We love to hear how our personal training students progress after studying with us. So, we were delighted to catch up with Focus Training student, Karen Reece-Buck, who has a truly fitspirational story to tell.
On leaving school, Karen became an auxiliary nurse, gaining experience within social services and also as a receptionist at a firm of solicitors. In 2004, with her business partner Stephen Reece-Buck, they founded a dance and fitness studio called Energize Dance and Fitness based in a mill in Burnley.
Two years ago, the mill was demolished and the business moved to its new home at Burnley campus.
Alongside her work at the studio Karen has always dedicated any spare time that she had to continuing her self-development, amassing no less than 7 diplomas and over 40 qualifications since leaving school. From business and finance to photography, via night school, college, and distance learning, Karen is a self-confessed learning addict.
Seven years ago however, events took a dramatic turn when during a routine shoulder operation, a nerve block hit the phrenic nerve in Karen’s neck, leaving her with a condition called phrenic nerve palsy. This affected her movement down one side, her lungs and also her breathing. Karen now has a registered disability although it’s difficult to imagine anything that could hold this woman back.
“Doctors warned that I might be confined to a wheelchair after my operation went wrong.”
After time in intensive care Karen was told that she might be a wheelchair user for life. She went on to defy the doctors but her lengthy period of immobility caused her to gain a significant amount of weight.
“I had always carried some weight but it escalated dramatically and when I reached size 22 I knew it had now become a serious issue. In a way this was a turning point because I decided that I needed to know more about nutrition. I found a course I was interested in with Focus Training but they explained that I needed to gain a Level 2 Fitness Instructor qualification first. So I did. That was in 2014 and since then I’ve completed my Personal Training Diploma including Nutritional Advisor qualification, GP Exercise Referral Specialist Certificate, Diabetes and Obesity Specialist and now my final Low Back Pain Specialist qualification. And, during this time I am delighted to have lost 5 stone, a full 6 dress sizes!”
“It has truly been amazing. I can honestly say that I hated school but with the right support, and Focus tutors have been absolutely brilliant, I have flourished. I have done both part time and full time courses, I completed my Personal Training Diploma in just 4 weeks on a full time course.”
“My message now is that anyone can do this. There are no limitations. I have the knowledge and skills to teach, other people can do that too if they really want to. My role is to inspire and motivate my clients and I draw on my own personal story to do that.”
She has successfully applied for three Advanced Learning Loans to help her fund her training and would recommend that others check their eligibility for this Government funded scheme. Most people aged 19 years or over and living in England are likely to be eligible.
Today Karen thrives on giving that same encouragement and support to her own personal training clients:
“I want people to feel as good about themselves as I do about myself. I have clients who have lost a lot of weight and are now living a much healthier lifestyle. I hope to help people with anxiety, depression and other conditions to take control of their lives and feel much healthier. I don’t go around running half marathons or jumping around in the gym, I can’t physically do that, but I can still achieve results by using my knowledge and inspiring people.”
At 53 years old, she’s developing her own successful personal training business. Her personal journey through debilitating illness, a battle with weight and her outstanding commitment to lifelong learning has become a powerful asset in inspiring her clients as a Personal Trainer.
“This is a Level 4 course so yes it’s challenging but it’s also fun. Most of my fellow students are younger than me and are probably much more into fitness themselves but my role is to train other people and that’s a completely different skill to training yourself.”
What next for Karen? Well, she intends to keep on learning and as long as Focus Training has more courses lined up, she’ll keep on coming back for more.