HOW IT ALL STARTED…
I must have been about 7 years old when I first said, “Mummy, I want to be a dance teacher”. Little did I know back then that more than twenty years of my life would indeed be spent teaching dance!
My mum herself taught Ballroom & Latin American dance (long before the days of “Strictly”, in the days when it was decidedly NOT cool, so I kept fairly quiet about it!) From the age of about 8, I spent my afternoons alternating between the school mum taught in and another school further down the road, where I did the more ‘classic’ little-girl-dance-classes: ballet, modern & tap. There is no doubt that this was a huge part of my life, but I can honestly say I have no idea where this burning desire to teach dance initially came from. What I do know is that I started actually teaching at the age of 11 (initially helping out with classes before graduating on to teaching my own classes as a teenager), & from day one I absolutely loved it.
Initially, the reality of “teaching” was dragging myself to the local (freezing cold) church hall early every Saturday morning to sweep up, do the dishes and make endless cups of (quite revolting) instant coffee for all the other teachers, just so that I could get that longed-for half hour of actually teaching just before lunch. As time went on my own teachers could see my absolute passion for this, and luckily for me they encouraged me and gave me more and more opportunities to ‘practice’ on my fellow students.
MY PASSION FOR TEACHING
To this day, I love the challenge of finding different ways to make a class full of (vastly different) students understand a concept, whatever that concept may be. Analysing needs, then creating the right “step-by-step” process to create desired results really makes me tick! In the early days it would have been simply “how to point your toes better”. As the years went by and I trained professionally, my challenges progressed to things like “how to stay on axis for a triple pirouette”, and nowadays it’s more likely to be how to help someone to truly achieve core stability, or to genuinely understand the Stress Response and all it encompasses.
Although at first glance these concepts may seem totally unconnected, believe it or not there is a common thread and a logical progression! My first passion with teaching was looking at the human body and the science of movement. From creating “on axis” balance in classical ballet, to teaching someone how to fall off balance in contemporary dance, it all came back to how the human anatomy works: how the physics of it all comes together to create balance, line and harmony. I was fascinated by this, thirsty to find ways to help others to understand it, and thrilled to see their joy when they started to achieve and get results: it gave me SUCH a buzz. This wasn’t really surprising: I was SO passionate about dance, so the opportunity to pass on this love I had felt like a logical next step.
It was when I opened my own Dance School in Greece in 2005 that I started to realise that my love of teaching didn’t stop at dance. I began offering Pilates based classes to local mums, and here began a new challenge: teaching non-trained bodies to achieve postural precision, balance and alignment was a totally different experience: to my surprise, I loved it!
Only years later did I realise what a turning point this was…
In 2012 when I returned to the UK my life changed massively in many ways. One of the changes was my turning away from dance teaching (which by nature demands constant after school hours as its timetable). As a single mum, had I done this I would never have seen my kids before bedtime, so it just wasn’t an option. Whilst I was pondering on “what on earth do I do now?” someone suggested becoming a Personal Trainer. To be perfectly honest, I hated the idea! As a dancer I NEVER went to the gym, choosing instead to supplement my training through home workouts or Pilates classes: I didn’t even know what half the machines in the gym were for!! The truth of the matter was though that I didn’t know WHAT to do next, and the more I looked into the idea of training as a PT, the more I realised it didn’t have to be gym-based, and it actually wasn’t a million miles away from what I knew and loved: TEACHING and improving understanding of the workings of the HUMAN BODY.
Once I started working as a PT and Nutritional Advisor, I (naturally) assumed my day-to-day would consist of talking to people about exercise and nutrition. In fact though, as I took on more and more clients I realised that a HUGE part of my time involved talking to people about stress management: sadly, such is the reality of the world we live in…
As it turned out, this was the missing piece of my jigsaw, and the inspiration for my shifting gears slightly and creating Shaw Lifestyle: helping people utilise exercise, nutrition AND stress management to create holistic lifestyle changes, and to balance physical and mental health.
TRULY COMPLETING THE PUZZLE
In retrospect, it was also the missing piece in terms of which part of “me” was still absent from my work: the “listening” part, the compassionate part, the part that added to the role of “teacher” and made things a little more “real life”…
Like many, I think I discovered the real “me” somewhere between high school and college. In the early days of high school in a sea of unfamiliar faces I struggled to make friends – or indeed to know HOW to make friends. As luck (or fate?) would have it, I did become friendly with one girl who had rather a lot of “stuff” going on in her home life, and seemed to find me easy to talk to. The more I sat and listened, the more I understood that she had a real need to “unload”, and this was the way in which a lovely friendship began. To cut a long story short, it was also the beginning of many other friendships, as more and more people seemed to realise I was quite a good listener, so would come and tell me their teenage woes. Eventually I became known as “Dear Liz”: everyone’s fave school Agony Aunt!
This started in school days, continued into my college days, and truly became a part of me. I DO like to listen, and for whatever reason, it seems that people find me easy to talk to. Put this together with my (sometimes obsessive!) love for analysing things, and you see how the other string to my bow has developed. My first passion was teaching, but I also love to listen, I love to analyse, and I love to help people. Essentially these are the factors which form the basis of Shaw Lifestyle, where I listen to people’s needs, analyse what strategies might best help them, create step-by-step programmes to guide them…then hold their hand to get them there!
One of the loveliest testimonials I have had over the years said, quite simply:
“I think the main difference between Liz and other personal trainers is that Liz listens”
To those who are simply looking to build a six-pack this may seem less important (though I would argue that communication is key at ANY level of coaching), but for those who are looking to make genuine lifestyle changes I absolutely believe that open ears and true communication are vital, to create trust, and to encourage accountability. My latest challenge has been to recreate these same qualities whilst teaching online – a whole new challenge, but one I am absolutely loving, and I can’t wait to share the results with you all very soon!