HFPA Ambassador Chantel van der westhuizen on chasing her fitness dreams
Posted 15 August 2016
After having two children, Chantel van der Westhuizen decided to pursue a career in fitness so that she could work flexible hours and maintain her family responsibilities. She never imagined that her career would take off so quickly and become so successful. We chat to Chantel to find out how it all started and where her next venture lies as she continues chasing her dreams in the fitness industry.
Give us more insight into your current business?
Hi, I’m Chantel (laughs). I’m the owner of Pure Motion Pilates Studio in Johannesburg. I opened the studio in 2009 with the vision of becoming Southern Africa’s Pilates and fitness brand of choice. At Pure Motion we’re all about living life well. We offer one-on-one instruction and group classes for men and women of all ages, focusing on enhancing physical movement, muscle toning, flexibility and suppleness, injury prevention and rehabilitation. The studio is also home to other fitness professionals including dance instructors, a chiropractor and a physiotherapist so that we can offer our clients a holistic service.
How did you come up with the concept?
Initially I was attracted to the idea of teaching Pilates so that I could choose my own working hours to fit in with my family responsibilities. On top of that I had always enjoyed sports and exercise and had a special interest in Pilates, so taking it up as a job seemed to make sense.
I started working in a small studio, but soon realised that the space was limiting my potential to offer my clients more. I began to investigate opportunities at other studios, but couldn’t find anything suitable – I wanted to work in a big, beautiful studio that had everything to offer. By chance I came across a space in Morningside in which I could envision my dream of that big, beautiful studio. I knew then and there that I had to open my own studio if it was going to be everything I wanted. Before I knew it I was signing leases and talking to contractors!
What qualifications do you have and how have they helped build your career?
I have a qualification in graphic design which, although not fitness related, has really served me well in everything that I do. Other than that I am a certified Basi Pilates instructor with specialised certifications in training men and pregnant women, as well as in the use of various Pilates apperatus. I also completed a 2 year Exercise Science diploma at HFPA that really furthered my career in allowing me to work with special populations groups and in sports conditioning. Many of my potential Pilates clients are runners, cyclists and athletes so understanding their needs and how to help them in a safe way has been really beneficial to my practice. With my combined qualifications I can design creative programmes and offer my clients a holistic offering that keeps their training balanced and fun.
What were some of the major challenges you faced when setting up your business and how did you overcome them?
I had A LOT of challenges starting out. Number one, I had no money. But, with a clear vision in which I really believed, I was able to convince people to go into partnership with me and invest in my business. I took big risks and had sleepless nights, but it was all so exciting at the same time. I really believe that you can achieve whatever you put your mind to, it just depends on how badly you want something – and I wanted that studio badly!
I managed to pay back the loans over 2 years and to buy out the other partners. It was tough, but through it all I learned a lot about business and the value of providing outstanding service.
How do you drive business growth?
Most of my clients hear of me through word of mouth. That is why service excellence is so important. I am also very active on social media and make sure to be in the fitness spotlight as much as possible – taking part in industry events really helps you get out there, meet people and make great business connections.
Have you had any career highlights?
The USN Face of Fitness competition that I entered last year was definitely a career highlight. I made it to the top 6 finalists out of 240 entries! We had a really fun photoshoot and received a lot of exposure. I met some wonderful people in the industry and have kept in touch with all the girls.
Describe a typical day in your life?
I wake up before 4am every day and am either at the gym by 4:30am or teaching at the studio from 5am. I teach back-to-back until lunchtime and then, if I have a gap, train myself (I fit in training 6 times a week).
Then it’s fetching kids from school, watching extra murals and doing homework. Once that’s done, it’s on to making lunches and preparing for the next day, or going to gym if I didn’t manage to get in a morning workout. I generally go to bed at about 9:30pm.
Twice a week I work in the afternoon for about 1-2 hours, but feel that it is important on most days to give attention to my children and maintain a good family-work balance. I’ve made a choice not to work on weekends, although I do teach athletics to the kids at Rivonia Primary, just because I love doing it!
In terms of your own training, how do you strike the balance between Pilates and traditional gym?
When I do Pilates I stick to Pilates, but I do like to change things up. I’ve focused a lot on gym training in the last 2 years. I received a bit of slack from some of the Pilates die-hards who teased me about going to the ‘other side’, but I believe there is a great synergy between the two and that cross-training is important for overall conditioning and wellness.
How has your career evolved over the years?
A few years ago I developed adult gymnastics classes from Pilates. It’s an amazing fusion in which one can develop great strength and confidence. I learned how to do handstands, back-flips and somersaults in a relatively short time through the classes. Fusion classes are becoming really popular and they provide a great way for fitness trainers to diversify their careers. At the moment I am focusing on increasing my exercise science knowledge and enhancing my career through competing in bodybuilding competitions.
What are your future plans?
I would definitely like to focus on the educational side of fitness, working with HFPA to run workshops and courses to train Pilates instructors. I’d also love to do international work and incorporate my Exercise Science knowledge with Pilates, developing specialities like Pilates for Cyclists and Pilates for body building, etc.
What is your life/exercise/career philosophy?
Find what you love, because if you love what you do, it’ as if you never work a day in your life.