What a job. You touch so many lives, you get that buzz of adrenaline not available in many other jobs, You feel true satisfaction when your clients achieve their goals. You fiercely love all the classes you teach and can't wait to sing their praises to newcomers and colleagues. Plus people who work in fitness are happy all the time right? Right?
Wrong. We are normal people with normal moods and we go through the same shit that everyone else does. We just happen to have a job that we prioritise over almost anything... over our families, our friends and quite often, our own health and mental well-being.
In an industry where the average pay is the same as a part-time employed human and where we haven't had a pay rise for at least 28,000 years, we have to work pretty damn hard for our money. Plus we have to pay program license fees, music license fees, insurance, music costs and course fees to stay fresh for our participants... all out of our below par salary. It's no wonder we occasionally get disillusioned.
And let's be honest.... who motivates instructors when they are feeling low... a low which people have in ALL industries and in ALL job roles, but one which we feel INCREDIBLY guilty for having because we have a job we feel so lucky to have.
Now this blog isn't to whinge about how hard it is for us. It is just to acknowledge that it IS sometimes tough, that's ok for us to admit and to offer a few coping strategies to help get the instructor crew through:
1. Get in the habit of leaving it at the door - whatever it is, the minute you walk into that room it's not about you anymore. These people have paid their money, they came for a show, give them one. This is TOUGH, I remember teaching Zumba 30 mins after I found out my friend had died.... I taught (probably slightly under par), did all the right 'Anna' things in all the right places and walked back out to my car and broke down. It frigging SUCKS and occasionally, yes, your class may offer you support, but let's be honest, it's not their problem. Don't get into the habit of bleating on about yourself, noone wants to be the instructor that everyone else wishes would shut up. Plus 'the leaving it at the door' is (in general) VERY therapeutic... for those few hours you get to forget how much you want to kick someone in the genitals and you have a sea of beautiful faces to focus on.
2. But what if those beautiful faces form more of a puddle rather than a sea and you're not covering studio hire/on a red light on the gym timetable? If you're not getting the numbers, always, always check yourself first. Let's be real. Let's not get smug and assume we are amazing.... are you being a miserable bastard? Are you writing inappropriate social media updates? Could you improve your class content? Could you add extra value? If you genuinely think you are doing everything you can classwise then check your timetabling, venue location & facilities and your marketing. People do not just stick their noses in the air and sniff their way to a fitness class.... although let's be fair it might be possible at the end of the night when we are all a bit moist in the armpit region! Unless you are pimping as big as Jay-Z then you could always do more.
3. Make instructor buddies. They KNOW. They GET this shit. They will big you up when you are feeling down. They go through the SAME shit you do. They have felt what it's like to have an incompetent mess as a group ex manager, they UNDERSTAND what it's like to take a class off the timetable, they know how exhausted you feel by the time you get to Christmas, Easter and summer (because let's be honest we still run on term time!!). Plus they might occasionally cover for you.
4. Which brings me on nicely to TAKE A FRIGGING BREAK. I know. We don't get paid for it. So if you have a day job then take a day's holiday. If you teach all the time schedule in a rest day. You may well be a machine but you need to oil shit and have parts repaired too. Have regular sports massage.... switch services with someone if it's too expensive. Look after yourself. If you wreck the body you've got you're not going to make any money anyway. Imagine you're a high class call girl, that shit needs maintaining to make the dollars.
5. Get some seriously thick skin. Some people are going to think you are a proper bell end. You cannot please everyone!! If you are pleasing no-one then by all means take a long hard look in the mirror, but for everyone else just suck it up and move past it. So they tell you you're not as good as Jim down the road. You're not as dancey as the aerobics instructor round the corner (even tho you are a fucking dancer and you just fully rocked out some jazz hands on that mambo cha cha cha). It was good but could we put the Power Bag down and do some Pilates half way through? Just remember that these people (the ones I've just mentioned.) they either know feck all about anything/they're simply being a bitch for fun. They just came to Zumba and told you that it was ok but they weren't a fan of all the Latin stuff.... I feel like their opinion can be ignored.
6. Get educated. I don't just mean with fitness stuff. With marketing, with business, with psychology, with interaction styles.... you need to know your shizzle. It'll help keep it fresh and it'll stop you from getting frustrated and very occasionally bored.
7. Don't get so protective over a program that you let your timetable suffer. If it's dead, like fully cold, on the floor dead, then maybe think about replacing it with something else. It might not be your style. It just might not be your participants style. It's just not working for you. And that doesn't mean it's shit. AT ALL. It's just not for you and your people at that time. Drop it and move on.
8. Don't be afraid to say no. To that cover class, to adding in an extra class, to the woman with the positive par-q, to the idiot who keeps sniggering at the back. It's your life, it's your class and YOU are the qualified exercise professional. Your decision is final. End of. I've fully turned the music off and kicked people out before mid dance. I'm polite, I'm not an asshole. But this is a job where you need a great deal of self confidence and self respect, you're not going to have that if you let someone walk all over you. And let's be honest you CANNOT relax while you are teaching if something is going on that you don't want to happen. It is insanely distracting and that takes away from the other participants' experiences.
9. Cut yourself some slack. You are not superhuman. Someday's you make fitness magic. Other days you can barely remember the warm up. It's gonna happen. Don'thave a meltdown .... your class will find it endearing ( as long as you don't do it every week). It's ok to mess up sometimes. Those times have to happen to balance out those incredible classes where the hairs on your arms stand up on end. When everything just goes according to plan and you physically feel like you just dropped an E. Obv you didn't.... that might invalidate your insurance ;)
10. Practice what you preach - cross train and eat right. If you teach all cardio then hit the weights and vice versa. Balance is key. Do some yoga. Whatever it is that you DON'T do in class/sessions, do that on your own workout time. Which you MUST have! It's another thing you have to make time for to maintain your fitness levels, your strength and your flexibility. You cannot teach 5 cardio classes a day and expect to avoid injury if you don't maintain your muscle mass through correct diet and resistance training AND keep those lovely muscles limber and flexible. Practice what you preach. On the flipside, make sure you have a down day and smash in the nachos and cake. It's all about balance right?!?!? And let's be honest, with the amount of exercise we do, we can afford that 'balance'.
The fitness industry amazes me. It has to be the single most passionate, caring, workaholic, happy industry to be in. But it's OK if you are not that person day in and day out. You are NOT a God, a superhero and you do not live in the Matrix. You are allowed to need a whinge, a cuddle or a kick up the arse. And that's why we all need a fitfam.... that's the shizzle they are good at. The support between us all is unending and unconditional.... we've got your back xxx