FILEX Presenter Profile:
Rebecca Small, International Presenter
Group Exercise, Mind Body & Aqua Network caught up with Rebecca Small to get a snapshot of what’s going on in this Aussie Group Ex legend’s life now that she has returned to our shores ahead of FILEX 2012.
Where do you live and work?
I’ve just moved home to Sydney after living in Europe for 14 years. Big changes this year!
What is your main role in the fitness industry?
For most of my career, my main role has been international presenting. This includes presenting specialist topics, educating fitness trainers, and creating new methods of teaching and choreography for their classes. I have also been heavily involved in writing education courses and workshops.
How did you get into this industry and how did you arrive at where you are today in your career?
I joined a gym when I was 15 and attended classes almost every day. At some point during this period I thought that I could possibly lead a class, so at 18, right after I finished my HSC, I completed the Network Fitness Leader Course with the legendary instructor trainer Lexie Williams. I achieved a lot of success in the fitness industry here in Australia, however I knew that I’d have to move overseas if I wanted my career to continue to grow. So in 1997 I left Australia to work for a German company on a 6-month contract. I packed one suitcase and a boyfriend (who is now my lovely husband, Steve Schiemer) and we both stayed for eight years, and our careers absolutely boomed.
What skills are needed in your role?
To be successful at international presenting you need a lot of skills – it’s not just about delivering a nice class. Firstly, you need to be internally motivated and driven to get the jobs – they don’t fall in your lap just because you’re a good instructor. You also need to be meticulously organised because your schedule can get full and sometimes be difficult to manage. Professionalism plays a big role here – you can’t call in sick to an event; they are relying on you, so you always have to be professional, reliable and not miss any events unless you absolutely have to.
Teaching people from different cultures requires many different ways of teaching. Being able to adapt your communication methods, music, choreography and teaching style to your audience is the key to being successful. I quickly learned that verbal communication is the least effective weapon I had to communicate. I learnt to teach in Italian and German and can count and use basic terms in several different languages. My pronunciation sounds terrible, I'm sure, but they appreciate the effort and will follow you much better if you speak in their language and use their terms. Lastly, you need to be confident, engaging, motivating, inspiring and full of energy – all the time!
What are the best and worst aspects of your job?
I used to say the best part of my job was the travelling and meeting people from different cultures. When you go to all these countries, your hosts really want you to experience their culture. It’s made me more open minded and empathetic to how the rest of the world lives. While I still love the ‘people’ aspect of the job, after 14 years of almost non-stop travel and endless hotel rooms, I would now say that the travelling is the worst aspect. I want to be at home with my hubby and two dogs these days.
Another difficult aspect is always being switched ‘on’. If you are working for a convention organiser outside of your country of origin there is a certain expectation that you will be available 24 hrs a day (for other activities like interviews, photoshoots, dinner events, excursions etc). You can’t be tired, say no, or have a bad day – which can get tough sometimes. Lastly, another great aspect of this job is being at the forefront of all the new trends, technology and methods that hit the fitness industry.
What has been your greatest career challenge to date?
In 2009 I was having problems with my knee which came to a peak during a film shoot for Network in October of that year. Something seemed to snap in my knee during filming. Two weeks later, after most of the swelling had gone down, I strapped my knee as tight as possible and struggled through the remainder of the shoot. Three weeks later I had microfracture knee surgery in the UK and had to cancel a series of conventions for 2010.
And your greatest highlight?
Occasionally in this job you can really touch people’s hearts by helping them achieve something they never thought they could. Some people get really down on themselves because they don’t think they can teach group fitness, they feel stupid and struggle to understand what presenters are teaching them at conventions. Sometimes I am able to connect with these students using my methodologies and teaching structures and they have a Eureka! moment where they finally understand how to teach. There are always tears (of joy) on both sides and this is the exact moment where I think ‘This is what it’s all about’. To be able to change someone’s life (even if it’s just a small part of their life) is very rewarding.
What’s your main focus now, and what are your goals for the future?
My main focus now is to find a balance between international presenting, running my business in the UK, exploring some business opportunities here in Australia and buying a house as close to the beach as possible! In the future I hope to end my international presenting career on a high and focus on more business ventures closer to home. I’d also like to breed my two Silver Labradors that we have brought back from the UK!
Who has inspired you in your fitness industry career, and why?
Firstly, Lexie Williams: she was my teacher and a trailblazer in the early days of the fitness industry. She was meticulous, professional and incredibly inventive with all her concepts and ideas.
Secondly, Marcus Irwin: he helped me understand what it takes to develop a successful international presenting career. He was a great mentor and supporter of my craft.
What are you most looking forward to about presenting at FILEX 2012?
Presenting again! It’s been three years since I was there. I can’t wait to teach and also can’t wait to reconnect with my colleagues. There are also a few plenary sessions that I’m teaching with my colleagues which I am very excited about.
And finally – who would be on your ultimate dinner party guest list, and why?
All my friends, because they are interesting and fantastic people. My husband, because the evening would not be complete without him. Steve Jobs, because he was an incredible entrepreneur who led an extraordinary life. Julius Caesar – the leader of the incredible Roman Empire – wow! Jesus, so he can unravel the mystery of whether there is a God! Eva Braun (Adolf Hitler’s wife), to try and understand the mindset of someone who could slaughter another human race. Amy Winehouse, because I love her music and find people of extremes (talent and self-abuse) fascinating. Brandon Flowers (lead singer of The Killers) because he’s on my ‘list’! And finally, Eva Mendes, because she’s on my hubby’s ‘list’!
Take the opportunity to benefit from Rebecca’s incredible wealth of instructing experience when she makes her return to FILEX in April. Choose from:
- Super step ● A1R
- Aero classic! ● B2S
- S-Express: step into the future ● B5G
- Functional bodyweight Group X ● C1R
- Dance Mash Up! ● C3E
For more information on Rebecca’s sessions see pages 38, 40 & 41 of the printed FILEX brochure, or check out the fully interactive site at www.filex.com.au where you can also register for the convention.