Recently, there has been a lot of attention focused on public mental health in the media. This is both exciting and enlightening as this is a topic that, until recently, has only been whispered about.
We understand the importance of keeping our body and mind healthy, and this includes maintaining a positive outlook on life and being able to cope with the stresses of being human.
The role of a group exercise instructor is an interesting one in regards to “what is” expected of us.
Our job is to deliver a workout, but thereality is the expectations far exceed that.
You have to be upbeat, motivated, positive, happy, energetic, funny, engaging, caring, inspiring, passionate… the list goes on and on. And the really hard bit is, you are expected to do this for everyone and somehow work out how to accommodate a classroom filled with people from different backgrounds, cultures, likes and dislikes. When someone complains that the “class wasn’t good enough”, you have to decipher what was not good about the class. Was it the music? The exercises? Was it the format? Or perhaps the air temperature, lighting or the mirror angle? Was it you?!
The last question can lead to feelings of bewilderment, frustration and resentment. Instructors respond differently and the emotional outcomes can be represented as anger towards the facility, lack of interest in the class, sarcasm towards the participants or dissatisfaction in general towards the fitness industry that eventually leads to quitting teaching.
The last point is particularly sad as often it is instructors with years of experience and wisdom that end up leaving. They are not easily replaced.
The issue is, what to do we do about it?
Where do you go to deal with these emotions and issues?
There seems to be no safe place to go.
Your family and friends are unlikely to
understand the challenges of group exercise, and won’t necessarily know how to
deal with issues that arise from instructing
Other instructors may commiserate but this is not always helpful, and your manager may see it as unprofessional or not being able to perform your role. Often it is the members that instructors turn to, to try to get emotional support, but this can be dangerous and usually does not go very well – it easily leads to gossip and inuendo.
I have spent a lot of time discussing this with my business partner, Maria Teresa Stone, and we have decided to take a step forward with this and start discussing this issue openly. We don’t know where it will lead, but we have to give it some air. At the GX Day we will be talking about this openly and more importantly, some strategies that instructors can use.
If the only outcome is you knowing you are not alone, then that is a positive shift in the right direction.
We know that the fitness industry has been built on the backs of group exercise instructors who started the indoor fitness trend over 50 years ago. It’s time to provide some support and understanding.