Hi, I’m Vicky and I am the Crawley areas number one pilates instructor dealing in Exercise for Lower back pain. I work closely with Osteopaths and physiotherapists to provide the much needed follow up care for their clients and I am now starting classes in Lancing. As a chronic back pain sufferer I have developed a range of exercises that enable me to lead a full and active life. I have struggled with my weight and I do know how it feels to be take that first step to getting fitter to reduce your aches and pains and to lose weight. As a qualified nurse I am in a unique position to care for clients who may have medical issues. I am also as an experienced and well respected group exercise instructor and have taught, over the years, many gym based exercise classes, so I can bring variety to my classes and give everyone a class to meet their needs. My sessions bring in exercises that are not always purely Pilates based. Having qualified in sports massage I bring in techniques to to release the myofacia and trigger points which helps the body move more freely. I love working with clients and seeing the fantastic results they achieve in such a short time. It gives me real pleasure to see the difference exercise makes to people, not only in their body shape but in their self confidence.
How did I get into Fitness?
I had to be fit when I was in the army but I let things slip after I left it and when I was a mother of young children I became quite overweight. I started my interest getting fit again when I had a short assessment in the gym of the hotel where I took my children swimming. I was horrified at the results. I started to exercise in the gym there and later joined a small gym only using the gym equipment. I made progress and later joined a bigger gym, again limiting myself to the machines on the gym floor. The gym I belonged to had two glass walls in the studio and I noticed a class going on that involved weights and bar bells. I ventured in in my T Shirt and shorts surrounded by people in lycra. I became a fan of Body Pump. Getting my confidence there I then started trying all sorts of other classes and I changed my body shape. I confess I became a bit of a gym junkie and was very restless if I didn’t get my fix. When it was suggested that I was perhaps spending too much time at the gym I decided to train as a Fitness Instructor as I thought this was an environment I wanted to work in. I took the 3 month full time course with Premier to train as a personal trainer. That was the most respected course at the time and took us to advanced instructor level.
What job role did you do before becoming a Fitness Instructor?
Most of my working life was spent as a nurse. I became a State Registered Nurse in 1978 and the renowned John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. I stayed there after I qualified and became on a Staff Nurse on an Arterial and General Surgical ward followed by another post on a Haematology and General Medical ward. During this time I joined the Territorial army and this led to me deciding to join the army full time. I served as a Nursing Officer in the Queen Alexander’s Royal Army Nursing Corps for 5 years and rose to the rank of Captain. I served in Aldershot, Hong Kong, Nepal and Woolwich. During my time in Woolwich I was seconded to Guys Hospital where I undertook a 6-month course in Intensive Care nursing and ended up as the Officer in charge of the intensive care unit in Woolwich.
On leaving the army I moved to Crawley and took up the post as night sister at the local hospital. Whilst there I was approached to become a practice nurse a career I continued until I left to undertake a three month full-time course to become a personal trainer and sports massage therapist (not something I now practice). After my training I returned to practice nursing where I worked until I decided that I wished to be a full time fitness instructor.
During my time in general practice nursing I took Diplomas in Diabetes, Asthma and Coronary heart disease. I was also awarded the title Specialist Practitioner General practice.
I have two adult children William and Emma and both have now left home. William is married to Amanda and lives in Handcross, Emma lives in Battersea.
I have lived in Crawley for many years but have a love of the sea. I have recently moved to Lancing which is a fairly easy commute to Crawley. I will continue to teach my nine Crawley classes a week. I have decided to start teaching classes in the Parish hall in Lancing as I feel this will be a way of integrating me into the community and I have been told there is a need to provide the sort of classes I teach.
My Fitness journey
My journey in fitness was just as broad as my nursing journey. Having qualified as a personal trainer I decided that I wanted to work in group exercise. The first course I undertook was as an instructor in Body Pump, that class that had tempted me into the studio originally. This was one of my favourite classes to teach but I gave that up a couple of years ago now have at the advice of my osteopath as I was suffering with a ‘bad back’. All that heavy exercise was taking it’s toll on my body. I went on the train as an aerobics instructor (that was a serious challenge for someone who had two left feet), a Body Combat instructor (a martial arts based programme) Body Balance (a Tai Chi, Pilates, yoga based programme), Waterworks (a high intensity pre choreographed aqua programme), Circuit training, studio cycling, Yoga (to advanced instructor level), Kettebells, Suspension training, of course Clinical Pilates to advanced instructor level (one of my tutors was an Osteopath) and Exercise for lower back pain to Specialist instructor level. I also hold a qualification to work with older adults and pre and post natal care.
So why am I not still doing all those things? I’ll be honest as a mature entry to the fitness industry someone told me I’d never make it. For me that was red rag to a bull and I determined to prove them wrong and to show I could do everything a younger person could do, on top of which I have a thirst for knowledge and love doing courses. At one time I was teaching 18 regular classes a week plus cover and that included 5 x Body Pump and I was visiting my Osteopath every week. I was exhausted. She told me I was wearing my body out. Knowing that I taught Pilates she said she wanted somewhere to send her clients. She was aware that the big gyms pack up to 50 people into a Pilates class and classes of 25 are not uncommon. She wanted he clients to have better quality classes. I decided to undertake my Specialist training in Exercise for Lower Back pain to give people the best possible care and she offered to mentor me though the course. This involved watching her at work and extra tutorials. As a client I also learned techniques from her that added to the traditional approach to Pilates and these I still incorporate into my classes. I have since trained in Postural and Corrective Exercise, the Be Activated system of muscle activation and Trigger Point Pilates. My classes are unique and I am humbled at the testimonials I have received from people telling me how I have changed their lives. For me that is what makes it all worthwhile.
Starting community classes is not easy. I had no idea about marketing and sticking the odd card up in a newsagent or poster in a window was not enough to make my classes a success. I started four community classes and two were okay and two failed. So it was that I 2012 I started working with a business mentor Lucy Johnson, from Fully Booked Formula, who has shaped my business to where it is today.
Where Fitness Function is today.
Fitness Function is now well established in the community with regular referrals from osteopaths and physios in the area. I now have two members of the administrative team and run 9 classes at the Montifiori Institute in Three Bridges and I am commencing two classes a week at the Parish Hall in Lancing starting in September. These are mixed ability classes and no one is ever made to feel a failure. In addition to these I see people on an individual basis or a joint session in my home but this is on a very limited basis and I will try and fit people into classes as soon as I they are comfortable to do so.
I write a weekly educational newsletter which people tell me they look forward to reading.
I feel we have created a community. The classes are light hearted and we have some fun. Exercise doesn’t always have to be a serious affair even though we are enjoying ourselves we do get results and many people have reduced their dependence on their clinicians and saved themselves money.