This past International Women’s Day canfitpro took time to celebrate its women both internally and externally. The women who are dedicated to making this industry a more inclusive, progressive, and vibrant one. The importance of celebrating this goes beyond just one day and expands to so many women out there. This August 11, 2022, marks canfitpro’s 8th annual Women Who Influence event, and we want to continue to highlight prominent women in the industry.
I caught up with Jennifer Lau, a Fitness Instructor well emersed in this industry. She breaks down her introduction into the sector, how being a woman has had an impact on her career and how she manages a busy life in the world of fitness.
Jennifer Lau Interview Questions:
Tell us about yourself and how you got involved in the fitness/health & wellness industry?
I’m a personal trainer and holistic nutritionist and co-owner for Fit Squad, a boutique training facility and education company located in downtown Toronto.
I was always an athlete growing up and found my way to coaching through swimming and volleyball.
I began my fitness career teaching bootcamps and transitioned to personal training shortly after.
During the first 5 years of my career in the industry, I owned a healthy meal delivery service that was created to support clients but eventually grew to coffee shops, corporate caterin. and people looking for convenient, delicious and high-quality wholefood options.
Tell us about your imitative “The_RealToronto” and why you decide to start it?
The Real Toronto was created to represent the “real women” in Toronto’s health and wellness industry.
It was a response to the lack of diversity that supported the city’s health and wellness events, campaigns, panels, and overall opportunities.
Through in-person events and networking, its mission was set to provide a platform for BIWOC industry professionals to connect, be supported and thrive.
Tell us about your initiative “F-Series” and why you decide to start it?
F-Series was created in partnership between Fit Squad and Hijabi Ballers.
Its focus is on functional strength, personalized attention, and athletic performance training for BIPOC females over the course of each four-week training series.
This ground-breaking athletic program aims to provide access to good quality fitness programming and the tools to achieving overall health and wellness to participants in a welcoming space for women and girls to learn, grow, challenge, and empower each other in a safe space.
Its mission is to push sport forward for BIPOC girls and women, especially for those facing social and economic barriers.
What barriers have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field? How did you overcome them?
One of the greatest barriers I faced as a woman of colour in this industry was being taken seriously as a professional.
Building my confidence by putting in the time to educate myself and continually learning and developing my skills as an entrepreneur and coach helped me overcome these barriers.
You are currently involved in multiple work initiatives such as Fit Squad, Master Trainer Canada, Save Health & Wellness Coalition. Tell us about a typical work week and what keeps you motivated.
As a small business owner, work is not a typical 9:00-5:00 p.m. day. During the week, I coach clients in the mornings until about lunchtime where I take a break to complete my own training.
Following that my afternoons and evenings are usually spent taking meetings and working on building the business and other training or community initiatives I am involved in.
As someone who is very prominent within the industry, what is one piece of advice you can give to women who are thinking about a career in the fitness/health & wellness sector?
In the new era of social media, it can be distracting and challenging to know where you “fit in”.
By understanding you don’t have to be everything will help you home in on your specialty, whether your focus is in strength, mobility, yoga, HIIT or body composition for example. This will help develop your personal brand and continued personal growth and development.
Finding a mentor, someone you look up to who is accomplished in the ways you value is a great learning tool and can help you navigate your career.
What do you think makes a good fitness Instructor and why?
Compassion and a deep commitment to improving the lives of others. You may love fitness for yourself but unless you are driven to help your client’s more than yourself, your career in fitness will be limited.
If you could change anything about this industry, what would it be and why?
To this day our industry, although large in the city and province, is not represented by large paid lobbyist like the hospitality industry . This results in the government making decisions that affect us without consultation with an organization that fairly represents us.
We saw the negative effects this took on our small businesses throughout the pandemic (e.g., lockdowns, lack of government aid specific for our workers, and mandates that did not make sense for our industry). We would benefit from having a seat at the decision making table rather than government officials who do not understand the impact of said decisions, act on our behalf.
Who inspires you?
I am so lucky to be surrounded by strong, driven and compassionate women both in leadership e.g., coaching) and client capacities who share the passion to improve the lives of our community and its members. From creating initiatives to bring diversity and equality in the workplace to running community health centers and being spokeswomen for those without a voice, I am grateful to call these women inspirations and friends.
What is your favoutite thing about this industry?
Although the pandemic hit our industry particularly hard, the small businesses in the health and wellness sector came together in such a strong way. Where we normally operated in our own silos, there was such a strong sense of coming together that competition became collaboration. Our small businesses joined forces to act as one unified voice and that sense of unity continues to follow coming out of the pandemic.