I was updating my LinkedIn profile the other day and the count is right there to the month, 17 years and 6 months employed by GoodLife Fitness. My big break into the fitness industry and even though my career has expanded in many ways, I’m still thankful to be teaching for the same company all these years and to some of the same people too! When I first started to teach, even though I had to essentially be pushed into the training, my goal was something to do on the side. I was already there, why not get paid for it! Those sentiments quickly changed once I started and realized the powerful impact on both my students and myself by sharing the capacity for health and vitality. 3 years after I started teaching, I quit my full-time job to jump with both feet in and I’ve never looked back. I’ve had many different positions within the industry as I carved out my career path and to help make ends meet along the way. I’ve burned myself out too many times to count, taught with injuries and sick as a dog, forgot my choreo on stage, forgot my ipod, batteries, mic belt, broken cds, broken stereos, fire alarms and black outs and I’m still here, loving every minute of it. As I continue to build my career and grateful that I get to make a lot of my own choices these days, I hold the longevity of my teaching career close to my heart. I understand now after all these years of pushing and hustling that to keep going I have to take care of myself and create balance. Here are some of the lessons that I’ve learned along the way, both personal and from friends and mentors as well.
- Teach what you love and who love! The energy difference between teaching a program that inspires you to students you love, vs slugging away trying to motivate a group that isn’t giving you anything back is incredible. The classes you teach that don’t feel like work feed your soul, the ones that do feel like work are soul sucking. The same can be said for our private clients. Look at your schedule and be honest with yourself, make changes where you can. Letting go of one class that isn’t serving you makes such a huge difference to your overall energy for the week, and if there is one thing we know in this industry our energy levels are number one.
- Take on personal training or private clients. This was key for me to make the leap from part-time to full-time fitness. With private clients, depending on your experience you can make the same or potentially much more than you do teaching classes – the biggest difference, physical energy output. Other than demoing a few exercises, you are mainly watching form and providing corrections. Yes, there may be other work involved doing research and putting programs together, but again physical energy output. It takes less energy to work with an individual over a full group no matter what you are teaching.
- Physically balance your schedule. In the beginning you won’t have much choice and you will need to take what you can get but over time you will be able to shape and mold your schedule to one that is balanced. While teaching doubles and triples are awesome for that sweet chunk of cash in a short time frame, we can’t do it all week. Look at the most physically demanding classes and balance them out with Yoga, HIIT, Barre, Boot Camps or anything else that doesn’t demand that you demonstrate the entire the class.
- Take up Yoga. You have to, whether you like it or not. You need dedicated time to focus on your own mobility and stretching. Take a weekly class if you can or learn how to teach it if that will help motivate you. The wear and tear on your muscles and joints from cardio and strength training classes are a fact of life. If you love those classes and want to keep teaching them, you have to introduce balanced training to your schedule.
- Take care of your injuries. You are going to get injuries in this line of work. Whether acute such as a sprain or a pulled muscle, or the more chronic injuries around joint and back pain. Don’t ignore the pain and do all the things to make it better. Ice after class, stretch, trigger point balls on a daily basis if you need. Have a physio or chiro that you trust, get regular body work such as massage or acupuncture. Don’t push through the pain, don’t come back too early. Your body is your temple, treat it well and it will love you right back.
I have so many more things to say and I’ll squeeze in a few more: wear good shoes, get tons of sleep, take naps, keep a stash of snacks in your bag, drink lots of water, say no when you are too tired. Teaching is what I was born to do, and what I will continue to do as long as I’m alive on this planet. That being said, it is an industry where if you don’t take care of yourself you will burn out hard and everything you loved will feel like a chore. Pace yourself friends, you have a long career ahead of you!