October 18, 2021

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There's nothing like our health

How a Equinox Instructor Quit Her Job and Set up a Virtual Fitness Biz

5 min read

Jenn Blackburn

Jenn Blackburn conducting a workout.

Courtesy of Jenn Blackburn


  • Jenn Blackburn left Equinox to lead her own virtual fitness classes from home during the pandemic.
  • By making changes to her home and teaming with a fitness platform, she was able to double her Equinox salary. 
  • Blackburn shared how she was able to successfully make the transition. 
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When the coronavirus hit, personal trainer Jenn Blackburn knew she had to make some major changes to maintain her income while still caring for her five children, who had all switched to remote schooling. 

Then a general manager at an Equinox gym in the Washington, D.C. area, Blackburn decided to leave her job and try her hand at running her own virtual personal training business from home, building a flexible schedule that would accommodate her altered pandemic lifestyle. 

After 10 weeks of teaching courses from her home, she was able to pull in over $16,500 while working a fraction of the hours she had at Equinox, operating a successful venture through forging savvy partnerships and leaning into her strengths. 

“This has been a complete game-changer,” Blackburn told Insider. “I get to call the shots. I get to work when I want to work. I have all the flexibility I could possibly need.”

Below, Blackburn shares four takeaways for how to transition to becoming a successful virtual fitness instructor. 

Transform your space

Like many Americans who were suddenly forced to work from home, Blackburn said she had to get creative when it came to building out a workspace and developing a remote studio setting. 

Over the course of three weeks, she transformed the playroom in her home in the suburbs of Maryland into a private gym, using tools and equipment she had on hand while making a small investment in items like lighting and flooring. 

“It was basically waking up on a weekend, ripping up carpet, putting in gym flooring, buying lighting, getting microphones, getting a stand for my computer and an iPad as a timer and this cable and that cable,” she said.

By the time she teamed up with digital fitness platform Moxie to stream her workouts, she had the added benefit of tapping into their digital resources and consulting with their team about best practices. Still, she said it was ultimately a sacrifice to her home and her family’s space that she felt was essential.

“Creating a space that is dedicated to virtual, that was huge,” she said. “It was like ‘OK, this part of our house is no longer of use.’ That was a big, quick adjustment.”

Find the right streaming partner 

Though Blackburn started out by taking her own clients on

Zoom
, she said she quickly grew overwhelmed with handling the administrative and IT component that comes with running your own business. 

“Once I left Equinox, there were a lot of people that wanted to train with me and I started off like everybody else: on Zoom,” she said. “But I knew that there had to be a bigger way to grow it and people who could facilitate the back end.”

Blackburn attributes her success to finding and working with Moxie, an emerging platform that virtually connectss independent trainers with consumers.

Moxie operates by taking a small cut of its instructor’s proceeds, in turn giving them access to the technical tools needed to stream workouts while handling administrative tasks like scheduling and payments.

The company, which launched in October 2020, has been a significant draw for trainers who may have experienced furloughs or layoffs during the pandemic, attracting talent from popular fitness studios like Orangetheory, Barry’s Bootcamp, and SoulCycle. 

“I love showing up, teaching, and leaving,” Blackburn said. “I don’t want to do anything at all on the backend. I don’t want to collect payments or email people about cancellations. My life had become so crazy in an instant with the kids being home full-time and virtual learning, I knew I needed help.” 

Optimize your schedule 

Blackburn starts her day at 4:45 a.m. and immediately gets to work getting her “mommy chores” done, usually laundry and picking up around the house. Her first 50-minute Moxie class starts at 6 a.m. and by 7 a.m. she’s waking the kids, getting them dressed, and situating them at the computer for remote schooling. 

Her most productive time is before noon when the kids are “ultra-focused” on their school work. Blackburn’s husband, who formerly worked at Life Time Fitness before the pandemic hit, is also at home to help watch over the kids. During the day she also works another job assisting remotely with work for a sporting complex in the area, before possibly teaching another Moxie class in the evening. 

“I’m either training someone or coaching a class online at Moxie at night when the kids are doing their own thing around the house,” she said. “Then I get everyone in bed by 10:30 and I wake up and do it all over again.”

Lean into digital 

Blackburn, who first began her career in the fitness industry three decades ago at the YMCA, said getting to Equinox was a career highlight. However, the pandemic proved how much she values being in control of her own schedule, which meant being her own boss. 

“When you’re a fitness instructor, Equinox is like the Buddha of all fitness — it’s very cutting edge, and very backed by science,” she said. “But I live about an hour from an Equinox, so realistically in my life with my kids and the way that school is probably going to remain to be, I don’t think I could have a job that is not flexible anymore.”

Looking ahead, Blackburn said that while she thinks many Americans will return to physical gyms once the pandemic ends, ultimately she plans to continue teaching remotely. According to Blackburn, a majority of her clients skew older, and despite many being empty nesters or close to retirement age, have expressed gratitude at being able to avoid things like traffic and traveling to a gym by working out at home. 

Meanwhile, Blackburn said she plans to keep using Moxie for the indefinite future, thanks to its ability to let her train without dealing with cumbersome administrative tasks. 

“I can focus on what I’m good at, which is coaching,” she said. “I teach for 50 minutes and then my computer goes off and the Moxie team handles everything on the backend and I’m done. It doesn’t require like a ton of extra stress or time.”

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