Published May 18, 2004
Volume 12, Number 5

Caitlin Betts' First Steps in the Working World Lead Down an Unexpected Path

By Jay Hipps

For most people in Hacienda, their first full-time job out of high school is a memory that’s not visited very often. It’s easy to forget, then, what those first steps into the workplace were like and the deep impressions that they may have made.

Caitlin BettsFor Caitlin Betts, the manager of Hacienda’s new Curves location, high school is the place she graduated from last summer, just under two miles from her new job. Despite the proximity of her old haunts at Foothill High, she’s actually come a long way since graduating as her work has opened up new worlds to her, helping shape her view of both her future career and herself. She wasn’t looking for a life-changing experience, though. She was just looking for a job.

“I kind of fell into it, really. It’s not something I expected to happen,” she says. “I was working weekends at Dean’s Cafe downtown and I was looking for something during the week also. One of the regular customers came in and told me that Curves (a women’s fitness center) was hiring. I came in and kind of fell into the management thing.”

Betts was born in New Jersey, moved to Pennsylvania at a young age, and then moved to Cupertino when she was 10. Her family moved to Pleasanton six years ago, when she was 13. She began playing soccer when she was six and continued until last year, when she had surgery to repair ligaments torn in her ankle a few years earlier. It was a demanding schedule but one that she enjoyed.

“We practiced three times a week for an hour and a half and then we had two games, one on Saturday and one on Sunday,” she explains. “I played on traveling teams up until my last season.”

Her athletic background was an asset in her new job but in many ways it was also an obstacle.

“The concept of Curves, where it’s a 30-minute workout three days a week, is really hard for people who have been athletic or part of a gym because they’re so used to ‘I need to do 30 minutes of cardio (exercise) and an hour of weights,’” she says. “They’re so accustomed to an hour-and-a-half workout that it’s hard for them to understand the concept of ‘half an hour is enough.’”

It’s a lesson that she is learning as well as her experiences at Curves have forced her to re-think her own conceptions about being in shape.

“It’s gotten me a lot more interested in health and fitness,” she explains. “I was always into it because of soccer, because I had to be, but it’s a different aspect of fitness that I’ve never seen before. I was always ’30 minutes of cardio and an hour of weights,’ that kind of thing. (The Curves approach) really does work so it just goes to prove that there are different viewpoints on exercise that do come to the same results, basically. It’s shown me a different side of fitness that I never saw before, a much broader picture of it. If I had never worked here I don’t think that would have happened.”

What has really brought that experience home to her is the reaction of the clients she has to work with and her realization that she is helping her members change their bodies and their perceptions of themselves.

“It’s really cool to see people have results,” she says. “People come in and I see them get to their goals. It’s really exciting. We measure them every month and it’s great to say, ‘You lost three inches from your abdomen’ and to see the look on their face. It’s rewarding — you feel like you’re doing something.”

Currently a student at Las Positas College, her ideas of her future studies and career have also been influenced by her recovery from her ankle surgery. Recovering from an injury like torn ligaments is a long, demanding process in which the muscles and tendons must slowly be rehabilitated until they return to their optimum tone and strength. Ideally, that process would be undertaken under the direction of a physical therapist, but that’s not quite how it worked for Betts.

“My physical therapist only saw me three times and then the rest of the time I was kind of on my own,” Betts explains. “She just sort of threw me out there and said, ‘Here are the open gym hours – you can come use our facility.’ Other than that, I kind of had to rehab myself.”

That experience, too, has been an important one for Betts, who is now considering a career in sports physical therapy thanks to her experiences at Curves and with her own recovery, which she feels could have been handled differently and which she sees as motivation “to do better.”

There’s a chance that Betts may have pursued that line of work without working at Curves but there’s no question that her work there is influencing her decisions about what to do with her future.

“I have another year at community college before I even go to a four-year school, so I have time to figure that out,” she says. “I’m really leaning towards physical therapy, though.”

Betts went to Curves to find weekday work but she may have found a career. When the first job is the right job, it can be a powerful experience.


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