubes to explain basal melting of glaciers. She did have a magic way with words!

Thank you Kate! I am following you on Instagram and cheering you on. 

And on a personal note, one of things I admired most about Erina was how she was always keen to catch up, whether that meant walking from our office to the station for soupy dumplings or going out for a meal when I was in town. Now that she's gone, I am extra mindful of making time to see friends and stay in touch, which might mean sending a funny gift for no reason or just texting to say - how's your week going? It's been surprisingly easy and very fulfilling.

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