Fitness Professionals – A Reaction to the Last 24 Hours in my World

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.

 

Feel the Fear and Do It Anway – Reblog

On Sunday I travelled down to London to do my Aim 1 (Advanced Instructor Module) in Sh’bam.

Now I can’t dance. I closely resemble a plank of wood attempting to move to the beat (I can hear what I’m supposed to be doing and when, I just struggle to make my body do it when it comes to dancing). So whilst I’ve done the equivalent courses already in Body Pump, Body Combat, CX Worx and GRIT and also my Aim 2 in Body Pump so knew what was coming, I was really really (really really really) nervous about this one.

Added to this, for personal reasons, I wasn’t in the best head space when Sunday arrived and my confidence and concentration was at an all time low.

I won’t go into the ins and outs of what you do on an Aim but in addition to teaching and getting feedback on this particular course you also learn about (and try) various different types of dance, which- in my case- meant spending the whole day trying things I’d never tried before (ballet, contemporary, Jazz…).

I will start by confirming that, as anyone who has ever met me would expect, I did not excel in any of the movements tried. I also managed to completely forget the choreography for my track about 10 seconds in the second time I taught and pretty much fell to pieces.

I spent much of the day feeling really quite uncomfortable.

But I’m glad I did it.

We all like doing things we are good at. We never mind trying things when we are confident they are going to go really well. That’s fine because even if you’re good at something, going on courses such as these and getting feedback can still improve you.

But although I was by far the least able person in the room on this occasion it was probably one of the most valuable Aims I’ve done. Regular readers will know I hate cheesey phrases like ‘step out of your comfort zone’ but on this occasion, this is what I was forced to do. Not just occasionally but for 9 hours straight! I gave so many things a go that just didn’t feel natural or comfortable or easy- and when my attempts went wrong I tried my best to laugh it off.

I will never be a ballerina but learning how to do things that scare you is a skill that can help you in all aspects of your life, not just the gym.

So if you think your rubbish at squats and so fear approaching the squat rack just go and do it. You might still be a bit rubbish afterwards but you’ll be giving yourself a chance to improve at the same time as reducing the mental block surrounding it.

If you want to learn to do a handstand, sod what people think and just start practicing – the worry about what you will look like is normally a lot worse than any kind of response you might actually receive.

I’ll sign off by saying a massive thank you to Laura Turner for putting up with me the whole day and not laughing at my attempts to dance and also all the other Sh’bammers for their encouragement and advice!

A Key Skill We Could All Do With Brushing Up On

Integrity – the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.

Fitness instructors (be that Gym instructors, PTs or Group Exercise instructors) are encouraged to demonstrate integrity towards our clients.

If you do not show a genuine care towards your client(s) and provide clear, honest advice – from goal setting through to working towards those goals you will lose those clients.

Sometimes this will mean saying things they do not want to hear- you will not get a six pack in 2 weeks just from doing some sit ups, lifting weights will not turn you into Arnie.  To do otherwise and suggest that you can help someone achieve unrealistic goals in unrealistic timeframes would show a lack of integrity.  But you also need to phrase this in a way that the client will understand and mean they still want to be your client (as opposed to a way that makes them think ‘well they can’t help me I’ll go and find someone who can’).

Equally – hearing what we think the client is saying rather than what they are actually saying, because we are caught up in our own misconceptions or too busy trying to defend our own beliefs, will in turn cause distrust between customer and service provider.

Therefore, demonstrating integrity – a key skill for fitness professional – essentially comes down to communicating effectively. 

To be an effective fitness professional you need to be an effective communicator.

Or the flip side – A brilliant product can be undermined by poor communication. 

Because if you mis-communicate your message people can lose faith in what you say – then even when your message is brilliant people will still question and doubt you – put simply the trust has gone.

As fitness professionals there are many skills we need to develop and always areas where we can expand and improve our knowledge – CPD is a wonderful thing.  I do think our skills need to go beyond pure fitness knowledge and we need to work on our communication and listening skills just as much as our squat technique in order to be successful.

I believe at school they called them transferable skills.

No matter where you work, in what industry, and even in our personal lives developing these skills can be massively useful in not creating unnecessary conflict – which is always a good thing.