As we come to the close of another school year, our attention is focused on the completed tasks of students. I want to bring attention to teachers for a moment. Teachers are the unsung heroes in my book. They play such a huge role in the development of our kids and we don’t give them enough credit. You have to be a unique person to pursue teaching. You have to have a passion for teaching. It’s not the type of job that people aspire to if they want to accumulate a lot of money. Being completely respectful to any teachers that may be reading this, you never hear anyone say “I want to make millions of dollars as a teacher”. I’ve gravitated to observing teachers in the last couple years. If you strip down the competency of a trainer (that they know how the body works and they have a basic understanding of exercise), the success of the people they work with depends on their ability to communicate and teach.
It was from reading about teaching that I became more aware of how people learn (visual, oratory, kinesthetic) and started taking that into consideration when coaching people. I’ve learned not to give a lot of credence to verbal cues for people who are visual learners. In that population, I’ll spend more time actually demonstrating the exercise. I’m quickly reminded of this when I make an error in judgment and give extensive verbal explanations for an exercise to one of my small groups and nobody moves. I’ll then quickly start to show the exercise and they’ll react with an “Oh, ok” and get into position. One of the more frustrating things I see when visiting a gym while traveling is when I observe a trainer just raising their voice as they coach. “Deeper, SQUAT DEEPER!” The poor person thinks they’re squatting deep enough, it’s just not clicking. The coach would probably get a better response if they demonstrated what the person was doing and then demonstrated what they wanted. I’m not guaranteeing this is the only way, but it may be a better option than talking louder. My wife and I shared a laugh when years ago we watched this trainer shout “Activate, activate”, as he trained this young woman. Activate? Activate what?
Not to make this a venting session, but another problem I see increasing in my beloved fitness industry, is the novice coach teaching a skill that they haven’t mastered themselves. This is becoming one of my big gripes. I’ll explain how it’s manifested in the last 5-7 years. The certification and education business for trainers has exploded. Any weekend of the year you can pay to learn how to swing a kettlebell, lunge with a sandbag, or instruct spin. This is a good thing.
(Me along side some of my team and a few fellow coaches at a Trainer Summit in Long Beach, California)
The level of coaching has improved immensely due to this, and the fitness world is better for it. I’ve written before about how I volunteer for the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as the state director for Nevada, and coordinate an annual state clinic providing expert speakers to whom trainers can listen and learn.
(Hosting Annual NSCA state clinic at the studio)
The problem arises when that young trainer returns home on Monday and proceeds to “throw up” everything they learned over the past weekend on their poor unexpecting client.
When learning any new skill, your immediate response should be to practice substantially before you try to teach it to anyone else. I won’t say you have to adopt the 10,000 hour rule, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell’s best seller Outliers, before you instruct. You should put a minimum of 20-40 hours of practice in before you start to use it in your programming. If you train yourself 4-5 hours a week, that’s practicing a month or two on yourself before you roll it out to clients. That time frame can slide up or down based upon the skill level of the task. I’m currently working on a new mobility and muscle activation program using Mobility sticks and mini-bands. I’ve been practicing for the last 2 months using the drills in my workouts, and feel I’ll be able to launch the program later this summer. Why do I think this is important?
If you don’t have experience, you won’t have context to teach. The analogy I use is learning to write. You have to first learn the words, then how to put together a sentence before you can write out a thought. I love journaling, but giving a 3 year old a journal before they can write words is a waste of time. Part of learning is experiences and making mistakes. Knowing what not to do is sometimes more important than knowing what to do.
It’s for this reason I don’t plan on offering Spinning at my studio anytime soon. Spinning is very popular right now. Many studios are being very reactive, as opposed to proactive, by ordering Spin bikes and putting it on their class schedule. Their idea is “our coaches will learn as they go”. In there, lies the problem. How can one teach others and learn at the same time?
At J & D Fitness, I’ll continue to work with my team on becoming Masters of training, so we can continue to teach at an elite level. Similar to school teachers, my passion is for helping others, not to make millions of dollars. Have a great Memorial Day weekend!
See you at the studio.