1. Our beginnings were not necessarily athletic
Long before I became a fitness instructor, I took several fitness classes. I always assumed that the instructors were those girls (I’m going to stick with girls here, folks) that were naturally athletic and played sports in high school and college. I am NOT that girl. My fragile ego is still scarred from gym class when we had to pick teams and I’d be the last one picked and everyone moaned that they got “Kelly” on their team. No exaggeration here – it happened several times through grade school, junior high . . . and even high school. I have several memories of the male gym teacher and his cronies gathering in a corner snickering while I tried to dribble a basketball. It was the 80’s so bullying was okay for gym teachers back then. I don’t have fond memories of gym class but hey it built character. I was never an athlete but I always remained relatively active through my 20’s and 30’s but it was not until I discovered weights in my late 30’s did I start to feel athletic and strong. So when I see that person in the back of the room struggling through class, I feel the need to make her feel welcome and capable.
2. Many instructors don’t like to be up in front of people
Another myth and assumption most people make is that fitness instructors love to be the center of attention. No, that is not me either and the more instructors I talk to, many of us are introverts. Kind of odd – yes? I’ve always been the girl both in the classroom and fitness class to find the very back of the room to hide. I always assumed that the perky, smiling girl up front loved being up there – that it came naturally to her. Well, I had to learn that skill. It does not bother me now and it’s bubbled over to my real life in a positive way. However, it was not until I decided to enter a fitness bikini contest and stand on stage in a tiny bikini looking like a deer in headlights did I realize that it didn’t matter what people thought, it was a positive experience to put myself out there. So I have learned the skill of teaching and standing in front of a class. I have developed thick skin and I know that some people will love me and some will not. I will have amazing days as an instructor and maybe not so amazing days. But the ability to stand in front of people and instruct them to move their bodies properly is a skill that is in constant motion that can only be improved daily.
3. We are not always perky
So this may be shocking . . but we are not always in the mood to get up and teach. We are not always feeling one hundred percent and sometimes we may have had too many cocktails the night before. In fact, I’m not really perky by nature. Again – high school – I thought I might want to be a cheerleader and wear those cute outfits. I went to a preliminary practice and saw those girls jumping around with bright smiles and I thought, “oh heck no, that is so not me. I’m way to cynical and sarcastic for that” and I left. But here is the thing, when you teach fitness, you do have to have some enthusiasm. You cannot be “Debbie downer” and inspire others.
What I find most helpful on my way into work on a Saturday morning (after maybe a few glasses of wine the night before) is to have a theme song or sing along party in the car. TLC is one of my favorites tunes to get me all “jazzed” up and usually it perks me up and I think how grateful I am to be able to teach and there you have it – – your perky instructor for the day.
4. We do love our jobs
Almost all fitness instructors love our jobs. We don’t always get compensated for the time and effort most of us put into instructing. I usually like to make a playlist and depending on what I’m teaching, I like to write out a plan so that is extra time we put in for which we are not paid. However, I truly love my job. I work both as a personal trainer, Barre fitness instructor and pilates instructor. I love all three of these jobs. There is nothing better then having a full class, great music pumping, enthusiasm and positive energy flowing through the room. It’s just so much darn fun.
5. You are never too old to be a fitness instructor
I believe most of us envision fitness instructors as being cute, young things – like Oliva Newton John in Let’s Get Physical. I also believe that stereotype has been blown away in the last several years. And quite possibly more so after the Super Bowl this year with JLo and Shakira. I taught my first class at forty-two. I recently took a certification class and the master instructor was in her 60’s and I couldn’t keep up. So maybe secretly you are aspiring to teach a class and you think you are too old, I say get out there and try it. What do you have to lose?
I was that person in the back in the class who thought I could never teach a class. I made assumptions and judgments about the fitness instructors thinking they were superstars but when I took a deeper look and climbed outside my shell, I realized I was capable of being one too and I’m so glad I did because it is many times the highlight of my week.