It all started in high school where I had to speak publicly in front of students and in front of members of my community. My father coached me and my mother gave me much needed support. She wrote my whole speech. I was very lucky to have them.
Who would have known that public speaking would be part of my life? This goes to show that every event you encounter prepares you for greater adventures!
After my first public speaking experience in my early teenage years, I felt I had completed the groundwork needed to continue my life in the public eye. During my university studies, I became a fitness instructor and I taught two undergraduate classes and physiology labs. I also gave conferences to senior citizens as part of a health promotion program. Needless to say, life always prepares you for what is coming your way.
I remember my first experience as a fitness instructor. I had to teach a high impact fitness class to a group of workers as part of a research program. My supervising professor was an excellent physiologist. I was proud to be working with him on his research while completing my bachelor’s degree. He was conducting a research program where he would measure physiological parameters before and after a controlled fitness program. The participants all had a somewhat stressful job. The professor would measure their heart rate and blood pressure, and perform a stress test to calculate the VO2 max (maximal oxygen intake as an indicator of their fitness level). He also calculated the participants’ body fat percentage, max sit-ups, and max push-ups. Are some of you familiar with these tests?
To continue the story, the professor had assigned a fitness instructor to his research, but she announced one day that she was going on a trip down South. All of a sudden, the professor and the instructor both looked at me and started staring! What were they thinking? There was no way I was going to teach fitness! I was a research assistant and nothing more. Well, what do you think happened? I finally gave inâ€¦ It made me feel uncomfortable, but I knew that in the end, it would benefit the research.
The fitness instructor proceeded to teach me her class with some variations and provided images as a reference. She even lent me her tapes. We exercised to the beat of the music. The thought of teaching a fitness class made me tremble with fear! How in the world was I supposed to coordinate all of this? The movements, the cuing and the counting `1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8` It all seemed very tricky to me. Would I be able to remember all of this? Would I run out of breath? Most importantly, would I remember the movement sequence? So I did what my father had once advised me to do: I practiced in front of the mirror until I knew the music, the timing and the movements. I practiced and practiced until it all became second nature to me. It’s important to note there weren’t any fitness or personal training certifications at the time.
The day of my first class finally arrived. I was in the gym with the participants and they were all waiting in silence for the class to start. All eyes were on me. I was shaking. I didn’t want to look like a fool. I started by welcoming everyone to my class, I put the music on and then took a deep breath. I then remembered something funny. The instructor had told me that the participants were like monkeys: they mimicked everything the instructor did. If she scratched her head, they scratched their head, and so forth. The thought of having a group of monkeys in front of me made me laugh. When I started the class, I remember repeating the same movement for more than the usual 24 countsâ€¦ It seemed like 100 beats or more before I remembered the next movement. To help me remember the sequence, I had jotted down some movements on a piece of paper that I had placed on the floor beside me. I picked different movements until 30 minutes of aerobics had elapsed. I then went on to the floor exercises and ended with the relaxation segment. I had done it! I had taught an aerobics class, and continued to do so many times after that.
This experience led me to become a fitness instructor as well as a kinesiologist. I ended up teaching fitness for 23 years. During the last 8 years of my fitness instructing career, I taught tae-bo. I highly enjoyed teaching tae-bo, as it was one of my preferred forms of exercise.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the exercise program participants who were patient with me and gave me a chance to become a fitness instructor. Thank you!
Are you, or have you ever been, an instructor (fitness or any other type)? How was your first class? How did you feel? We want to hear your story!
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Story by Joanne
Edited by Coreen B.