The Instructor Dilemma, Dealing with Trends

Working in the fitness industry may sometimes feel overwhelming for many fitness professionals. While we are all interested in staying abreast with the industry, it is often difficult to decide where and how to allocate one’s energy. Should one learn to teach each and every new class concept? Or, rather, would it be best to concentrate on improving existing skills? This is the dilemma that we fitness professionals face.

A little bit of history…

Aerobics has changed tremendously since its conception in the late 60’s. It had changed so much so that the original term “aerobics instructor”, is no longer an accurate representation of the activities we engage in. Did you know that in 1997, IDEA issued a press release recommending that the term aerobics be replaced by the term group fitness?

Each and every year we are introduced to a variety of new class concepts and innovations. Some have stood the test of time, while others have been quite short-lived. Over the years we have seen everything from aerobics to step, slide, spinning, skipping, aero-box, yoga, pilates, and now the Bosu… just to name a few! As you contemplate on how or what to do... here are a few tips you may want to keep in mind.

1. Listen to your Body… not the market

We must always remember to listen to our bodies. Although we may feel tremendous pressure from the market to jump on the latest bandwagon, it is always important to stay focused and true to ourselves. Making sure that we feel comfortable with what we are teaching is imperative to delivering a quality level class. If you are feeling uneasy or truly do not enjoy what you are doing, it will definitely reflect in your teaching. Do what makes you feel right.

2. Don’t be so hard on yourself

Instructors can be excessively self-critical. Many set outrageously high expectations for themselves and are genuinely surprised when these goals are unattained. Does this sound familiar?

“You mean, I am NOT the yoga, pilates, kickboxing, afro-aerobics and ballet master all at the same time? No, this is not possible!”

Fitness instructors are high achievers, and as a result many of us attempt to learn too much, too fast. Consider re-evaluating and selecting the activities that best suits you when life feels a little out of control. Narrowing down your scope and concentrating on a smaller range of material will make life much more manageable and alleviate stress. With this big burden off your shoulders, you will once again remember and experience the joy in fitness.

3. Be innovative

Understand that innovative does not necessarily mean new. One of your objectives as a group fitness instructor is to retain and maintain your participants, right? We often lose members as a result of boredom or lack of motivation. Members need to be inspired with change. Being innovative can take many forms. You could add to your portfolio of skills by learning to teach a new concept. You can however also find ways to re-invent the skills that you already possess. Rather than changing your product, change the packaging!

4. Dig Deep

Do you have a hidden talent? Use the talents that you already have! Perhaps you can create a new type of class all by yourself! Do you have dance experience? Some of the latest crazes in the industry stem from very personal experiences. African aerobics, Belly Dancing, Indian and Latin dances... Perhaps your concept may not be the next Tae Bo, but it would at least give your participants a new experience. It would be unique and a wonderful change to what they are used to. And one more added bonus... you don’t have to get certified to do this!

5. Understand the trends

If you are really serious about investing time into learning a new discipline, it would be wise to analyze the market prior to making your decision. In general, demographics dictate the trends of an industry. Today, baby boomers are the fastest growing group in North American fitness centres, representing approximately 36% of all members*.

As this population continues to age, the demand for gentler, low impact style workouts continue to rise. The evidence of this trend is seen in the decreasing popularity of high impact aerobics and the emergence of body and mind activities. Knowing where the market is going will help you to decide whether or not your investment will be worthwhile. Keeping this in mind will enable you to distinguish between what is a fad and what will be more sustainable. Another market you may want to focus on in the future is kids fitness. Today, an extraordinary amount of children are obese due to the sedentary childhood habits of the new generation. Fitness for these children will become increasingly important as their health continues to decline.

In conclusion, most of us teach because we love it! We truly enjoy the profession and the people we meet everyday. As you encounter these new concepts, please do not feel pressured to surrender to the market. Do what you are comfortable with. You will feel much better about yourself, teach better and be more confident. Good luck!

References: * Age-Old Trend/ Health-Conscious Seniors Displacing Younger Fitness- Club Patrons. The Gazette, Bill Radford, November 14, 2001.

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