How I changed my career path during a global pandemic


How I changed my career path during a global pandemic

Hello everyone, my name is Ashley Smalls, and during the pandemic I decided to do a complete 180 and change my career path. Yikes! How dangerous right? I went from working as a Clinical Counselor in a treatment facility to becoming an AFAA Certified Group Fitness Instructor. I wasn’t always interested in working in group fitness. I’ve been a dancer for many years, and when I got an opportunity at the beginning of the year to work as a dance fitness instructor, I thought maybe this is my chance to pursue something else that I am passionate about. I took a leap of faith and left my counseling position to work in the fitness industry. Little did I know a worldwide pandemic was going to change the stability of jobs in the health and wellness market. To my surprise the pandemic actually helped my passion grow bigger. It had me searching for more coaching opportunities, and reassured me that I still made the right decision. I wake up every day, inspired to teach because I know that I am making a difference in someone’s mental, physical, and overall health and wellness! I will share with you how I keep myself motivated working in group fitness, and my journey getting there.

This year in particular has had its fair share of major events, such as a global disease outbreak causing a national pandemic, and 7 million Americans losing their jobs because of it. As we end the year with only two months left, what has been the most eventful and memorable moments for you? I was determined that even through a pandemic my year would not be wasted. 2020 has allowed me to rediscover a passion I always had, and the gift of motivating others to reach their goals through movement.

At the beginning of the year I started my new job as a Zumba/Dance Fitness Instructor. I choreographed new dances weekly and taught them to gym members every day. Helping people achieve their fitness goals is such a rewarding feeling! I had the chance to share a passion of mine which has always been dancing, and they got to share their fitness journey with me! When it was announced that each state would have their own mandatory shut down, the fitness world completely ceased. Even after things got a little better with mandatory guidelines to keep people safe while inside studios/gyms, people were still scared to come inside the buildings, or sweat and breath around others. The gym I was working for temporarily closed. Here I am wondering if I will ever be able to teach the same way again. Soon I realized that even though people were taking precautions for their safety, they still craved a sense of community, and still wanted to be held accountable for their fitness goals. Can you imagine all this progress you’ve made, and now your workout routine has been interrupted by a pandemic no one asked for haha.

I wanted to find a way to stay connected with all the people I’ve met, and to continue to help inspire people to stay motivated through troubling times. I started teaching Zumba/ Dance Fitness on Facebook Live! I wasn’t sure how many people would actually watch, but it was something that I wanted to try! Every Saturday during the pandemic I would tell everyone the time I would go on live. I set up my phone, turned on my speaker, hit record, and started teaching. When I tell you, I was completely blown away with the response. People loved it!! Now, some Saturdays there might have only been five people watching, and those same five people might have not even stayed watching the whole time. The good thing about Facebook Live is that the videos will remain on Facebook, so I found that more people would always watch at a later time. That’s the convenient thing about some virtual classes. Whether it was five people watching, or 50+, or just my mom who I made watch every Saturday, I was determined to inspire, motivate, and encourage.

After every class I would talk to my audience about new motivational topics. Topics ranging from me giving them a task to participate in some self-care. Taking a mental break and rewarding themselves for the week they’ve had. Or topics about learning how to be more disciplined in your everyday life to achieve your goals. Or even me encouraging people to preserve through tough times in life. I actually have a YouTube Channel called “The Ashley Show!!!!” where I post ‘Motivational Mondays”.

The classes I taught virtually helped so many people continue their fitness journeys, and it held me accountable for my own. It gave me a purpose during the pandemic to keep going; and not let what is happening around the world stop my desire to keep working in an industry that brings me joy. To me being a group fitness instructor is more than just getting on a stage and coaching through a mic! The impact I leave behind is a feeling I can’t describe. I can even compare it to the scene in the movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas when The Grinch was feeling pain because his heart grew two sizes too big, and it was beating out of his chest from so much love.

With safety guidelines put in place I am back coaching inside fitness studios again. I am a Row House Coach, and a 9Round Trainer. I still have dance fitness videos posted on my Facebook and on my YouTube Channel (“The Ashley Show!!!!”). Stay tuned because more content is on the way.

Everyone has different levels of fitness, but we all have one thing in common, which is to be healthy and enjoy what we do to get there! If I can make that journey enjoyable, and fun for others it makes it enjoyable and fun for me! Seeing the impact I can have on others keeps me motivated and passionate about what I do! 😊