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Covent Garden People: Jon Giles, Operations Director, Jubilee Hall Trust

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Jon began his working life as a lifeguard and basketball coach while he was still at college. With his love of sport (particularly basketball and kick boxing) he began working as a fitness instructor and personal trainer before joining the Jubilee Hall as a Club Manager, 14 years on he is Operations Director of the Jubilee Hall Trust.

What made you decide on a career in the fitness sector?

As a lifeguard I always swam and kept fairly fit. I love all sports and play hockey and basketball competitively. After College it felt like a natural progression to do a degree in sports science before starting as a gym instructor for my first full time job.

Was there any one person who inspired you?

No one person really, but probably my parents for installing a hard work ethic and belief that I was capable of trying my hand at anything I put my mind to. I remember clearly working full time 7am-3pm as a gym instructor for one health club, 3.30pm–10.30pm for another health club! And then doing door work from 11pm-1am when I saw a job advert for a gym instructor for Cannons Group in the city paying just 14k! The next day I was on the train and that night I had a new job. I had no idea about living in central London but found a bedsit and moved two weeks later!

What qualities do you think are most important when working in a gym?

You have to love working with people. Like working in a West End show you must be committed to putting on a performance every minute of every day for every customer and that is a real challenge. They pay to escape from their own daily lives for a short period of time so don’t deserve to hear or see any issues you are dealing with. You must communicate in a way that is relevant to the customer and not your own default style. You must LOVE what you do and share that love in a way that motivates others.

What do you find is the most inspiring part of your work?

Originally it was the ability to change people’s lives significantly through personal training. Installing confidence, better health or just social confidence. Now it is the ability to affect the lives of 1000s of customers through my teams and the way we run our clubs. I’m also inspired by the wider fitness community and some of the incredible work our sector is doing in getting more people more active more often and being at the forefront of helping the government tackle the obesity crisis! If I had told my 20 year old self that I would say that one day I would never have believed it!

What is your favourite part of your work?

Constant variation, from working in Parliament at our Westminster Gym, engaging with some amazing powerful people to receiving awards for Employer of the Year 2015 and UK Active Outstanding Achievement Award. I love the constant human interaction.

What is the most difficult part of your work?

The constant human interaction is totally exhausting. I may have just come from a really tough staff interaction or from a particularly unhappy verbal customer, then I need to compartmentalise it, so my next customer only sees a happy positive employee. I have days where I may have listened to an older member describe losing her husband, to suspending a customer for aggressive behaviour, to celebrating a staff member’s birthday, all within the space of one hour.

What advice would you give to anyone else who wishes to follow in your footsteps?

It isn’t the most financially rewarding industry so be prepared to watch the pennies in the early days, but also be prepared to have all your friends tell you they wish they had your job. Be prepared for anyone you ever talk to about your job to ask you how to lose weight from the backs of their arms or tummy and then realise that you are someone who can actually make a real difference to another’s life. Think positively and create positive strategies to cope with the tough situations because when you do become successful in the fitness industry the rewards will be infinitely greater than just finance.

What is your proudest achievement?

I struggle to answer that as I still haven’t achieved my new goals. On the fitness front - being a 15 stone rugby guy who can do a ½ marathon in 1hr30mins. Academically - my degree or chartered director. On being a friend then being a godfather to three different families.

Describe your typical day from waking to sleep?

I wake at 05.30 when my wife gets up. Snooze until 7.00am and then catch the train to Charing Cross. COFFEE. I then head to one of my clubs either Southwark, Hampstead, Westminster or Covent Garden and from there my day could involve absolutely anything. And that’s why I love it!

What do you love about working in Covent Garden?

I have worked here for 16 years! It feels like home. I never get bored as there is a huge choice of bars, restaurants and things to do. You can feel like a local in the community (In and Around Covent Garden networking events are perfect for this) then at other times it is just as easy to be anonymous, let your hair down and get a hangover. I still love people’s reactions when I tell them I work here and that one of my clubs actually sits on the Piazza AND I just love the history of the place.

What’s your favourite place or thing to do in Covent Garden?

A decent pint or four at The Porterhouse. Good food and a home brew at Big Easy. Obviously a decent work-out at Jubilee Hall! Also a really nice shopping experience around Seven Dials. Even writing this I feel excited by what Covent Garden has to offer!

Jubilee Hall, The Piazza, ►Map E4

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