Israeli powerhouse Yoav Avidar shares ideas on cross-cultural similarities and how to integrate workshop choreography.
International IDEA presenter Yoav Avidar is regarded as one of Israel’s top fitness professionals. A former gymnast, Avidar devoted himself full-time to the fitness industry in 1997. He is the co-owner of the B. Academy in Tel Aviv and spends much of his life traveling around the world, sharing his technical prowess with other group fitness instructors. He has a captivating stage presence and uses the heart of movement to carry his message to others.
You travel quite a bit and are exposed to many different cultures. Have you noticed a common theme or characteristic among fitness instructors in different parts of the world?
Being exposed to many different cultures and meeting people from around the globe have always been among the best aspects of my job. Having visited more than 15 countries, I can say that fitness instructors share more things in common than not. No matter which country I visit, everyone seems to have the same “symptoms” of the fitness virus: They love people, find movement fun and are passionate about making a difference in students’ lives. Obviously, in each country and in each individual instructor, you recognize the local cultural influence.
What sources do you tap for new ideas?
I never stop watching and taking other people’s classes, both in my “regular” workweek and at conventions. I also read—and try to apply the material in my classes. In the fitness school I run, we certify people in a wide variety of areas—group fitness, personal training, Pilates, stability ball and indoor cycling, to name a few. We work with the best fitness personnel in the local industry, and every time we sit down to discuss our programs, I learn more and am inspired. We also certify jazz and hip-hop instructors, and I enjoy being this close to the dance world. It’s one of the best inspirations for my dance and step classes.
How does your background as a gymnast help you as a fitness instructor?
In every possible aspect! I think one of the most important reasons I’ve been successful is that I’ve worked hard. Nothing has been easy to accomplish. Discipline is a major factor in a gymnast’s life, especially the mental strength to go over an element again and again until it’s perfectly executed. After retiring from gymnastics (because of my 4-year army service), I knew I wouldn’t go back to it and looked for a new path to fulfill my passion to move. This was how I found the group fitness industry. I combined both worlds (gymnastics and aerobics) when I accepted an offer to train for and compete in the National Sportaerobics Championship. I won the men’s individual title in 1997. This has opened many doors for me. It became my goal to make people move, dance and feel good in my classes.
What was the smartest thing you did to grow your career?
I started teaching part-time while I was a law student at Tel Aviv University. After 31/2 years in law school (and a year spent practicing law and passing the Israeli bar exam), I decided to follow my passion for fitness. I had a serious talk with my lawyer father, who was waiting for me to join his business, and told him I needed to follow my heart. Once he had given me his blessing, I started my new life as a full-time fitness instructor. I began presenting nationally and internationally, taught in the best gyms and worked in an institute that certifies fitness instructors. From that point I just kept studying and taking courses; now I’m working on a master’s degree in physical education.
What is the easiest, most practical way for an instructor to take away choreography from a workshop and use it the next day?
Assuming that the workshop has provided loads of new choreography you can use, one of the most important things is not to use it all in your next class. Mix some of the new with old stuff, play with it and get inspired. This way you’ll have several fresh classes to offer.
Who is your most inspiring class participant?
One of my most dedicated students is 59-year-old Naama Velcher. She has diabetes and attends my sessions three times a week, no matter what. She is a “freak” in my advanced step classes and, believe me, my younger students sometimes have trouble following this amazing woman! She started taking classes to help her cope with the diabetes, long before I began my career, and she’ll probably still be taking them long after I finish. Every time I feel tired or it seems that I don’t have any good choreography ideas, I think about this woman, who’s going to take her regular place on my right side in the front row, and I get inspired! I wish to take this opportunity to thank her.
What do instructors struggle with most in regard to overall technique?
Teaching a group fitness class can be a great challenge, owing to the different skill levels and expectations that participants have. Being a successful instructor is a tough mission. Knowledge, education, personal technique and teaching skills are only some of the requirements. You need to add personality, hospitality and sensitivity.
How do you avoid injuries?
The first thing I learned is to listen to my body. We are all familiar with the little warnings we get when we overtrain and don’t give our bodies the attention we should. You can teach a great class and not do it all yourself. Taking a break can be a great way to give more attention to the students instead of concentrating on your own performance. I also teach a variety of formats. This helps create a balanced cross-training environment and reduces the risk of overuse injuries.
What can group fitness instructors do on a daily basis to further the positive growth of the industry?
They can keep up the important work they’re doing and add educational messages to their classes. I believe that people who understand what they’re doing are more dedicated to their workouts and more willing to spread the word about their positive effects. Many students promote my classes—and working out in general—much better than I do. Your ability to give is limited to the people who are actually in class. However, if you make students fitness ambassadors, the “chain of fitness” will become unstoppable!