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 the
reality 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? Was it the exercises? Was it the format? Was it 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.
Over 10 years ago, I met a woman who would change the course of my life and help me shape the business that I have today.
She was someone I met in a Cert III fitness course that I was delivering, and her intelligence and initiative made me take notice (handing out practice test paper to help the other students, in the course to prepare for the upcoming assessments, is something you notice!). Teaching the evening courses usually meant that I was delivering to people coming into the fitness industry as a second career, and she was no different. What was different was that she was always bright eyed, interested, and prepared. Most people struggled to stay focused after a long day at work, but not Christine Naysmith.
Not long after this, we started a working relationship when I hired her as my personal assistant. I had tried previously with a few different people without much success, but something told me that Christine was going to be different. In one word, Christine is incredible. Having a fitness qualification in both land and water, she soon became sought after as an instructor – a big tick for me as she understood my day to day job. Soon she was delivering Gymstick workshops with me, and came with me to Gymstick HQ in Finland. We travelled to New Zealand and the US for Gymstick workshops and presentations at conferences. We developed social media content, created regular newsletters, updated the website, started Gymstick distribution in Australia, wrote manuals, filmed DVDs and started using Vimeo as a platform to sell digital content… this is just the short list of what we achieved together.
Christine is one of my closest friends. Having someone who worked so closely with me and in the same industry meant that I could confide in her and swap presenting stories (usually on a Monday when we were both back home). This friendship continued to develop even when she moved to Queensland and we never missed a beat. It was a transition for me, but it taught me that a respectful working relationship does not need a face to face contact. I saw her as my right arm (and perhaps my left one too!).
All good things must eventually come to an end, and Christine has moved onto a fulfilling full time role. I am really happy for her as she now has something new to get stuck into. Yes, I did cry (actually we both did), but reminded each other that our friendship will continue.
As 2020 starts, so does a new decade. I look forward to working with the new team of people that will now help me grow in new directions. Thank you Christine, I would have never been able to do, what I do now, without you.
Richard Beddie, CEO of Exercise New Zealand lands another amazing development on the audience of the annual FITEX conference in Auckland, New Zealand. Richard discussed his trip to the World Health Organisation and the initiatives that are being rolled out to get more people moving. And then… he discussed how Exercise NZ are now working closely with allied health professionals. Sitting there in the audience, I am envious of my fellow NZ colleagues as they work in an industry that is so proactive. You know, doing the stuff that everyone else talks about. Actually doing it!
I have to say, the opening ceremony is one of my favourite parts of this yearly event in November. As we all pack into the auditorium, some 800 delegates, we listen to the latest developments in the kiwi fitness world. Not only do they have an incredible Prime Minister, but proactivity appears to flow in other directions including the fitness industry. To be part of this conference every year is a highlight and in particular, this year in which Maria Teresa Stone and I (as My Group Move) also sponsored Freestyle Instructor of the Year award. Yep, we decided last year that the Exercise NZ awards really acknowledged clubs and individuals in such an authentic way, that we just had to be part of it somehow. (more…)
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.