In this world, we are often taught to base our future careers off of what we have already done in the past, along with our strongest skill sets. When I set out to become a group fitness instructor, all I had was a love of kickboxing and a lifetime of playing sports to back me. What I didn’t know was that I lacked many skills, qualities, and habits that were fundamental to a life in fitness. That’s why today I’m sharing 5 Reasons I Shouldn’t Have Become a Group Fitness Instructor.
Reason 1: I’m An Introvert
Who knew that enjoying the workout was completely different from leading and creating engaging group fitness classes? If you’re not up on Myer’s Briggs, a key identifying personality trait is introversion versus extroversion. Whereas extroverts have a tendency to really enjoy being around others, to thrive in social situations, and display a range of positive and intense emotions, introverts are the opposite. They tend to:
- Prefer being alone or in the company of a small, select group of friends
- Come off as socially awkward or uninterested
- Experience a wide range of emotions inwardly, but channel it inward instead of expressing it outwardly
I credit John Heringer, Chief Motivator at Fast Action Training (now Method3 Fitness) for being the first to point out that I needed to speak more, get louder, and bring the intensity so I could motivate our clients. I can’t say it was easy, but these are skills I was able to learn and I continue to refine them even now!
Reason 2: I’m Asthmatic
If you read my previous blog about That One Year I Joined the Cross Country Team, you got a sampling of what it was like for me to be an athlete with asthma. But the truth is, as an adult I never realized it could have an impact on my chosen career path. In fact, when I first start out as a fitness professional, I didn’t have an inhaler (Remind me to come back to the problem of insurance in a later post). And yet I taught the following formats:
- Indoor bootcamps
- Dance Fitness
- TRX Group Suspension
I never actually thought that I couldn’t hang… until I couldn’t anymore. Long story short, I started getting sick due to my workload. When I finally realized it was the asthma, instead of quitting I decided to give up my most intense classes and focus on a path that was more sustainable. I realized that being an asthmatic fitness professional wasn’t a no-go. But for me, avoiding burnout required me to plan smarter, not work harder.
Reason 3: I Was Out of Shape
I discovered fairly quickly after entering into the fitness profession maintaining a full time fitness schedule was physically and mentally demanding to say the least! When I first started out, I taught an average of 4-6 classes each week. After each class shift, which varied in length from one to three classes, I went home and crashed. If I wasn’t working, I was usually sleeping. Even 10 hour nights weren’t enough, until I:
- Learned about nutrition and how it effects my energy
- Adopted a personal workout routine
- Worked on boosting my immunity and managing my asthma
Hey, if my job is to help others get healthier, I had to make sure I was healthy too, from the inside out.
Reason 4: I Wasn’t Skinny
“Weight” and “body fat loss” are major drivers within the fitness industry. Although those words never entered my thoughts when I was doing my research, I’ve heard from instructors all over the country how it affects the way they are viewed and treated. There’s this idea that we should “be the example” for our students. But in my opinion, the goals we set as individuals, both teachers and students, vary widely. Why assume that weight loss is the goal? There are many others:
- Get stronger
- Have a positive, uplifting experience
- Experience joy and laughter
- Increase respiratory endurance
- Make friends
Most students will never feel skinny. It’s not the instructor’s responsibility to make them feel that way either. But it is our job to deliver an effective and inspiring workout.
Reason 5: Zero Experience Teaching
Well… zero experience is a bit of an exaggeration. As a matter of fact, in grad school I was a teaching assistant. So I’d given lectures and led labs on how to effective qualitative research. Not to mention that one time I organized and lead a merengue and bachata meetup. But I guess that’s not the same. I’ll never forget that first interview I had.
“So you’ve NEVER lead a group fitness class before?” This was John from FAT.
I told him point blank. “No.”
But it wasn’t a deal breaker. And, seven and a half years later (at the time I’m writing this post), I’m still teaching there. And I owe a huge debt of gratitude to John and his team (especially Lead Coach Keith) for taking a chance on me and for helping me develop the skills I have today. They emphasized the fact that I shared the values and I found very quickly that it was the right studio for me. And over time, I gained more experience, there and at other studios.
The Lesson: Keep Learning. Keep Growing.
I’ve never been one to sweat the details of what I CAN’T do. And what I’ve learned in my career as a fitness professional is that, if there’s something I don’t know how to do, with some time and effort, I can figure it out. As a matter of fact, LEARNING has always been my greatest skill and my favorite thing to do. If you can teach yourself to not only enjoy, but become good at THAT, just imagine what you can do… even if there are reasons you shouldn’t.
Until next time 🙂