Jill Plant: From Health Food Store Manager to Fitness Trainer/Studio Owner
Why did you make your latest transition?
Physical fitness was always a priority for me. I realized that nutrition was an advantage to staying in shape. So, I was asked to work part-time in a health food store because I went there for my supplements. I was raising my four kids and following my regular fitness program. At about the same time, I was asked if I would become a fitness instructor. I went through the program while my kids were in high school. I did fitness in the morning and worked at the health food store in the afternoon. After thirty years at the health food store, the owner wanted to move on. I didn’t want to work for someone else, so that’s what spurred me to leave retail and go into fitness full time.
What are you doing now?
Now, I do fitness training and also co-run a studio, so I’m working about 45-50 hours a week. I work with an average of 5-6 clients a day during the week, and about 4-a-day on weekends. I do almost all Pilates because that is the demand. It’s great with me because I love it! I like to add value on the nutrition side, but these days that’s only when the client asks me.
What surprised you most about the transition?
There really weren’t any bumps. It was very smooth and natural. I like to be around people. In the health food store people came in for advice. Changing over to fitness all day, specifically Pilates, it is more about helping someone become stronger and healthier through physical activity. But ultimately, it’s about connecting with people and that’s what I’m focused on. I work longer hours now and have more responsibility and that’s fine with me.
How did you decide to pursue these opportunities?
I’m a twin and my brother was born with ten fingers. I was missing a specific gene, so I have thumbs on both hands, three stubs on one and no fingers on the other. All credit to my mother and father, I was led to believe I could do anything I wanted if I put my mind to it; I never saw myself as handicapped and I still don’t. When I was young it was challenging sometimes, like when you’re kids and they say to get in a circle and hold hands, people don’t want to hold your hand because it makes them uncomfortable. That stays with you. I still notice that a child will notice me, but that’s ok. It’s an awareness. Honestly, most of the time I forget, because I can do anything and that was always the case. I did sports, sewing, knitting. And played piano. I was very athletic. I played a lot of tennis with a shaved down handle that I could hold on to. Nothing was holding me back. I was only seven when my dad died, so my mom raised 4 kids basically by herself. I also raised 4 children. I say I am fortunate to have been born this way rather than going through a terrible accident. For me, it’s a blessing because I think it’s my foundation. It made me who I am. I live to show people that whatever limitation they think they have, they can get past it and be strong and healthy.
What advice would you give to someone in the same circumstances?
Education, in the expansive sense, is number one. It’s not about how you get educated. It can be listening to other people, to public radio or more formal schooling. To me, an educated person has knowledge about who they are and what they do. Also, being passionate and doing what you love to do. Just those two things and you can’t go wrong.
Also, don’t think about your exit, think about where you are. I’m not going to stop what I’m doing even if I cut back on hours. I still want to grow and learn in my profession. I get a lot of energy from each client that I work with. I never get dragged down—I gain energy when I’m working with a client. It’s a positive energy loop.
Given your vast experience both professionally and personally, do you have a top 5 or 10 list of things that you would tell people if they would like to follow in your footsteps or follow a similar path?
–Make other people happy. That’s the goal. Make them smile.
–Age is no barrier.
–There is no physical limitation.
–Be a mentor. When you help someone grow, you grow too.
–Honesty and integrity are the top values. Always.
–Dedication to what you do is hugely important.
–Surround yourself with educated, positive people.
–Give back what has been given to you. For example, when I have time someday I will work the phone banks for NPR. I learn so much from them, I want to help them get the support they deserve.
Jill Plant was born and raised in Vancouver, BC. She is the mother of four children and has lived in Northern California since the summer of 1973. She is the co-owner of Poised, Inc., a beloved trainer and an inspiration to her friends, family and clients. She listens to NPR. A lot.