Omkar Dhamal tells us about his journey and how he became a group fitness instructor.
My job title
My primary job is related to the IT industry, whereas my passion and secondary job is being a group fitness instructor.
I’ve been in this job for
Just a little over 3 years.
How I became a fitness instructor
“Jaadya” is a Marathi word for someone who is obese/chubby. I lived all my teenage and early adult life listening to this word, and the humiliating remarks really hurt me.
Just after I completed my bachelor’s degree, I had six months of free time before starting at a university in Sydney. That’s when I decided to get into fitness. The gym I joined also conducted a Zumba fitness class and my curious mind wanted to try it, but I was afraid of what people would think of me.
It took a few weeks, but very soon I was dancing my heart out and enjoying every second! I began feeling motivated and confident in my own skin, and it’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.
One month after I started the Zumba classes, the instructor asked me, “Why don’t you become an instructor?” and it was an instant YES from my side. I immediately registered for a training course (though it wasn’t easy convincing my conservative parents.)
About a week after I completed the course, my instructor asked me if I would like to cover her class. I roughly remember there were 12 people and I was super nervous, sweating even before we started. But I think I did well, as I was asked to cover there for a few more weeks!
What the job entails
90 per cent of my job is preparation for what I will be teaching my students. You might’ve spotted me dancing and creating choreographies while waiting at traffic lights!
Over the years I undertook more training for different formats. Today, I teach Zumba, Strong Nation, Step Aerobics and Bollywood Dance Fitness classes, and I’m looking forward to adding many more very soon.
On a usual day of class, I walk into the studio with a big smile, greet everyone and catch up with them. This makes them feel more comfortable and know that we all are here to have fun, enjoy the music, and sweat! Most of my classes are one hour each, and in a typical Zumba class, we end up dancing to 16 songs. I know that number feels like a lot but once you are in the class, time just flies.
Challenges regarding my sexuality or Indian background at work
NO JUDGEMENTS! This is the tagline of the Fitness Club I work for. Neither the management nor my members have ever shown any discrimination for me being Indian or gay.
The situation would’ve been very different if I was in India. People in Australia are very considerate, I feel happy that I moved to this beautiful country.
I still remember one of my members used to get me homemade food every time she met me, and there have been instances where my members have tried to hook me up with their gay friends!
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What is hard about my job
I am doing something that I love, you will never see me complain about my classes.
There have been instances where members have left the class halfway, but the reason can be something personal, they might have some unexpected stuff come up. At the end of my classes, 30 or so people still remain, so I must be doing something right!
How COVID-19 has affected my work
I have been fortunate because I actually have added more classes post COVID. The 3 months of lockdown were difficult but since June 2020, it has gone back to normal. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best!
Positive aspects of work
The best part of my job are the happy vibes I get from the members, it just lifts my mood. Another positive aspect is that I stay fit while working.
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How has the job changed or impacted your life?
Working in the fitness industry has given me the confidence to be who I am. I love instructing so much that there is not a single day in a week when I’m not at the gym teaching classes.
Advice for others who want to pursue a career in fitness
Be kind, be polite and be humble. Regardless of your knowledge and training, you must be willing to learn from your members. You’ll learn more from hands-on practice from other people than textbooks and articles. Always remember, communication is the most important training tool you have.
Also, don’t have high expectations! Depending on the location and (whether it’s at a big box gym or community gym), building a committed client base will take time and effort.
And last but not the least – be yourself, never try to copy someone else’s style.
As told to Bageshri Savyasachi
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