10 Tips for a Long Teaching Career

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Sure, you stay active and teach often, but are you practicing safe habits to insure you’ll be healthy and injury free to keep teaching for a long time? 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.” What is the average teaching career for a Certified Fitness Instructor?

Not unlike professional sports, teaching for a long time 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 consider teaching 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 and a lot of jumping jacks! Continual, constant movement can take its toll on your physical body, relentless mentoring to participants can make havoc on your mental state and perpetual exposure to criticism can fatigue your emotional health. And now we even have to deal with continual, constant pandemic protocols. The following 10 tips guide your plan today to overcome the obstacles that could inhibit a full and long teaching career.

Teach smart and safe. Learn to modify your movements. 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.

Teach or train all aspects of fitness: Cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and endurance and flexibility. Perform training activities in moderation and variation as to avoid overtraining.

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 re- cover faster. Illness can range from a simple virus to chronic illness 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. Every day is a blessing!

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 re-energize you and keep you mentally and physically strong.

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 prepared you will be to deliver safe, effective classes to your participants, using the latest equipment, technology and movements.

Challenge yourself. Try something out of your comfort zone. Learn a new program or take a new certification. It will keep your mind sharp and your body strong.

Get evaluations and feedback on the classes you teach. Ask 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.

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 an ideal 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.

Take care of your body. Eat well and hydrate. Sleep enough. Floss! Wash your hands and stay home if you’re feeling ill. Address rising stressors. Avoid unhealthy input: tobacco, alcohol, sugar, drama, etc. Create positive habits and routines.
Be conscientious. You will be stronger and healthier.

If you can incorporate these 10 tips into your life, then 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.