You may have already heard this word, but if you haven’t, I predict that this word will become the 2020 buzz word.
Have you pivoted?
How did you pivot?
What was your pivoting strategy?
Well, what does all of this mean? Pivoting is a word often used to describe when you have had to adapt quickly in response to a demand or crisis. It is about understanding that you have to completely change your ‘normal’ strategies and processes. Now, I think you know where this is going: the Coronavirus pivot. I am not going to discuss the crisis (which I am sure you can get from an infinite number of sources), but what I do want to share is; what can you do now? and how can you pivot? As a group fitness instructor, I have always relied on a building called a gym. The gym was where I would show up for work, at an allocated time slot that was available for the members of the gym to attend a class. I didn’t have much choice other than what I taught in the class, as I am a freestyle instructor. I could negotiate a little bit about what I was paid. I might be able to get a time slot that worked for me. Maybe I could influence promoting my class, if I worked the social media platforms effectively enough to encourage members of the public to purchase a gym membership. I didn’t have to worry about rent, utilities or getting members in the door. I just needed to show up, deliver a great class, and take care of the class like I owned it until it was either changed or red flagged (see a previous blog about this) and/or dropped off the schedule. So here we are in a health crisis that has affected everything from health, to jobs, to the ability to manage our lives with home schooling children and working from home.
This very last point is the one I want to focus on. The question is, do you need a gym to teach? Do you need to have a group of people physically in front of you to fulfil a desire to get people moving and feeling great? Do you need the four walls of a gym to be able to deliver your specific skill set? The answer to these questions can only be determined by you and how you feel about teaching group fitness. For me, teaching is like breathing. I can’t stop. If I stop, I lose my purpose and just because I can’t do it in front of a live audience in the same space, that doesn’t mean that I need to stop teaching. In fact, it has opened opportunities that would simply have been ignored or too challenging to do, prior to this crisis. Building an online community has not been easy for me, but now I have a regular group of people joining me every day (either live or on replay after the live class is over). A bigger class than I would have ever attracted in a gym, people that otherwise would not have ever had the resources, time or inclination to come to one of my classes in the past. This certainly is a braver new world for me. So, this can either be an opportunity; or a disaster that you are waiting to end.
Just wanted you to know that your attendance numbers have been lower than expected, and your class has been red flagged.
The concept of red flagging was introduced to the group fitness industry in the late 1990’s and it has caused considerable anxiety for many instructors and participants. Red flagging is when a coordinator compares class attendances to other classes on the schedule and deems that a class is not performing.
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.