E2A 060: Chasing Personal Bests and Helping You Achieve Yours with Ania Z. 

 August 1, 2023

By  Scott A. MacMillan

As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to want to do it all, however as your business grows, delegating some of the work is just what you might need to get everything done and scale to where you want to be.

In this episode of The Entrepreneur to Author Podcast, your host Scott MacMillan speaks with Ania Ziemirska (commonly known as Ania Z.), an athlete, musician and multidisciplinary entrepreneur who splits her time between being a Virtual Assistant and empowering women to reach their fitness goals. We dive into the importance of a VA and the importance of getting out of your office chair and moving your body.


Fitness fiercefeminineathletics.com 

Virtual Assistant silverbirchjourney.com/VA

After graduating from university, Ania spent a few years, and post graduate education, trying to find her way into the expected 9-5 mould in the not-for-profit Arts and Culture Sector. Although she loved working in the creative space, the mould wasn't one that would ever truly fit.

She started exploring the entrepreneur life, using her knowledge of the business side, as a musician and songwriter in the mid 2000s.

Fast forward to present time where she is the founder and head coach of a women's fitness coaching brand, Fierce Feminine Athletics, while also using her administrative superpowers to support other entrepreneurs.

When she’s not in front of a computer, on a yoga mat or running, you might find Ania backcountry canoe trip guiding, working at running and triathlon events, watching Hallmark movies or trying to finish one of the many books she’s started reading.

Instagram (@Fiercefeminineathletics): instagram.com/Fiercefeminineathletics 
Facebook group (women identifying only): Women on the Bright Stride





Scott on LinkedIn (@scottmacmillan): linkedin.com/in/scottmacmillan/

Scott on Instagram (@scottamacmillan): instagram.com/scottamacmillan/

Scott on Twitter (@scottamacmillan): twitter.com/scottamacmillan/

Scott on Medium (@scottamacmillan): scottamacmillan.medium.com

Listen now on Spotify or Spreaker.

Episode Transcript

Please note: The transcript is produced by a third-party company from an audio recording and may include transcription errors.

Scott MacMillan:

You're listening to the Entrepreneur to Author podcast.


Welcome to the Entrepreneur to Author podcast, the podcast that brings you practical strategies for building authority and growing your business. And now, here's your host, Scott MacMillan.

Today, I'm speaking with Ania Ziemirska. Ania is a multi-passionate virtual assistant, or VA, women-focused running coach and movement instructor. On the fitness front, she created Fierce Feminine Athletics to empower women to reclaim their inner and outer strength. And on the VA front, she's my personal assistant and our publishing assistant here at Grammar Factory, where she does an incredible job of keeping us all organized and coordinated. I don't know what we'd do without her. Ania, it's great to have you on the podcast.

Happy to be here, Scott.

To start, could you share a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey?

Well, I feel like I've been an entrepreneur pretty much most of my life. I started playing music in a band with my sister when we were in our teens in high school. So that already required sort of being able to "run a business in some way", even though it wasn't so much for money. So I had that brain kind of starting out and then... continuing after university into my own music career, I had released an album. So music was sort of my first venture into entrepreneurship and going through it from that point. 

And then moving through...getting into fitness, getting into being a yoga instructor, starting into that, also, you know, being able to book my own gigs at a studio and being able to book my own classes, all of that required that.

And I found very quickly that the 9 to 5 little box was not for me. I very much have that... I guess some people call it sprinter energy... where I can work really hard for a certain period of time, but then sometimes I just shut down and I need to stop, which didn't work so well in an office environment. And I did have the 9, well, not traditional 9 to 5, but I did have like the 11 to 6 job, and I did that for a while, but it was still, it was always very casual. 

But getting into the fitness industry first, and then when the pandemic shut things down a little bit, it pretty much put me completely out of work. And having the administrative experience from the admin jobs I had done, and the fact that I do have a post-graduate in Arts Administration & Cultural Management, it was really easy for me to jump into doing virtuwork in that case and I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to work for you come up across my table because it was really a saviour during the pandemic.

That's really helpful. Yeah, now, you know, some people might be wondering what that link is between what you do as a VA and what you do as a fitness expert. Can you speak a little bit about how you think about those two different parts of your professional career?

I do so many different things. And again, it's part of that, like not being able to fit into one box. I have so many interests. I guide canoe trips, another thing that I do. So it's, having just doing one thing, I get bored really easily. And again, the pandemic shutting down the fitness industry, I needed something else. So I jumped into the virtual assistant work. And then doing that, I could have jumped into doing that full time, but because that's just not my personality and not how I fit into things.

And fitness for me has been so, it's been such an outlet for my mental health. I started running about six or seven years ago pretty consistently, because I found that yoga just wasn't cutting it and rock climbing just wasn't cutting it. And there's something about running and that bit of a runner's high. And I know Scott, you're a runner yourself, so you... you get some of that and I know there's there might be other runners listening on the podcast today. There's just something about running.

So I got into that for my mental health kind of to battle both feelings of depression and anxiety and found that really important for me and there are times when you know I'll be I'll be deep in my admin work working really hard and then just feeling like i'm frustrated with something and I just, I need to step away, I need to go deal with that. And keeping myself moving and keeping myself fit is how I do that. And I think it's important for everyone's health in general, but especially in that entrepreneur journey where we can get very bogged down into working. And if you are working for yourself and you don't have a team, you're just like, I have to do everything and I have to get it done now and self-care, for lack of better words, falls on a back burner, and I find... exercise and keeping yourself fit, even if it's just a walk, is part of that package.

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I think what comes out for me is, and this is something that I think will resonate with a lot of our listeners, is there are multiple paths to entrepreneurship, right?

And some people decide to do the side hustle, right, next to their nine to five job. Other people go all in on one idea and just kind of go full force onto that. And other people have multiple. you know, entrepreneurial ventures that they're pushing along at the same time. So I think that's a really interesting way that you've approached your entrepreneurial path and I think that'll resonate with a lot of people. Now since you're part of the team here at Grammar Factory, I'd love to if you could share a little bit more about what you do here at Grammar Factory with us and how other entrepreneurs might benefit from having a virtual assistant on their team.

So when I first came on, it was mostly just focused on the admin assistant side of things. So anything from answering emails to sending invoices, I did a lot of the social media stuff, that came in as a part of the package, and quite often it is part of a virtual assistant's job if a company doesn't have a dedicated social media person, then that ends up being part of that.

And then my role kind of evolved. We had a different publishing assistant when I first started, and when they left, I took on a few of their jobs, which means that I was actually doing a lot of the project management on the publishing side of things. So helping Scott here with keeping things moving, making sure that everybody's getting all their things done. We have a pretty tight-knit small team, but still... few members to keep track of.

And if you have written a book or if you've been listening to our podcast, you know how many little bits and pieces go into the process. So making sure that all of that is happening, that there is a cover being designed, that the author has the cover, and that there's an interior being designed and the interior has been sent over, and that everything's being set up for distribution when it needs to be, and then. making sure that the authors have everything when their books are complete and getting that on social media, booking people for the podcast. There's any anything that comes up and every once in a while Scott just sends me a message being like,  "could you take this over? Could you do this?" And most of the time I'm happy to do it. Sometimes I'm not, but you know, we all have our things that we like and we don't, but generally I am Scott's right-hand woman and here to help them in whatever way needs to be done.

Yeah, and I think what I've found is that, you know, at the outset, when, you know, when I was looking to bring on an assistant, you know, I had, I had a... reasonable idea in my mind of the types of things that I might want you to do, but it wasn't really until you really got embedded into the team and I got a feel for what you enjoy doing and your capability set. And then I also got more comfortable kind of passing things off to you where I really kind of got a better appreciation of the types of things that I could pass off to you and take off my plate so that I could focus on other things.


So that's been part of my journey of bringing you on the team, and I think it's been fantastic. And any tips for people who are looking to hire a VA?

It's like hiring anybody else. So it's not getting stuck on that virtual part of things, although I do find that it being virtual, because you're not seeing somebody face to face in an office environment, which these days, I think the pandemic has moved so much of our life virtually that it's probably an easier step into that than it would have been, you know, three or four years ago, right?

So thinking of it as you're just hiring an employee, or you're just hiring or a contractor. Let's be clear, there's a difference between an employee and a contractor depending on how you run your business. But same process as you would be hiring anybody else.

So you wanna have that resume, you wanna know that they've done work. Some work, some experience with virtual work is... probably good, because again, you want to have somebody who's able to communicate on that level. I do find that there is a need to be able to do that. Some people are, you know, not great at replying to email, not great at replying to text. That's going to be a big red flag and a problem if you are looking for somebody for a virtual role. So that would be my best advice there. And then also just... personality, finding somebody that's going to work with you, this is going to be someone you are working very closely with. So it's like, again, in an office environment, you might have more people and occasionally personalities might clash, but when it's your number two, I think that's an important factor.

Yeah, very much so. Very much so. Switching topics a bit, you mentioned that fitness is an important part of your life and certainly a part of your entrepreneurial journey. And I know firsthand how getting out for a run or going to the gym can be beneficial. Can you share a little bit more about how prioritizing fitness has helped you?

Yes, so I, like I mentioned before, it has been huge for my mental health and that's sort of where I've started with things as a runner. And I still like very often, and Scott, you can attest to this, I will send a message and be like, I'm going for a run right now because I'm going stir crazy sitting in my chair. And I have found that whether it's running, whether it's going into the gym and lifting weights. Or just getting my body moving. Sometimes if I'm stuck, if I'm working on something, if I just can't, like, you know, and those days when I can't focus, because everybody's got those days, whether you haven't had enough sleep or, you know, whatever the case may be, sometimes getting out and getting the body moving is just what we need.

And then there's, you know, that idea of flow state when you're in your workout, you're in the zone basically. And... You can get into that in your work, which is great. But when you have those days when you can't get into it, sometimes getting out and getting the body moving, I find can be really helpful. So that has become a priority for me. And but it has been mostly my mental health. I hired a coach myself, even though I am I am a coach, I hired a coach for my running because I wanted to get I wanted that consistency, I wanted the accountability. And it has been super helpful for me and also pushing myself. And yeah, and I'm finding that because my approach as a fitness professional is holistic and I find that it is the mental and the physical that's very tied in together and has been helpful for me, that it's important to have that for everyone else too.

Mm-hmm. Yeah, I find that often it's a great way to kind of clear the the brain fog, right, that you sometimes get if you're immersed in something for too long.


As you say, getting your body moving. For whatever reason, you know, there's that connection between the body and the mind, and it just kind of is a great way to kind of clear the cobwebs out.


Ware some tips that you can offer to our listeners about where to start their fitness journey, particularly if, you know, maybe they were active in, you know, high school or college, but maybe have lost that and are interested in picking it back up? Any tips there?

I think the biggest thing is just do it. Start small, but get started, even if it's just committing to going out for a half an hour brisk walk every day. Just get that heart rate up a little bit. I wouldn't recommend going for a run every day. That can be hard on the body.

And if you are looking to get into running, starting with a run walk, finding a program that works for you, same with getting into the gym, you know, lifting a little bit of weights, starting with the smaller weights, just, just start. I think that's the biggest advice I can get because there's sometimes there's a hold back being like, OK, I'm too tired. I don't want to do it or I don't know what to do, which is, again, where a coach or a fitness professional can come in to help you out in those cases.

Getting started, getting off that couch or off that office chair in whatever way and finding an activity that you like to do. So if you're somebody who hates running, don't choose running as your activity that you start with unless that's something that you want to improve on. There needs to be a motivation there.

Yeah, really good point. I think it was in Atomic Habits by James Clear where, you know, he talks about that idea of just getting started...


and what some people have found helpful is just committing to do something very, very small and not letting yourself do more, right? It's just get down to the gym for five minutes, right? If you stay down there for five minutes and you can do that for, you know, whatever period of time, well, then you can add, you know, maybe 10 minutes, then 15, just, you know, layer it on over time.


You mentioned that you started your fitness journey as a yoga instructor. What made you decide to expand to working with people one on one and specifically working with women?

I find that there's something special about working with one person and helping them to achieve their goals. My belief is that there's, each of us has so much more potential than we could actually see. And sometimes when you're working with a group situation, like it's hard to get in, like zoned in on one person and really make that true connection. And I'm very big on connecting with individuals and I just like, I wanna see people succeed. And my friends often joke that one of my secret powers is that I'm able to kind of see beyond the surface, and see that potential and see the good, like the good in someone, I guess if you're looking from a friend perspective, but see that potential that's kind of hidden beneath the layers. 

Because you know, quite often, I know I can be really hard on myself and I imagine that other people can also and being like I can't do that, I'm not able to do that. But having somebody on the outside to do that is super helpful.

And my wanting to work specifically with women, that kind of came up for me as I started doing my own research and reading more information, as it started coming up, just about the different physiology aspects of the female body. And I'm talking about cis-gender women here, more about the anatomy as opposed to gender itself. So the way that our hormones affect our bodies and they fluctuate. And if you are a person who menstruates listening to this or somebody who's gone through menopause, you know how that changes your body and how that, how that reacts, some people are completely useless before their time of the month.

And it's the knowledge to be able to adjust your training to that. I will work, and if somebody has certain issues and working through adjusting the plan or even not, not even so much, like partially adjusting the plan, but also adjusting expectations and just bringing the knowledge out there and being able to educate a little bit more on that and creating personalized plans that actually work with you and work with schedules.

So that's also leaning towards the fact that, you know, a lot of women are both career persons as well as moms, and not that, you know, men aren't doing both things either, but there is, from a societal standpoint, unfortunately, there is that bit of like, you know...men could do everything but women can't, but we surely can. And just working to fit into schedules and working around that "mom guilt", which I know comes up for a lot of moms. I'm not one myself, but I have very close friends who are. And it's difficult to prioritize that fitness and prioritize yourself. So working with that schedule and just empowering women to recognize that they are stronger than they might think they are, they are capable of doing more. And I find that translates from the fitness world into their lives, at least it has for me. And I want others to experience that also.

There's a lot of information and probably misinformation as well that's available on the internet and the apps that we use. Now, where does a coach fit into all of that ecosystem and why would you recommend somebody invest in a coach?

So yes, there is a whole lot out there. I spent probably way too much time in Facebook groups and other forums just telling people, no, don't do that, because that is a bad idea.

What a coach can do, like I said, not only create a plan that actually works specifically for you, but also be that support and be that knowledge. So, if a person is, and I've seen this question come up again in forums all the time being like, "I'm overwhelmed. There's so much information out there. I don't know where to start. I don't know what plan's gonna work for me." So what a coach can do is answer all that for you. Like, you know, I Google things all the time. I look up things all the time because there's only so much my brain can hold. But I also know reading the content online when something is complete crap, excuse my language,  and when something is actually legit and there's you know studies and scientific stuff that I've learned through my training that I can back up on which you know some of it isn't readily available online to everyone, so that's useful.

And then the support is really huge. I know accountability is big for a lot of people and going to work with a group or joining a group program sometimes can be overwhelming on its own because there's other people and there's a competitive factor and am I gonna be fast enough or am I gonna be good enough? Like, can I do this with the group? But when you're doing it on your own with the support of a coach, you got all the time, you've got your own pace, you've got your own support system and I find that, I mean, like I said, I have a coach myself right now and it's one of the things that... is like priority number one in my life and I'm not willing to let it go. It's been huge for me as having that support.

Ania, how can people get in touch with you and learn more about what all the things that you do?

So the best place is, I'm very, very active on Instagram. My handle is @FierceFeminineAthletics, and we'll put that in the, we'll add that in the show notes, I believe, by my website, fiercefeminineathletics.com, for all your extra information about what I do. And then if you reach out on either of those two channels, if you're looking for virtual assistant support, or have more questions about hiring a virtual assistant, I'm happy to chat with you through either of those.

Ania, thanks so much for joining us on the podcast today. It's been a really interesting glimpse into both the admin side of publishing and the importance of health and fitness for entrepreneurs.

Thank you for having me.


As we wrap up this episode of Entrepreneur to Author, remember this. Now is the time. Time to write, time to publish, and time to grow. I'm Scott McMillan. Until next time.

Scott A. MacMillan

Scott A. MacMillan is a speaker, international best-selling author, entrepreneur, and the President and Executive Publisher at Grammar Factory Publishing. He and his team help expert entrepreneurs write and publish books that build their authority and grow their business.

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