CREAM RISES: Excellence in Private and Group Fitness Education

CREAM RISES: Excellence in Private and Group Fitness Education, Lawrence Biscontini’s third book, details the lessons Lawrence has learned within fitness industry, including tips from the best leaders in the field. Make the transition from good to great and elevate your abilities as you learn what makes
the cream rise to the top in a competitive economy. The book features many interactive “TRY THIS” lessons to fuse theory with practical application.

Aerobic Fitness Proves to Be Beneficial

According to researchers from the University of Alberta, traditional aerobic fitness training trumps pedometer-based programs. The study compared fitness training to a pedometer-based walking program, measuring the fitness and health outcomes of each.

This six-month study, published by exercise physiologist, Gordon Bell, recruited 128 physically inactive men and women with no known cardiovascular or other diseases. Throughout the study, all participants saw benefits. Those participants in the supervised aerobic fitness program showed significantly greater reductions in their systolic blood press, rating of perceived exertion, ventilatory threshold, and peak VO2. Source: sciencedaily.com

10,000 Classes by Renee Diamond

“The mediocre teacher tells, The good teacher explains, The superior teacher demonstrates, The great teacher inspires” – William Arthur Ward

I have done the math and have come to the realization that I have taught more than 10,000 classes since I began my career in 1979. Starting in fitness and evolving as time (and injuries) went on, my partnership with yoga in around 1995, satisfying healthy balance, brought me to the present.

You may wonder what prompted me to make the calculations of those teaching hours. Malcolm Gladwell’s most recent book, Outliers: The Story of Success, says that 10,000 hours spent honing your skills is a baseline of success. He sites many examples of successful people in all fields and includes other factors such as work ethic, luck, a strong support system and even being in the right place at the right time. If you practice something for 10,000 hours, you become proficient enough to be called a master. The number stuck in my mind and I was curious so I went back and started counting to see if I qualified.

While I am positive that true mastery has been attained, this exercise illustrated for me how much experience I’ve actually had. I could also see that hours spent in actual studio time teaching, add up to a substantial self-education. Taking whatever level of education you have and putting it into play with a live audience is a challenge. How many times have I prepared a fabulous class and had to throw the whole thing out and go to Plan B when the circumstances in the room were not what I thought they’d be? For example, a class labeled intermediate and half the room shows up beginner; or the ac system malfunctions and the room is too hot or very cold; or, more subtly, you can feel that the practice you planned is not the right fit for the energy in the class that day.

This last example is, perhaps, one of the most important aspects of teacher development: the ability to “read” the room. You can’t learn it in teacher training, no matter how many hours you dedicate, yet it is the most vital skill. A well-tuned teacher can deliver three poses and have everyone walk out with a smile on his face. A well-tuned teacher knows when he or she has hit it just right.

What then are the standards and measures in our business by which teachers are hired; The RYT requirements
for certain positions in studios, health clubs, spas, or corporations? A 200-hour basic certification course is not an overwhelming amount of training; however, it is enough in many cases to gain employment.

Let’s say that the 200-hour teacher lands an entry-level position and teaches 3 classes a week. That’s 144 actual teaching hours per year; 576 hours in four years (if the
class is one hour). She is very successful and her classes are packed. Now this teacher is ready to move up in her
life and wants to apply to a high-end spa or club where the compensation is better. The new facility requires 500 hours of teacher training to qualify for a position there. Her colleague just completed her 500 hours at Kripalu and is ready for

her first teaching job. Whose 500 hours is more pertinent or valuable: the one with actual hands on experience or the one with teacher training education hours? The answer is neither – or both. The education is essential, but we also have to be able to deliver this knowledge and connect to people, to motivate and inspire, to give the right lesson at the right moment. This takes practice, perhaps 10,000 hours, as Mr. Gladwell theorizes.

I often have teachers-in-training in my classes. Afterward,
I am asked to sign their record books confirming their attendance in my class that day. Maybe in the future we may need to have the student sign for us, confirming receipt of a yoga class well delivered. This could prove to be an important record necessary in qualifying us for mastery or, at the very least, a raise.

What Do You Think Is the Future of Group Fitness?

Answered by long time ECA presenter, Jon Giswold.

Carol. Great question. As an old timer, I have seen our industry go through growing pains as any industry must in order to sustain itself and prosper. I think that we are at a crossroads now where a movement became an industry. When passion turns into business, along the way it loses it soul. I remember when our industry cared about people dying of AIDS and we worked for the City of Hope in such an organic way, jumping jacks for dollars and aerobic marathons. The City of Hope had a large marker in the rose garden that said, THERE IS NO PROFIT IN CURING THE BODY IF, IN THE PROCESS, WE DESTROY THE SOUL.

Well, our industry has lost some soul. The organic way that we use to have to find a studio on the third floor of nowhere, where we changed clothes in a bathroom and smelled the burritos being prepped for that night down in the basement. The authenticity of what we were doing is over, I feel, and the spirit of the teachers has been fragmented. We are all in special groups. We have ourselves pitted the Personal Training staff against the Mind Body Staff who think that the Group Ex Staff are not worthy and the Aqua Staff are the ugly step kids that only want attention from the SPINNERS and the STEP instructor who has been sent to Siberia. When did this happen? When did the convention circuit turn into it’s own culture that never seems to translate to the rooms that teachers work in? Maybe I am out of touch. I think that we should be concerned with what people need and how to deliver it to them in safe and effective ways. We are never going to make any progress in getting our country to an ideal weight when we don’t look further than the front row of our class.

Community – Join the Group!

In this ever-growing isolating culture where people text people in the same room, we are in desperate need of community! One of the great benefits of group fitness is the ability to have a communal experience. Whether you are training people in small group trainings, teaching in a studio, or club, the group is able to experience that sense of community which fosters everything from retention to greater fitness results along with bonding and lasting friendships. Humans are social beings and need interaction. We as fitness professionals are able to offer a forum where this type of interaction is made possible. We can expand upon this benefit by offering more opportunities for interaction. As the leader of the group, you are the role model for fostering a greater sense of community. Learn and use the names of those that attend your trainings or classes. Offer a time within the class or training for discussion or comment. Praise and acknowledge fellow attendees. Offer attendees the opportunities to work as partners or in small groups where they can reinforce friendships and interaction.  Offer attendees the ability to lead or demonstrate the exercises or routines. By providing more interactions within the group you are enabling them to experience a greater social environment, which in turn leads to even more positive effects. Bonding can occur and with that, an increased sense of belonging. Attendees or members can now share and vent their feelings, feel a greater sense of inclusion, and empathize; all are important emotions that need expression. We as Trainers and Instructors need similar outlets. Places where we, as like-minded populations can gather and share our common experiences and expressions together and commune in a positive environment. Conventions and workshops are excellent opportunities that provide that environment. Even staff meetings (which can sometimes make us cringe) are great sources to bond with fellow travellers and get to know each other.

Although sometimes inconvenient, group and communal experiences are necessary and provide an important component to our mental health and wellbeing.  Next time you are out and about, pop the headphones out of your ears, turn your cell phone off, and engage! You’ll see it will leave you more fulfilled then being isolated.

Community Begins in the Classroom

By Heidi Aspen Rhoades

In the last issue of ECA, Carol Scott encouraged our industry to push the limits of our profession beyond the physical needs of our clients and ourselves and look to reaching out to our community at large, which includes the earth.

Michelle Mascari, general manager of group fitness for Lifetime Fitness, gave a presentation at the ECA/THRIVE Miami 2010 conference where she discussed best practices for fitness instructors.  One of the key best practices is building and creating a sense of community among our students and the power that team building can have on our group in particular and on any project or issue we chose to embrace.

Group fitness, as explained by Mascari is… using this model. “The easiest way to connect with our students is through good old fashion “face time”; availing yourself before and after class to chit chat.  During the class you can bring people closer by addressing participants by name; monitoring when students get particularly charged by a certain song or genre of music or by mentioning, for example, how it’s Tuesday and how you, as the instructor, are so excited because that means tonight is “Glee”.

All of these little notables can be fused to create networks among people in the class.  Conversations start and a micro community is born.

Today we can move beyond the physical space of the aerobics room and enter cyber space using social media*.  Facebook, Twitter and web pages are integral resources for transmitting information and keeping people connected not only to you but to each other. Naturally people will make posts about how terrific the class was (of course!) but they may also dial class members into a dog wash charity at the local shelter or a bike drive for underprivileged children.  Posts can include a link and voila! Fitness has just crossed into the realm of altruism.

Once you have created a team among your members, you have recruits at the ready.  Let your class know about a trash clean up in a local preserve and have a sign up sheet available.  Encourage members to do the same if they have a pet project or passion that they would like to share.  It is important that each person that comes to your class has at least one friend. There is a fifty percent likelihood that the friend may be convinced to come to that event therefore increasing the person-power of the project.  Imagine how fast a home could be built if one hundred people attended a Habitat for Humanity project.

Humans are social creatures and that is the draw of group fitness; we sweat, dance, hoot and holler together.  We roll our eyes at each other when the instructor asks for another set and we help one another with equipment.  That camaraderie is one of the driving forces for bringing people back into the room.  As instructors, we can capitalize on that dynamic and cultivate a crew of community go-getters.

The era of self-absorption is over for many reasons.  The recession has brought about the necessity to cut back and rediscover the basics.  What hasn’t changed, however, is people’s desire to be together and to have fun, it’s just doing it on another level.  As leaders we have the capacity to guide folks to doing things that are entertaining but humanitarian in nature.  Working together towards a goal is one of the more fulfilling things in life; throw in some good music and a potluck and you can call it a party.

There are many real life examples of community blossoming out of the classroom. Zumba instructors are notorious for creating strong communities with followings that will travel great distances to dance, make new friends and support causes. Instructors from all over south Florida congregated with their students to raise over ten thousand dollars for the victims of Haiti’s earthquakes. Our facility also works closely with a local nonprofit organization called “Best Foot Forward” that advocates and supports children aging out of foster care.  With several thousand members, we do a lot of promotion for their events in all of our classes and do a great job of attending their events and filling their volunteer positions.

Community building in the classroom is the next step in our industry.  We are at the forefront of social innovation in terms of defining wellness; wellness for our bodies, our minds and most importantly, our planet and its inhabitants.  Are you ready to take your profession to the next level?

*Please be aware that social media does have its pitfalls.  It is important to keep personal information to a minimum and to avoid disclosing inappropriate information that could harm or damage you or the cause that you are supporting.  Use common sense.  There are many resources on the Web that discuss how to maintain a public Facebook, Twitter or web page in an appropriate manner.

Heidi Aspen Rhoades is a group fitness instructor at Lifetime Fitness in Boca Raton, FL. She is the mother of two young children and a freelance writer.  She loves being a part of her community.