Making your mark is all about impact: impacting people, impacting the world, and achieving big accomplishments while you’re at it. To find out how people just like you are making their mark, we’ve interviewed individuals with stories to tell and advice to share. Read on to be inspired, and check back often for more stories that are sure to get you motivated.

Our first Make Your Mark story comes from Suzi of Confessions of a Fitness Instructor. Suzi is a certified CanFitPro Fitness Instructor Specialist, CALA Group Aquafitness Leader, and a certified CCAA Seniors Fitness Instructor. As if that weren’t enough, she’s also a licensed Hip Hop Hustle, Zumba, Zumba Gold, Zumbatomic, Zumba Toning, and Aqua Zumba instructor! Ten years ago, Suzi was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a condition that causes chronic bodily pain. Check out how Suzi doesn’t let that stop her!

Make Your Mark: Interview with Suzi of Confessions of a Fitness Instructor

Could you give a brief introduction for our readers about you, your family, your interests, and your hobbies?

Suzi: My name is Suzi, and I am a fitness instructor living in Nova Scotia, Canada. I’m married and have two cats (and can be considered a crazy cat lady). I don’t have any kids, but I do have two nephews and one niece, who I think are pretty awesome! I love watching movies, cooking and baking (though I hate doing dishes), and sleeping. As someone who has fibromyalgia, I’m all about sleeping!

Being a fitness instructor is my job, but I’d also call it a hobby of sorts. I love helping others and seeing the changes that happen in them from week to week. It’s really nice to know I’m making a positive difference in the life of someone else. Of course, I also enjoy writing my blog, but my big fat puffy dream is to write fiction.

What is the best advice you’ve received in life? Anything encouraging you’d like to share with others?

Suzi: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” My own advice is: “Focus on what really matters.” When something bad or upsetting happens, I try to ask myself, “In five years’ time, is this something that will matter?” If the answer is “no,” I really try to let it go. If the answer is “yes,” I try to deal with it and move on.

Explain one of your biggest accomplishments/fears as an active fitness guru and instructor that you have triumphed over. How did you make your mark?

Suzi: I think a general fear for fitness instructors is that nobody will come to their classes — especially when you are on your own and are totally dependent on participants to make your income. I think the only way to ensure you have participants is to pay your dues. You teach free classes if you have to, teach for other people/gyms, and work your tail off. I taught classes for others for years before going out on my own. Once you get your name out there, it’s out there, but new instructors often make the mistake of thinking that all they need to do is put up a sign and the people will come. It takes a long time to build a good client base.

For me, I would say I made my mark when Zumba first came to our area. I had been teaching for a few years (and had a client base), but when Zumba arrived, I was one of the first in our area to have their license, and I started teaching a lot of Zumba classes. I knew I had a small window of opportunity to make my name the name people thought of when it came to Zumba in my area, and I hit it hard. Three years later, Zumba is still popular, but I feel like I can now cut back on how many Zumba classes I’m teaching and start to re-offer some other class formats that have been missing for the last couple years.

How did you become passionate about fitness, and where do you find the courage/energy/motivation to continually work out and make fitness a constant in your life?

Suzi: I guess the short answer is…I don’t have a choice. I made fitness my job, and if I don’t work I don’t get paid. That is pretty enticing motivation to keep going, and it’s really a big part of the reason I made this my job. I find that exercise (the right kind and the right amount) really help my fibromyalgia, but when I have a bad day, it would be easy to say “forget it” if I were just participating in a class. When you’re teaching it, you have to show up! I made a promise to myself when I started this journey that unless I couldn’t physically stand, I wouldn’t cancel classes due to my illness — and I haven’t. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes it’s a bad thing, but in the end, I have to do what I have to do to earn a living.

What is your next goal, and what are you currently doing to achieve it? When do you plan on conquering it?

Suzi: Right now I have two goals. One is to run my first half-marathon in October as part of a team in training, and the second is to finish uninjured! I’m doing a lot of training over the summer (both running and cross-training with my classes and yoga), so hopefully I will stay strong and crush that goal!

On your blog, you say, “Because being fit isn’t about being perfect.” Can you explain what you mean?

Suzi: When I first became a fitness instructor, I noticed people tried to whisper about “bad” foods when I was nearby and would only really talk about healthy foods. It was like they thought I never ate any French fries! Then, when I discovered the blogging world, I noticed that too frequently bloggers only showed the “good” and never the bad. I wanted to show a different point of view, so I started my blog to show people that you can be fit and healthy and occasionally eat a cupcake or fries. Life isn’t one extreme or the other, and I wanted to show that. Sure, I drink a lot of green juice and eat nuts and seeds. But I also eat ice cream sundaes and pizza. It’s all about balance.

Your blog is called “Confessions of a Fitness Instructor.” Any fun or silly confessions you want to make?

Suzi: I can’t really whistle while blowing air out of my mouth, only in. It’s weird.

We are a sunglass store, and you may find yourself out for a nice jog. Are there any sunglasses that you would suggest from Sunglass Warehouse that would be perfect for a workout?

Suzi: I’m really loving these sports sunglasses. They look perfect for running or any other outdoor activity!

Many thanks to Suzi for speaking with us! You can read her blog, find her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter. We’ll be back with more inspiring stories!