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Elmira woman finds change is for the better

Getting out of her comfort zone, Pam Esbaugh made the jump from factory worker to personal trainer. [Scott Barber / The Observer]

Five years  ago, Pam Esbaugh was stuck in a rut. She had a stable job, a loving husband and a baby boy on the way, but she didn’t feel fulfilled.

Getting out of her comfort zone, Pam Esbaugh made the jump from factory worker to personal trainer.[Scott Barber / The Observer]
Getting out of her comfort zone, Pam Esbaugh made the jump from factory worker to personal trainer. [Scott Barber / The Observer]
“Before my son was born I was a factory worker for about seven years,” Esbaugh said. “The money was great, but I just wasn’t happy. I was very low energy and when I looked in the mirror I didn’t like what I saw. I was just going day to day, working for the weekend.”

Working on the line at an automotive plant, life became very repetitive and unsatisfying; her self-esteem was low.

So Esbaugh told her husband she needed to make a drastic change.

“I went on maternity leave, and after that I was at the point where I just didn’t want to go back. It was really hard, going from being pregnant and working those swing shifts and hours and I didn’t know how I could go back with a young child. My family comes first and I realized that I needed to take care of myself first if I’m going to take care of my son.”

A member at Pinacle Health and Fitness in Elmira, Esbaugh overheard an instructor talking about a job opening. While she had never considered fitness training as a possible career before, the idea piqued her interest.

“Something just came over me where I felt like life was just too short and so what if I fail, I’m going to go for it,” she said.

The gym manager told her about the personal training course run by CanFit Pro, a three-day crash course designed to help aspiring trainers learn the basics.

“It was very overwhelming,” she said of the course held at the University of Guelph. “It was three days of all this information all at once and I felt like “Oh my gosh, how am I going to do this?’ But I soon learned that it’s not about what you learn through the books, it’s about your experiences.”

She was able to gain that practical knowledge by working her way up from the front desk at the gym where she learned from co-workers and members who she says are “like a family.”

Three years later, Esbaugh is able to help improve people both mentally and physically as a personal trainer.

“I get to help change people’s lives,” she said with a smile. “I take them through almost all of the experiences that I’ve gone through, good and bad, and everything I’ve learned to use it as a tool to help change them. That can be exercise, nutrition, stress relieving exercises, I take a very holistic lifestyle approach here. I believe that if someone comes in and is not feeling like their best, there are so many different aspects to look at. Are you eating right? Are you sleeping well? What are your stress levels like?”

Some of her favourite healthy living strategies don’t even require the dumbbells or treadmills of the gym, such as yoga, meditation and plant oils. Giving your self time each week to relax and reflect is critical for stress relief she explained.

Setting personal goals is also important, as she demonstrated last fall by taking part in the K-W Oktoberfest Natural Classic fitness competition.

“I competed in the figure category and took home second place,” she said. “In figure they are looking for very lean, muscle definition, posture and things like that.”

It took 12 weeks of rigorous training and dieting to shape her body for the contest, she said.

“I hired a coach because I’m the type of person where if I’m going to do something I’m going to do it right. … She made me up a meal plan where I was basically eating the same thing (everyday) and weighing my food. So I was preparing all of my meals at the same time and it was a lot of work. I was eating six small meals a day, like oatmeal, chicken, lean meats, white fish, quinoa, things that are very high in protein.”

By the end, she was physically and mentally exhausted. She learned to listen to her body and how to balance her nutritional and fitness needs. It was a very rewarding experience.

“It was literally only like five minutes that I was up on stage. They make you do a couple turns and a couple poses. … It was an amazing indescribable high. In that moment all of the work I put in was worth it. Going into it I wasn’t doing it just for myself, I wanted to show the people at Pinacle and anyone else in my life that if you really put your mind to something and want it bad enough you can do it.”

Now, Esbaugh loves going into work everyday, and says just walking through the door puts “an immediate smile” on her face.

“I changed as a person,” she said. “I started having more energy and I started liking what I was seeing in the mirror. Today I can say that I am truly happy and that I’ve found something that I love to do. I love helping people.”

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