If you aren’t a Les Mills instructor you will not be aware of the changes made to the way payments are taken for the materials and education that allow you to teach Les Mills programmes. To bring you up to speed quickly, in a nutshell people aren’t happy about having the autonomy to pay for what they want when they want taken away from them. People who teach multiple programmes are not happy that they are now paying more than they used to. The details of this change affect me but are not really what I want to write about today.
When these sort issues arise in general people take to Facebook to debate them. I say debate but quite often there is little real debate. I will normally have an opinion, and I’m happy to express it. It may be different to the opinion of others, even those I’m close to – I will still express it. However I also am happy to consider different views, and sometimes my initial view will change based on what other people have expressed as I consider things from angles that I hadn’t originally considered (this is debate). Sometimes it feels like what actually happens is everyone expresses their view and simply insists anyone who disagrees with them is wrong. When both the customer and provider do this it creates a situation that becomes harder and harder to resolve. I sometimes think that people think that listening and acknowledging the validity in an opposing view weakens their own position so they instead aggressively defend their standpoint generating a greater negative response from people (whereas I have also seen some brilliant examples of the opposite over the last 24 hours where listening to people’s concerns has generated much more positive reactions from people who are upset – none of this is black and white). When we are passionate about something and think it is a good thing we can sometimes be blindsided to the negatives that others may see. I also believe, by the way, that there is a view that a debate such as the ones over the last 24 hours is always a negative thing unless everyone is pro the change being discussed. Actually if we viewed not agreeing with each other in a less negative way debates can be extremely healthy, as can being allowed to express your standpoint. Within my close circle I’ll frequently discuss opposing opinions on topics and we manage to do so without falling out and labeling each other as negative.
Ultimately this has got me thinking about how we work together as fitness professionals. It’s a weird situation. Other fitness professionals are our colleagues in some senses but not in other senses. I have an office job by day and the people I work with are colleagues, it’s very clear cut – we all work for the same company and have to follow the same rules etc. If something changes it tends to affect most people in a similar way. Fitness professionals are self employed / contractors / their own businesses (how we define ourselves if a personal choice). We may work at the same gyms but we all negotiate our own terms, potentially compete for classes, have different degrees of reliance on different fitness roles (main source of income could be PT, classes, other jobs entirely) so how we view changes will be very different for everyone. It makes an already quite competitive market feel more competitive.
It seems an odd idea expecting people who in some ways compete to also work together at the same time. For me it’s become the most positive way to progress your fitness career however.
I work in various ways with a number of different fitness professionals, some in my local eco system (where there is more argument you are competing for the same customers), others in different parts of the country all together. I also talk regularly with instructors from all over the UK, who I sometimes have different opinions to but am able to discuss them without falling out! This has made the fitness world so much nicer for me. Some things are still frustrating of course, but there is a support network, places where you can ask questions or vent about annoyances without being attacked by people who do not agree. I’ve found new work opportunities through networking and looking at how I can work with people rather than compete against them. I’ve learnt things because I’ve opened myself up to different people and they’ve helped me with things they are good at rather than guarding their knowledge and I’ve tried to do the same.
A few years ago there was a movement for a fitness union to fight stagnant pay, which struggled because essentially, as was pointed out at the time, if you don’t teach for the current rate there will always be someone else who will – basically the same argument that as we are all self employed we cannot work together at the same time. This isn’t true. Of course any partnerships need to be beneficial to both parties (and I mean that as individuals and our partnerships with providers such as Les Mill and gyms) and we need to be aware of what we offer against what we take (again both sides too- including gyms and providers). In a busy market however, with every changing trends, I think we need to reconsider how we work with other fitness professionals, possibly gyms and providers also need to consider how they work with non staff member fitness professionals also.
For me personally, I’m happy where I am currently at. My professional connections within the fitness sector are growing stronger and are all positive relationships where I don’t feel I am competing and I feel I can make a difference. The changes in fees, well it’s not ideal as it makes keeping three programmes I don’t physically have classes in financially no longer viable – but there you go, a potentially difficult head over heart choice made for me so good in a way! Perhaps Les Mills will listen to the feedback and adapt the new system to assist those with multiple programmes, if they don’t then instructors have the same choice as me and Les Mills can equally make the choice on how to work with those instructors. What I do know is knee jerk reactions are normal and to be expected and debates are hard not to be drawn into but a) debates don’t need to be seen as a bad thing and b) we will get more done if we try and hep each other.