My Story, part 4: Dancing from the Docks

So here we are, the final installment of my story so far! When I decided to blog about my journey, I wanted to be honest and open about all the ups and downs I’ve been through and part four is no exception. Growing Turn’d Up Fitness has pushed me to my absolute limit at times, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. This week, you can read all about why I gave up a life in Dubai and the challenges I faced back in the UK getting Turn’d Up Fitness off the ground. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. If you want to find out why, read on…

Building the brand began when my friend Leighton and I went to the studio and worked on choreography for Rhianna. We bounced off each other, the moves were flowing and we created a really cool routine which was easy to follow and made us feel like we were in a music video. We worked relentlessly to make fourteen routines that amounted to an hour-long-class. It was easy to follow and had all the music I loved and knew others would too. The class had a structure and cardio intervals, it was a workout which felt completely different to anything else, you didn’t feel like you were working out.

Once we’d completed creating the class I couldn’t wait to share the routines with my regular members. I set a date to launch my new workout, but I still didn’t have a name. I remember brainstorming with my sister what to call it; at the time the phrase Turn’d Up was trending. You’d hear it in lots of R&B and Hip-hop songs. When I was on holiday in Mexico all the Americans would say, ‘Hey girl, are you getting turn’d up tonight?’

Me in Mexico

I said to my sister, ‘What do you think of the name Turn’d Up Fitness?’ She was like, ‘Yes yes yes!’ That was it. We had a name. When I launched the first class, sixty women showed up. The atmosphere was electric. We had a DJ and a drummer. It was the coolest fitness class ever. Week by week, the class kept growing. Lots of people were talking about it on social media. I’d turn up for class and there would be queues for miles. We all looked forward to it. It became the highlight of our week. People were travelling from different cities to attend. It was the only thing in my life that was exciting me. In class I thought I was J-Lo, but outside of class reality would kick in. I was unhappy in my environment, bored of all of the other programmes. Sometimes I’d get home from work and just sit in my car with my head in my hands.

Classes at the gym

Soon other gyms were approaching me to put the class on. A friend of mine suggested I run it as a course. The penny dropped. I had twenty-years’ experience in dance, drama and fitness. There was nothing like it on the timetables of the gyms that I taught in. I loved creating it. I loved sharing it. It brought everyone together. It was unique. I had five-pence to my name at the time and thought this could be as big as Zumba! I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I knew with all of my heart that it was special and that I could make it happen.

I no longer wanted Turn’d Up Fitness to be a freestyle class. I’d researched what other world-class-brands had done and were doing and found all of the top brands were accredited, so that was my next step.

But I was having a tough time at home in that moment. My brother was living out in Dubai, so I decided I’d try living out there for a while too. Before leaving, I ran a training workshop so that the class could continue back home whilst I was away. I was sad about leaving everybody, but I was so excited for my new adventure. Gemma Hillberg was the first trainee and she took over my spot for me.

Dubai days

Dubai was exciting at first; the way the heat hit me as I stepped off the plane. I loved it so much I thought I would get a job there as a trainer and perhaps expand Turn’d Up Fitness there, making it a global brand. Then reality kicked in. I was working nine-hour shifts at a gym, six days a week, twenty classes a week. My salary was low: you had to work six months before you could get a pay rise. All I could afford was my apartment and my travel.

Sad in Dubai

Meanwhile, seeing Gemma’s classes buzzing and Gemma making a success of Turn’d Up back home had me thinking, ‘What am I doing? How many more Gemma’s can I help?’ I’d stopped being creative because I was too busy with my job. My dream of growing Turn’d Up was drifting away. I knew I had to return home.

All I could think about was what I’d left behind and I wanted to get Turn’d Up accredited. In Dubai my manager said I could do my Turn’d Up ‘just for fun’ once a week amongst all the other classes I was so fed up when I was at home. That wasn’t enough for me and so I did what I had to do: leave Dubai and keep building Turn’d Up back home.

When I got home it was winter; cold, dark and icy outside. Regret hit me instantly. I wanted to go back. All sorts of things were going through my head. I had no job and no money. I’d sold everything to go there and come back again. Self-sabotage, self-limiting beliefs and negative thoughts circled my head. Feelings of failure overwhelmed me and I lost the direction and determination which had brought me home.

I stayed in bed for three months crying. I had suicidal thoughts. I was living with an elephant in my throat constantly. Every time I went to the toilet two hours would go by without me noticing, because I’d sit with my head in my hands. All I could picture was blue skies; all the other problems back in Dubai seemed to float away.

I woke one day and told myself, “Enough”. I set up classes again. I knew there were two, or maybe three, people that I could rely on to attend.

Everybody had moved on. A friend of mine knew I was struggling. She was so positive to be around and it was her who introduced me to personal development. The first book I read was The Answer by John Assiraffi. It gripped me straight away. It talked a lot about the law of attraction and focusing on what you want, visualizations and saying powerful affirmations. At first it was hard saying the words: I am strong, I am powerful, I am unstoppable, when you feel like the weakest person on the planet.

I became a reading machine, book after book. I just couldn’t wait for the next read. One book which stuck in my mind was No Excuses by Brian Tracey; he talks about the importance of goal setting. Brian Tracey says you should write down your goal, everything you can think of to achieve your goal and work at it every day. So that’s what I did.

Reading books to pick myself up

I noticed that when I was working on my goal to run instructors training and help as many people as I could, I’d often get doubts. How am I going to help people when I can’t even help myself?

In spite of the doubts and fears I kept going. What I did notice, was that people were coming out from all over to help me. There were so many hurdles. It felt like I was on a hamster wheel. I had no financial backing. Luckily the people who were doing work for me were letting me pay in instalments, but even that used to cause survivor anxiety as there were times I had no clue where I was getting the money from.

5p to start my business!

Things were so bad I often had only £1 in my account. I thought I wouldn’t be able to refuel my car, until I found out that if you pay at the machine it only takes the first pound and then takes the rest of the money a few days later. This was a lifesaver. I would refill my car with £1 in my account and scrabble together the money from somewhere before I was fully charged three days later. I was really cutting it fine!

My inspiration came from desperation. I had to pick myself up and work hard. Giving up was not an option. I had to sacrifice a lot; no holidays, no shopping sprees, moving back in with my mum, so I could fund the business. I threw myself into choreography, promoting my classes. The more I ticked from my list, the stronger I became mentally, until finally everything on my list was complete. The very last part of my list getting CIMSPA accredited, it was the thing which brought me back from Dubai and now I finally had it!

I was ready to run instructors training for a CIMSPA accredited fitness programme with an instructors’ learning manual, slick website and sassy routines. The first course I ran was on my birthday. I’d never been so happy going work! To see the transformation of the girls, from the beginning to the end of the training is still unbelievable, no matter how many times I see it. The confidence they gain is something else. I felt like, ‘This is what I am supposed to be doing.’

Turn’d Up Fitness has grown a lot since I started. The sassier I go with routines, the more the girls love it. The crazier I go with the dancehall routines, they love them too! Let’s just say the girls “egg me on”. It makes women feel strong, powerful, sexy, builds their confidence in a safe supported environment. We just happen to burn a load of calories. I could wallpaper my whole house with testimonials. I never expected it to change women’s lives in the way that it has. There are all sorts of women who attend the training. Women who are passionate about Turn’d Up often have a desire to make a difference, which is why it is so successful today.

Transforming women’s lives on the daily

I teach them everything they need to know to become an outstanding instructor and we fly like birds in formation. I have had a lot of girls who have come to the training who aren’t as confident and business savvy, which is why we have a support system and a mentoring scheme. This helps them build up their classes and community. Turn’d Up Fitness has grown beyond my wildest dreams, with thousands of women dancing to it each week across the globe. I have a small team of employees who are fantastic at their job. I work with an amazing choreographer: Jalessa Lammy. Together we are on fire. We’ll never be short of routines.

My future plans are to keep providing slick sassy choreography. Keeping working on myself; making the business the best it can possibly be. Providing our girls with everything they need to build up their community and empower as many women as possible through Turn’d Up Fitness. I am on a mission to save and help as many women as I can.

If I could give advice to my younger self, it would be to train your brain. Be grateful. Read, listen to something positive every day. Visualise what you really want and go after it. Don’t waste time. Discipline yourself to become better each day. Never stop learning. If you’re doing something which doesn’t feel right and isn’t contributing to your wellbeing or your true goals in life: don’t do it. Your gut never lets you down.

Last but not least, never give your power over to men. At Turn’d Up you have a wealth of empowered and positive women to turn to for advice, or to reach out to and go for coffee. We all already have one big thing in common: we love to dance! Utilise the positive energy which emanates from your classmates, your instructors and the dance.

From the moment sixty women walked through the door, I knew Turn’d Up Fitness was special. I just had to share it. Lots of things have changed since then, but one thing that has stayed the same is the Turn’d Up Fitness feeling. It makes you feel on top of the world. I don’t care how big the business gets; I would never stop dancing. It is my ultimate feel good therapy.

My goal for Turn’d Up Fitness, is to become the most admired company in all of the world, by our consumers, our employees and our instructors. That last part is crucial. And the way to get instructors to admire our company and believe in it’s future as much as me, is to make routines that they are proud of.

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed learning more about how Turn’d Up Fitness came to be and how I overcame the obstacles which kept me from being my true self. I hope that by reading this you understand that if I can do it, so can you!

Have you tried Turn’d Up Fitness yet?

What are you waiting for? Don’t forget we offer a free 7 Day trial of our exclusive OnDemand service. This means you can dance and work-out with us whenever and wherever you like. There are hundreds of routines available for you to try out, whether you love R&B, Dancehall, hip-hop or pop. We cover all bases and there really is something for everyone.  Just enter the code 7DAY and let your journey with us begin, we can’t wait to dance with you!    

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