“Aging is a Team Sport.” ~Dr. Bill Thomas.
Let that quote sink in. How perfect. It inspires, motivates and humbles me. Every one of my participants needs a team, and we’re all getting older every day. I assert that WE need a team too, whether that is as family members, parents, athletes, or as fitness instructors.
I recently had an encounter with another fitness instructor who accused me of using her email list to publicize my classes, trainings, and free speaking engagements. And it got me thinking about our purpose as fitness instructors.
I teach primarily Seniors. Most of my participants are in their 80’s, my perfect role model participant is 96. He comes to Warm Water Fitness twice each week, but can’t make it on Fridays because he’s either at his acting class or cheerleading group.
What’s Your Focus?
As a fitness instructor, what are you focused on? Are you “building your class”? Increasing your numbers? Making believers out of every attendee so that they will return to your classes?
Or, are you on your participants team?
- Educating them.
- Recommending they go to another instructor’s classes when their body shows you they need something not covered in your class?
- Perhaps they are just interested in something new and fresh – do you recommend a different format/ instructor/ gym/ activity?
- What if they ask you about how to address a certain issue that isn’t in your line of expertise?
- Or when they need more challenge than the design of your class?
- Do you cheer for them when you walk in and see them in another class, or see them leaving someone else’s class and avoid eye contact?
- Do you empower them or make them feel guilty?
- When their schedule changes, do you readily help them find something else, even if it isn’t one of your own classes?
Truly being on a team means you are also a great teammate.
Change is Good…
If you read my previous article on Neuroplasticity you’ll know that trying something different is good for the brain, and good for the body. It activates muscles unused in a while, and ultimately generates new neural pathways, which we all should be doing every day.
Even going to a similar class with a different teacher can help build new neural pathways as he or she will cue a bit differently, use different music, different moves, or even just start on the left foot instead of the right.
Be Part of Your Participants Team
Sometimes it feels that in the drive to build our classes, increase our numbers, and generate a following, we lose sight of the best interest of our participants. They come to feel better, increase their functionality, become healthier, live longer or better, meet THEIR goals, and perhaps even become more fit, regardless of whether or not that serves OUR individual needs.
As Michael discussed in his article on branding yourself as a fitness professional, everyone has different goals of who they want to be, but don’t let that come at the sacrifice of your team.
And hey – I get it! I have to meet minimum numbers too. But I won’t be the teammate who doesn’t let anyone else play, and I won’t overlook an opportunity to improve their health for the sake of my roster. I encourage participants to find another class, another format, address their issue, increase their cardio, strengthen their biceps – knowing that this means they will be going to classes I don’t teach. It is good for them. And honestly, it feels great to know there will be another capable resource on their team!
So I push this question in front of you one more time: Are you the best teammate you can be?