by Michelle Jenck, Adventist Health Tillamook Director of Community Well-Being
As the saying goes, if you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life. Sarah Patterson did not set out to have the career she has fallen in love with but she is grateful for it every day. Her journey began when she enrolled as a student at TBCC and learned she had to take PE classes to meet the degree requirements. Through a local partnership, she was able to take those classes at the Tillamook YMCA. As Sarah recalls, “I signed up for the Step & Sculpt class. It was really hard. I weighed 250 pounds and I couldn’t even get through the first 10 minutes of class without having to stop and take a break.” Committed to her education goals, Sarah stuck it out and attended the class three days a week for the entire term despite the challenge.
While her initial motivation was to complete her degree requirements, the changes she began to notice in herself added more motivation to keep going. “Within a month I saw weight loss, body changes, I felt stronger. It felt good to move.” With newfound confidence and skills, Sarah joined other classes, trying everything from Boot Camp to Zumba.
After a year of taking fitness classes, one of the instructors approached Sarah about subbing, noting how quickly Sarah picked up the movement patterns. “I was nervous but I agreed to do it,” she says and, after subbing one class, Sarah had that ‘aha’ moment, thinking, “This is what I want to do.” After subbing for the Zumba class over the summer, Sarah took the training to become a certified Zumba instructor. Her enthusiasm and ability to learn quickly caught the attention of the Group Fitness Coordinator who asked her to pick up additional certifications.
Every step of the way, Sarah felt like she was venturing outside of her comfort zone but she kept an open mind and pursued each new training relying on the trust others had placed in her. “It was very exciting. Before I knew it, I was teaching 10 classes a week.” She continues, “Every day I drive to work and can’t believe this is my life. I just feel so shocked and grateful that this is my job.”
At first, fitness was a side gig for Sarah as she continued her work as a longtime waitress. She began looking for ways to get more hours at the Y to make it a full-time career. It was a risk, leaving steady work in the restaurant industry but she felt she had to make that leap and began working in childcare at the Y. Having lost 75 pounds by this point, Sarah found that she had the energy and passion to get the kids moving and having fun. “I love my job working with kids because it relates so much to my role as a fitness instructor,” she says. During the covid pandemic, while the Y was offering a hybrid learning environment, Sarah was able to use her skills to guide student PE sessions, noting that it was great to see kids learning about how physical activity changes their bodies.
Passionate and enthusiastic, Sarah plans to keep learning and growing into her new career. She is looking into becoming a personal trainer and bringing Zumba back to the college as a PE credit class. She loves teaching and hopes to have the same impact others had on her. “I hear from students all the time about how these classes are changing their lives,” she says. And, for those who are nervous about trying something new, Sarah has important advice based on her own journey, “Not everyone starts out as someone who has done sports their whole life or is super fit.” Even though Sarah has lost 75 pounds, she is quick to point out that this is more about how we feel than how we look. This transformation has translated to other areas of her life. Overall, Sarah says she is a much happier person, a better partner and mom to her son. When asked what advice she would give to others, Sarah encourages others to not be afraid to try something new. “Listen to that inner voice, be willing to step out of your comfort zone and see where it takes you.”
For more local health and wellness information, follow Tillamook County Wellness on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.