The first thing that I noticed after moving to Australia was the active lifestyle here. While I expected it to be a lot more towards scones and clotted cream, the reality was somewhat different. Yes, you do get the best hamburgers and caramel bars here but it all comes with a choice. Fitness is a lifestyle of the modern Australian society. Gyms have more alive than the icecream bars. The street fashion also revolves around the fitness athleisure wear. Hence the first place I wanted to register before my university was a gym. Also I wanted to go for a workout that would keep my body and mind at peace. Being an avid dance fan, Zumba was the first choice.
In my first Zumba class, I came across this highly energised and beaming with joy lady who was radiating energy from one part of the studio to the other. This was Simone Gurren’s first introduction to me. Despite struggling with the steps, Simone’s energy made sure that I enjoyed every bit of my workout. Her personal interaction with the class also surprised me. Later I discovered that Simone was basically an HR professional who switched her profession due to motherhood and then never looked back.
Here is a chit chat between Simone and me. Hope she inspires you as much as she inspires us in the class every day.
1.Tell us something about your early life, education and work . Did you grow up in Sydney?I was born and raised in Sydney. I have three younger Brothers. Both my parents worked hard to support our Family while I was growing up. We were not a wealthy Family, but my Parents (particularly my Father) believed in the importance of a good education,so I was educated in Private Catholic Schools to Grade 12. Whilst in High School, I worked in the Office at a Coles Supermarket. After High School, I studied Hospitality Management but did not end up pursuing it as a career . After six years at Coles ,I got a job in a Bank and stayed there for another 6 years.My Dad taught me the importance of good work ethic so from a young age . I worked hard, was punctual, reliable and always willing to learn new skills and take on extra work. I think this has served me well into adulthood.I traveled in Europe for a while in my early 20s before returning to Australia where I got married and obtained a Corporate HR Position. I held this position for 12 years. During that 12 years I had my two Children. Soon I began to realise that the Corporate Job was not conducive to Family Life. With the support of my Husband I resigned. I had no idea what I was going to do next.
2. What made you go for a career shift? Tell us something about that.Having a busy and demanding office job meant a lot of time away from my children. I started to think ‘why do I have children if I never see them and strangers are raising them?’ It was important for me to be there for my kids during their formative years. I also remembered my parents working really hard but never being really happy or passionate about their jobs.After resigning I stayed home for a few months which drove me crazy. I knew I needed to work.But what could I do that would provide the balance I was looking for? I decided that to help me create my next chapter I would have a ‘yes’ year. This meant that I would open myself up to any and every opportunity that came my way. It was pretty scary, but kind of fun too.By coincidence I ran into an old friend whom I had not seen in a very very long time. She was the owner/director of a Children’s Physical Education Businessand……she was looking for coaches. PERFECT!Yes I will do it. I had absolutely no experience, no qualification and no relevant skills but “yes I’d love the job”. I have been working there almost 6 years and absolutely love every minute.
3. Were you always inclined towards fitness and sports?I always played sports as a child growing up, right up until my senior years in high school, but it was more a social thing. I didn’t overly enjoy sport. I did take an interest in Martial Arts and obtained my black belt in Tae Kwan Do. Again it was more about the discipline and self defense rather than keeping fit.I wasn’t until my second child when I decided I wanted to get my body back, have some quality ‘me’ time and be strong, fit & healthy. This was (and still is) important to me because I want to be a good role model for my kids …….and I need to keep up with them in their active lives. In 2010 when my second child was 4 months old I joined the gym, and started running. Believe me it was a slow start to running, but I really enjoyed that time to myself.In 2014 I ran the Sydney marathon at the age of 40. It is NEVER too late. I finally realised that being fit felt good. I mean REALLY good.
4. Tell us something about Zumba. How important it is for mind and body?I discovered Zumba when I joined the gym after my second child. The first time I saw it I knew I needed to be involved. Zumba is a dance fitness choreographed to, mostly, Latin American music, incorporating a variety of rhythms.Zumba is my passion. Every class for one hour you forget all your worries. You get a full body work out whilst having a fantastic time. Dancing releases endorphins which are your body’e ‘feel good’ chemical. I started doing Zumba as a participant in 2010. In 2015 I became an instructor and it has literally changed my life. It not only keeps me happy and fit, it has introduced me to an amazing community of fellow Zumba lovers. The beauty of Zumba is that anyone and everyone can do it. It doesn’t matter how old you re, how much you weigh, where you were born, how much money you have or what religion. It is for everyone, men and women alike.
5. How important is food in terms of physical fitness? There is a general notion that if you burn in gym you can eat EVERYTHING from pastries to cakes. Is it true?Diet is a very important part of your health and fitness goals. The type of foods you eat will determine how successful you are at achieving your goals. I maintain a balanced diet ensuring I eat proteins, grains, greens and good fats. I try to stay away from sugar and processed foods. However, I do love a good Hamburger and chocolate bar once in a while. I don’t deprive myself of ‘naughty’ food, but I don’t let myself get into the mindset that I can eat these foods after every workout. I reward my body with fresh and tasty wholesome food. Once a week I do indulge in something I truly enjoy but is not necessarily classified as ‘healthy’.
6. Any diet myths that you would like to ward off?I believe all things in moderation. I’m not a nutritionist or dietitian but I know that everybody is different and your diet can affect your body and mind in various ways. For me, I don’t deprive myself of anything. If I feel like a chocolate biscuit, I will have one, not a whole packet though. If I eat something that makes me feel uneasy, unhappy or lethargic I try to stay away from that food in the future. Listen to your body. No one knows it better than you.
7. Your mind and body health tips for women above 30 in particular please.Be kind to yourself. Love yourself. Wake up and start your day with a smile. It may sound silly but when you smile you can’t help but have a positive thought.Stay active by finding an activity you enjoy. It is a lot easier to commit to a fitness schedule if you enjoy it. Take time to be mindful each day. Try a guided meditation or just spend 10-15 minutes each day alone to focus on your breathing and go over your body noticing any changes or areas that may need attention.I recommend doing some weight training. Not to be a body builder, but to strengthen your bones. It is important as we (particularly women) get older to maintain bone strength.
8. Would you like to leave a message for women across the globe who are reading you right now?You are strong and wonderful and here for a reason. Follow your dreams. Only you can determine your future. It is never too late for change. Surround yourself with people who ‘drag you up’. Support each other and don’t be afraid to try. ‘The one who falls and gets up is so much stronger than the one who never fell.’
With this, we bid farewell. Keep shining Simone! This world needs more positive people like you.