Spotlight on Spouses – Carol Ingram
Highland Hustle Instructor
What is your career background?
I guess my background is as a PA – organizing other people’s lives for many years, which obviously came in handy when organizing 16 moves in 20+ years. As a Military Spouse I’ve worked for all sorts of companies, insurance, law, whisky distillery (best job ever), NHS and the military as well. However, since having children some 16 years ago I haven’t done any paid work, though have always volunteered either in the local community or in the schools my children attend – using those organizational skills again.
Why did you choose the industry you work in?
I trained as a Highland Hustle instructor 3 years ago – possibly a late mid-life crisis….. I was just about to turn 50. I have been an army wife for over 25 years and we are coming to the end of that chapter in our family life so it was time for me to do something just for me and which would give me a connection to the local community outside of the military community.
Highland Hustle is a fun fitness class with a Scottish twist – I’m a Glasgow girl who was a Highland Dancer in her youth and believe it or not managed to go back to dancing (very much as a veteran) on a posting in north London – I love the buzz that dancing gives me and this was the perfect way to keep that going and get fit as well. Anyone can train as an instructor – though I suppose it helps if you’ve a wee bit of knowledge of either Highland Dancing or Ceilidh dancing. The best thing about a Highland Hustle Class is that everyone leaves smiling, a little fitter and we always manage to have a giggle at some point in the class.
How did you move from the idea to the actual business?
I spotted an article on Facebook about Highland Hustle not long after the brand had been established – the story behind it made it sound like the perfect chance for me to get fit, keep fit and share my love of Scottish Dancing with others – as well as hopefully make some new friends in the local community.
Highland Hustle was founded in Perthshire, Scotland in February 2014 by Gillian Urquhart. She was working as a Head of PE teacher in a Scottish school and couldn’t find a dance exercise regime that she found challenging and engaging long term.
Having danced all her life, she knew how dance made her feel great. Gillian watched how much people smiled at ceilidhs and so, she created Highland Hustle! Her passion for dance and how to take it to the wider community was what made me think I could do that too.
A very reluctant student (me) went along to a training course with Gillian in November 2015 and it went from there. Gillian was very inspirational and gave me the confidence to think that I could actually do this. My feet hadn’t forgotten the steps from all those years ago and with some practice I was ready for my first class.
We were posted to Glasgow & living on the Paisley Patch which has a very small community venue, when I did my training so I decided to just have classes for the girls on the patch. The nature of the serving spouses’ work in Glasgow means that home time is very much a moveable feast so fitting in gym sessions/fitness classes can be tricky. If you have to wait for OH to get home then drive to the gym, your motivation may have gone away too… ideal that I was on the patch and they had literally a minute to get there for start of class… great way for me to break myself gently into teaching with a friendly audience, it’s all about confidence and often that is something that disappears if you have a disjointed career path.
How do you spread the word about what you do?
As a Highland Hustle Instructor, social media is the main way to promote my classes and to encourage those who attend to come back again. Each week I try to inspire my class or make them laugh – we love our class, but we like to laugh. I also use old fashioned leaflets/posters in the local community to promote, though now that the class is established it’s mostly social media.
As a Military spouse, what has been your biggest obstacle when trying to balance work/ kids/ your spouse’s military commitments?
For me the biggest obstacle has probably been childcare. Both my boys are autistic, and have significant learning disabilities and many other challenges which meant that it was always better for me to be at home for them. My class is currently one night a week so I have been able to manage that most of the time – thankfully I am back on home ground and have family who have been extremely supportive.
What has been your proudest moment?
I have different “hats” to wear depending on the day of the week, so there are different proud moments I’d like to celebrate:
Proudest moment as an instructor – my first class in a non-military community, just a few weeks ago – a room full of people I hadn’t met and I didn’t freeze – I can do this!
Proudest moment as a military spouse, which has been such a big part of my life – watching my husband receive his OBE in 2017 for his service.
Proudest moment as a mum – each and every day, my boys make me proud.
Why is work so important for you?”
This is something just for me – keeps me sane and it’s a chance to “talk to grown-ups” – being a stay at home mum for my boys can be quite isolating. It’s good for my own fitness and therefore my mental health, which can only be beneficial for those around me. Highland Hustle makes me smile each and every time I practice or teach a class.
What advice would you give fellow Military spouses who want to get back into work, retrain for a new career or start their own business?
Self-confidence can take such a knock over the years – I’ve been a “wife of” and have fitted round my husband’s career for over 25 years and been very proud to do so. We are starting a new chapter in our lives now – he is about the leave the army and I’m making new friends in our forever home in the local community.
If you have the opportunity to do something, create something or train for something that you can be passionate about and proud of, go for it. There is lots of help out there to help you start and lots of support once you are on your way.
With Highland Hustle I have support from instructors in six different countries worldwide – we share all the positives about Hustle via social media. I have so much to thank the military family for, and now I have the Highland Hustle family to keep me active in the local community – how lucky it that?
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