Remember when you were younger, you were told to ‘mind your language’ This was often in reference to either bad words or perhaps your tone of voice when speaking to your elders. It was a way of reminding you (or admonishing you) about how you should speak in public, or to parents or teachers.
Fast forward to present day and I am on a holiday and I am reminded of this old fashioned phrase, but in a different context.
Here I am on holiday on a cruise ship in the middle of the Mediterranean. Yep, life is very good and I am enjoying every single second, either basking in the sun or going ashore on yet another adventure. As I embarked on yet another excursion, I became aware of a conversation that was happening next to me. Loud enough for me to hear clearly, I decided to eavesdrop. It went something like this:
“How you feeling today?”
“Ok, I woke up feeling like I didn’t want to get up”
“Yeah, I woke up feeling the same”
“I always feel this way when I wake up”
“Me too, just starts the day badly”
“Yeah, I already feel a little agro before the I get out of bed”
At this point, I moved away, as it wasn’t a conversation that I wanted to listen to any more, but it got me thinking… how do I feel when I wake up? The next morning, I decided to take my emotional temperature, to see how I felt. It was actually by the time I hit the shower that I remembered what my homework was. How was I feeling? Well, I was up and I was in the shower. I like having showers, so I guess I was happy. It was then I started thinking about the power of words and the language that we use in conversations and what we say to ourselves. How do we want to be in this world? The conversation that I had overheard, had happened several hours after the initial wake up, yet it was still relevant for this person to discuss it, bringing the negative feelings into the current moment.
Now I am no Zen master, but after years of delivering the Watch Your Body Language workshop with Maria Teresa Stone, it dawned on me that perhaps we also need to watch our verbal communication; the conversations that we have with ourselves and then repeat to others on a daily basis. Do we give a commentary on every ache, pain or discomfort or can we give those a little less air time and a bit more to how positive we feel? For example, if your left knee is sore, then it is unpleasant, but how good does the right knee feel? I remember doing this practice (because it took work, not to focus on the partially torn ligament in one knee) so that I could think about things working well in my body. I have also noticed the little reminders that I get when I embark on a conversation that is not positive, how the subject gets changed or the phone rings and something distracts me. I am reminded then that I was not focusing on something that made me happy. Minding your language is more about your own self care, rather than making others less offended.
Recently at the GX Day, I discussed the SAID (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) principle. This is when the body becomes familiar and comfortable with performing a task in a specific manner, like a squat. So when the body is required to squat in an unfamiliar way (depending on what life throws at us), we get injured. We could discuss this at length from a client point of view, but what I am more interested in is the group fitness instructor. In 30 years of teaching and presenting, I have heard about more injuries and physiological issues from instructors than any of the thousands of clients that I have taught. This includes me. Yep, I am one of the countless instructors who has become injured due to the occupation.
So, riddle me this Batman…
If an instructor is performing the exercise with good technique and execution, in a way that would avoid injury, how is it that we are getting injured?! It doesn’t make sense. The whole point of good technique is that you can perform the exercise over and over again without getting injured. Right?
So this takes me back to the point that I was making earlier, the SAID principle. The issue is that doing the same thing, exactly the same way every time (regardless of perfect form), can lead to injury. The body is not getting enough variation on a frequent basis to create resilience. We basically lack functional resilience; the ability to handle any task that life throws at us. Isn’t this the whole point of what we sell to clients regarding exercise? Functional movement. Then why are we insisting on making our participants squat with ‘feet shoulder width apart’ all the time?? We just have to look at instructors to see what long term effects of lack of variety will do to the human body.
So it is time to change it up in a healthy way, and there are several ways that you can do this. If you would like to learn more about this check out the GX Day in Perth on 3rd November 2019, where I go in detail how you can stay healthy for longer and also pass this onto your participants.
The one that you can’t miss, but trying to avoid looking at.
Group Exercise Instructor Mental Health.
It is an interesting situation because as an instructor, you are not physically alone, but often you may feel that there is no one in sight. No one who understands the challenges of teaching, dealing with participants and the effort required to be upbeat and positive every single day. I saw this quote online and it is certainly how I have felt in the past.
We work in an industry where the job description literally asks us to be a whole bunch of things, and there is an expectation (rightly so) that you are: Positive, Energetic, Loving, Optimistic, Intelligent, Confident, Happy, Relaxed, Fantastic, Cheerful, Masterful, Beautiful, Fun, Creative, Wonderful… and the list goes on and on. Yes, there are days that you are all these things and more, but what happens on the days when life goes sideways and conjuring up these aspects of your personality seems impossible? If you don’t have any strategies to get you back on track, this can be a downward spiral that can end up in burn out, leaving the industry or just coping, but not doing your best work.
4 Strategies that I would recommend
1. Seek an industry colleague that you trust
2. Find a mentor
3. Connect more regularly with other instructors – live workshops are the best opportunity to refuel and refill
4. Get counselling
There are also lots of other strategies, which My Group Move are discussing at length at the GX Day in the Inside and Out session (Adelaide 8th Sept 2019 and Perth 3rd November 2019), but the important thing is to organise something before the crash and burn begins to happen.
I love finding out how people decided to work in the fitness industry, especially regarding group fitness. The initial thought that created a desire that then came to full fruition. That first ‘why not’ as Lisa Westlake so eloquently spoke about at the Women in Leadership lunch at the recent NZ FITEX conference, that then resulted in a fulfilling career in group exercise instruction.
Most stories do start with a similar beginning as has mine. It begins with someone passionate about attending classes, enjoying the atmosphere and workout, and appreciating specific instructors hat had the ability to inspire and connect with their participants. Those special instructors became role models, doing their thing, smiling and empowering their class. The next part of the story is the most significant part – the admired instructor approached the member and said the magic words “Have you considered becoming an instructor? I think that you would be great.” From this point on, the seed is planted and universe appears to put places, people and courses in full view. A cascade of ‘right place, right time’ opportunities open up and away they go to becoming a group fitness instructor.
Currently there is a chronic skills shortage of group exercise instructors in Australia and I believe that as an industry we have to tap people on the shoulder and say the magic words. This is all it takes to inspire people to plant their career from the thought seed that we have planted. My Group Move has created an opportunity for potential instructors to get information about what it takes to be involved in the group fitness industry. Check out the link and plant the seed in someone this week