Fit Pros: How to Stay Calm when Teaching

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As a group exercise professional we can often beat ourselves up when things go wrong. Here are a few tips for helping you overcome those inner dialogues.
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Are you a perfectionist?  Do you get upset when you make a mistake in a class?  Have you told yourself you should never teach again because that class was so horrible?  If so, then you are a real group exercise instructor!!

It seems that being a group exercise professional brings with it a fear of failure; a fear of rejection; and a lot of Type-A personalities.  As we chatted on in a previous Teaching Tip, we aren’t super-human (didn’t read it, head over there now…we will wait).  While we need to take our jobs seriously (we can hurt and potentially kill someone), we need to remember that at the end of the day classes are a time for participants to get a great workout.  Thus, it is important that we remind ourselves to have fun; not take things too seriously; and be okay messing up!

Below are a few common things we say to ourselves that get us out of the zone and transform us from calm and easy-going Jane into the deranged vampire running after its evening dinner.  Avoid becoming the vampire by following our few simple suggestions.

“That car better get out of my way RIGHT now”

We’ve all been there.  Stuck in a traffic jam rushing to get to a class.  You can stress yourself out and curse at the cars in front of you, but in reality that isn’t going to change anything.  Instead of freaking and cursing and being in a frizzy when you get to class, give the gym a call and let them know you are stuck in traffic.  Maybe the instructor before you can stick around and warm people up, or a personal trainer can jump in for a few minutes.  It may not be ideal, but life happens, and everyone understands getting stuck in traffic.  So calm down, and breath.

Oh, and if you are a serious road rager, consider putting a calming meditative relaxation mix onto your phone and plugging it in when you get stuck in that traffic jam.  It will do worlds for your mindset.

“Shit…that wasn’t the right choreography”

For those that teach Pre-Choreographed programs it is engrained in us to know the choreography 100%, if we don’t then the whole program is going to go up in smoke and everyone will get a horrible horrible workout experience.  Well, that’s at least what we tell ourselves.  In reality, flubbing some choreography isn’t the end of the world.  As long as everyone is still safe and moving with proper technique, doing a 3/1 instead of a 2/2 is not the end of the world.

Freestyle instructors, we’ve got even more flexibility.  No one in the room knows our choreography except us (well, unless you write it on the wall for everyone to see).  If you forget something you wanted to do, go back and do it later.  Again, as long as everyone is moving safe, gets a well-rounded workout, and  has some fun, then where you did that 3-step-lateral run really doesn’t matter!

“I said what?!?”

Brain farts; word jumbles; excessive rambling – all common fumbles of an instructor.  It will happen to the best of us.  No matter how well we know that our knee is NOT under our elbow, you inevitably are going to tell people to get on all four’s with their shoulders above their knees and knees under elbows (that is my most common flub).  People look at you funny, wonder wtf you meant, and you laugh, smile and correct yourself; class goes on.

Think of all the funny outtakes you love watching at the end of your favorite movies.  Use these as reminders that you will forget your script, your brain will fail you, and that life moves on.  While actors get multiple takes and we are live, people are forgiving if we have fun about it ourselves.

“But Sally stink-face won’t stop giving me the evil eye…”

You know Sally stink-face.   She is the one standing in the front row eye-balling your every move.  Our massive type-A friend who shakes her head when you start 10-seconds past the start of class.  She rolls her eyes when you flub in some choreography, or even better, actually does the correct choreography just to let everyone know YOU messed up.  She wants to break you down and make you feel bad about not being 100% perfect all the time; often times winning.

If you ever leave a class feeling like “that was the worst class I ever taught, I should NEVER teach again”, then you let Sally stink-face win.

Maybe you find you’re your own Sally.  You are the one pulling yourself down when you do even the slightest thing that is not perfect.  You become your own worst critic.  Now is the time to break-up with Sally, because you know she isn’t good for you.

Let it Go…

Sorry, just couldn’t resist!  (You know you watched it!)

But in all seriousness, it’s about putting hickups and mistakes behind you.  Remembering that while we want everything to always run 100% smoothly, we are only human.  Humans make mistakes.

We can’t be 100% perfect all the time, it’s just not possible.

Everyone has flaws.  Even the ones at the very top of their games (we still love you Peyton Manning, even after your not so fabulous 2014 Superbowl performance).

At the end of a “bad class”, ask yourself 3 important questions:

  1. Did the participants get a good workout?
  2. Was everyone safe and injury free despite my flubs?
  3. Did I give it everything I had based on that specific day and circumstances of my life?

If you can honestly answer YES to these 3 questions, then throw out your Type-A t-shirt and remind yourself that it is ONLY a group exercise class!  Move on.

How do you shake off a bad class?  Let us know in the comments below!

Fit Pros: How to Stay Calm when Teaching

Summer N. Sides, M.S.

Summer N. Sides, M.S.

Summer N. Sides (MS, RYT-200, CSCS) is the Founder of GXunited, an educational resource hub dedicated to group fitness and the owner of Greensboro Downtown Yoga. For almost 20 years, she’s helped participants ‘stand taller, move easier, and perform better’ through science backed mindful movement experiences. She’s worked with companies such as NETA, Les Mills, IGNITE360 (a division of IMG Performance), and ACE as a national presenter, assessor, curriculum/program developer, and freelance writer. As a former Lecturer of Exercise Science, she aims to elevate the next generation of fitness professionals through fun and creative educational experiences.

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