Sure, you stay active and teach often, but are you practicing safe healthy habits to insure you’ll be healthy and injury free to keep you teaching away on that pool deck? Well, how long is long, right? According to Jeff Nelson, author of The Longest Professional Sports Careers, “The average playing career for an NFL player is 3.5 years; the average MLB career is 5.6 years; the average NBA career is 4.8 years; and the average NHL career 5.5 years. Playing in one of the major four American sports takes a toll on a person’s body that is nearly unfathomable.”
Not unlike professional sports, teaching for a long time, especially on the concrete surrounds of most pools, can take a toll on you. If you have consistently led fitness classes during your adult life that could easily be 10 years. You may even have plans to continue leading fitness classes in the future. You may consider it a lifetime investment. Let’s estimate “long” to be a typical, adult-life career span from 18 – 65 years of age. That’s 47 years. That’s a lot of jumping jacks! Continual, consistent movement can take its toll on your physical body. Continual, consistent mentoring to exercisers can take its toll on your mental state. Continual, consistent exposure to criticism can take its toll on your emotional health. Follow the 10 tips below and make a plan today to overcome the obstacles that could inhibit a full and long teaching career.
1. COACH: Teach smart and safe. Learn to modify your aqua movements for the deck. Be a better coach by using strong visual and verbal cues. Give options for high and low efforts. Depending on the program, you don’t have to jump the highest or load your bar with the most weight. A great instructor can keep the movement going by coaching, correcting and connecting with your class.
2. CROSS TRAIN: Teach or train all aspects of fitness: Cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, endurance and flexibility. Perform training activities in moderation and variation as to not over-train. The simplest being, put yourself in the pool for other instructors’ classes. You already know it’s better for your body, but you might pick up a couple tips and tricks while you’re at it!
3. RESPECT YOUR BODY: Injury, illness and age can and will happen. Take the time to let yourself heal from injuries. Physical therapy is a must and will help you recover faster. A pool is a form of physical therapy and a great option for abused muscles. Consider teaching both in and out of the pool. Illness can range from a simple virus to chronic disease and cancer. Rest and take the down time you need to rehabilitate and cope. As Your body ages it starts to break down and slow down. Acknowledge it and embrace it. You’ve earned every ache and pain. Use the pool to soothe those aches and pains. Every day is a blessing!
4. PRIORITIZE: Find your limits. If you are feeling too busy and stressed out, you may have to cut back. Give up teaching classes or programs when you can’t cope either mentally or physically. Set priorities. Put the most important things in your life first. It’s ok to say no.
5. REST: Take breaks. Give yourself days off. Don’t overwhelm your schedule with too many classes. Take time for yourself, family and friends. It will reenergize you and keep you mentally and physically strong.
6. LEARN: Educate yourself – about all aspects of fitness. Take workshops, attend fitness conventions and watch webinars. Do research and read articles. The more you know the better instructor you can be. It will help you teach your students the purpose of doing certain exercises and classes.
7. REACH: Challenge yourself. Try something out of your comfort zone. Try learning a new program or get a new certification. It will keep your mind sharp and your body strong.
8. CRITIQUE: Get evaluations and feedback on the classes you teach. Don’t ask your participants if they like the class. They will say yes! Ask fellow aqua instructors in your club to attend your classes and give you AN honest critique. Film yourself teaching. Watch and see how you can improve. Send those videos to others for even further feedback. Criticism is sometimes hard to take. Use it to make yourself better! Take classes from other instructors. You will learn awesome cues and ideas. Sometimes you even learn what NOT to do.
9. SELF PRAISE: Don’t be hard on yourself. You will teach a bad class now and then. Get up, dust yourself off and make a plan to be better! Not everyone’s body is a perfect model of physical fitness perfection. We all come in different shapes and sizes. Love yourself. Love others and it will shine through in your teaching.
10. HEALTHY HABITS: Take care of your body. Eat well and hydrate. Sleep enough. Floss! Address rising stressors. Avoid unhealthy input: tobacco, alcohol, sugar, drama, etc. Create positive habits and routines. Be conscientious. You will be stronger and healthier. Incorporate these 10 tips into your life and look forward to years of serving those who really need your expertise, energy and motivation. We fitness instructors offer such a valued service to so many in need. Just remember to fill your own cup first so you can pour out guidance for others.