Cassandra Pickard is an inspiring CQUniversity Certificate III in Fitness alumnus who is using her qualification and personal attributes to pursue a successful career in the fitness industry. She is currently managing a fitness centre in Emerald, in Central Queensland, and has been competing in the male-dominated sport of powerlifting. Cassandra was awarded the Associate Vice-Chancellor’s Central Highlands Region Medal at the recent graduation ceremony in Emerald. CQUni celebrates her achievements during International Women’s Day 2020.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme #EachforEqual suggests an equal world is an enabled world – how do you think women can forge a more gender equal world?
Woman can contribute to making a more gender equal role by representing in a variety of roles in the workplace and community so that it becomes the norm, not the exception. So woman will have to keep throwing their hat into the ring, and rising to challenges despite adversities, in order to show that they deserve equal access and opportunity, as they have always done. More importantly, society needs to meet them at the levels they’re rising to. Equality may be reached when there is representation, but equality won’t be engrained into society until we’re met with proper recognition.
How did you get into the sport of powerlifting and what is the appeal with the sport?
I had no idea there was such a sport or that it involved three genres – back squat, bench press, and deadlift. I had never tried to do a squat and I didn’t even know what a deadlift was! At 37 my youngest child was still under 12 months old when I decided for the first time in my life I was going to join a gym. I was obese from swapping my addiction to cigarettes to food, plus two babies within 14 months. My motivation was to lose weight and get my self-confidence back.
Within 12 months my ‘why’ had changed to wanting to be stronger and the knock-on effect was I lost weight, my body composition started to change and I was gaining confidence without even thinking about it. After being introduced to powerlifting, I entered my first competition in the drug tested federation and haven’t looked back; I was 38. Seven years later and I still love the training and competing in my sport of powerlifting because of the way I feel when I’m lifting. I feel strong, grounded, grateful for my strong body and in control. Powerlifting as a sport is an extremely competitive, supportive community of ordinary people who train extremely hard to do extraordinary things and I love being part of that.
Managing a gymnasium must be an exciting role, can you tell us about the challenges and rewards of your career?
Managing Stadium Premier Fitness Emerald came out of the blue for me. It was something that both scared the heck out of me and excited me all at once. When the owners approached and offered me this amazing opportunity, I really wasn’t sure I could do this. I have been in the mining industry for the past 23 years, firstly in gold mining in New Zealand, then later in coal mining here in Australia, so I was literally swapping shift work, steel cap boots, dust and a comfort zone for dayshift only, sneakers, sweat and stepping out of my comfort zone!
Once I took the fear of failure out of the equation and realised the amazing level of support and backing, I had from Trav and Whetu, combined with their incredible vision and work ethics, I accepted. I love that my job really is all about motivating and inspiring each of our members to become fitter, stronger, independent, confident, accountable versions of themselves. Who wouldn’t love working in such a positive environment? Although I do have to deal with confrontation sometimes, I now use this as an opportunity to work on finding positive ways to sort matters out. Apart from that, my biggest challenges are delegating and the admin side of running a gym; something tells me this may take a while.
How has CQUni helped get you into your career and set you up to succeed in the future?
Enrolling and completing my studies through CQUni has really been life-changing, to be honest. I say life-changing because before finally completing my Cert 3 in fitness I never actually believed I would be able to do it. With next to no computer skills and typing a two-finger slow process, let’s just say our fabulous and very patient teacher Russell Gardner had to be – he had his work cut out.
Although I have lots of years’ experience in the strength and conditioning side of fitness and I have still so much more to learn, that little piece of paper that says, ‘Certificate 3 in Fitness completed’, has opened the door to a whole world of possibilities and opportunities that I never dreamed possible. To work in a field where I feel I can make a positive difference in people’s life – that does not work – that’s living the dream.
As a female working in the fitness industry and competing in a traditionally male-dominated sport, are there any challenges you face?
None come to mind. I think working in mining for over 20 years with a majority of men and growing up with three brothers has probably contributed to that. As long as I stay humble, grateful and eager to keep learning, then I am setting a great example for our children. I try not to buy into negative energy or attitudes of others.
Looking to the future, would you encourage other women to consider the sport and career you have chosen?
Absolutely! We as women have no idea just how strong and capable we actually are. I encourage all our women out there to start lifting; it really will change your life and how you see yourself. Once you start seeing progress you will want to keep progressing and before you know it, you’ll be walking taller, making eye contact, sleep better, look better, but most importantly, you will feel good about yourself and let’s face it, there aren’t too many areas in our life where we have complete control. The gym is that for so many of us; it will be for you too. It really does have a massive knock-on effect on your life! Career-wise not everyone wants to work in the fitness industry, but every one of us can be working in a field we love. Just take that fear out of the equation and ask yourself why not? Time to start living your best life ladies.
Have you a motto or any words of wisdom you live by?
My coach, Joe Matthews is someone I love, respect and admire. This is something he said to me many years ago and something I keep on my focus board in big writing. It’s the first thing I see each day. “Be present, be accountable, practice gratitude and stay humble.” My own words of wisdom: “Learn to love the person in the mirror, she is your biggest competition.”