A Global Outlook

IDEA presenter Fred Hoffman, MEd, talks about how an expanded vision can help your career.

It’s comforting to walk into a convention session room and see Fred Hoffman standing on stage, ready to teach. His no-nonsense style has always been rooted in the highest education standards, and his delivery is warm and inviting. A 20-year-plus fitness industry veteran, Hoffman is also a registered respiratory therapist and holds a master’s degree in health education from Boston University.

Hoffman has taught fitness programs in more than 45 countries worldwide. In addition to his travels, he continues to give weekly group fitness classes in Paris for employees of the International Energy Agency and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Have you noticed any new trends in music? If so, what are they and how are instructors adapting?

CDs, which once replaced cassettes, are being replaced by digitally downloaded music. Many instructors are buying music online and creating playlists for portable digital music players. Some create their own “personalized” CDs with music-mixing software programs. I’ve also noticed that many instructors now allow for a “break” between songs for formats such as cycling, dance and prechoreographed resistance training. I’ve also seen an increase in the use of “world” music—such as African, Salsa and Brazilian—for movement-based classes.

On a very promising note, I have noticed instructors from around the world are reversing the trend of using fast music for step classes. For several years the music speed guidelines, introduced when step training was launched, were often ignored. As a result of increased awareness and education, more instructors are slowing down and teaching step at a reasonably safe speed.

What do you feel is the most pressing issue in group fitness today?

Instructor certification is a big issue. There is a need for education and qualification standards, but we must be clear about the difference between continuing education and certification. This difference can be confusing for instructors, often presenting them with the dilemma of choosing which certifying agency to go to, and it may raise concerns about the credibility of continuing education providers. Unfortunately, for the moment, there are many people delivering “certifications” who may not be qualified to do so. The bottom line is that we, as professionals, need to provide quality and consistency in our services. This can take place only with some form of standardization and accountability.

What inspires and motivates you? How do you keep your “innovation” muscles strong?

I am motivated and inspired every time I teach. This is especially true when I am in front of a group of students I don’t know very well (or at all)! Teaching provides me with a platform where I can share my knowledge with others, allowing them to be successful and have fun. I also feel motivated when teaching workshops for new instructors who are eager to learn. I love opening their eyes to the many possibilities that exist in this ever-evolving industry. My colleagues inspire me, too. There are so many creative individuals in the fitness world, and I am very lucky that my travels allow me to experience firsthand what is happening on a global basis.

Are there any markets or populations you think are underserved? What can group fitness instructors do to help reach them?

Worldwide, we are still not getting to enough of the people who just need to move, walk, get off the couch and eat healthier foods. As group fitness instructors, we have to find more creative ways of reaching the public and increasing awareness about exercise and health. As an industry, we must make fitness accessible to the masses at a low cost. This is a huge task, but we can start by being role models for those around us—our family, friends and neighbors. They in turn can be our ambassadors, getting the word out about the benefits of fitness programs and about how good they feel when they work out.

What “nonfitness” activities help your fitness career the most?

Traveling, reading, surfing the Internet and just enjoying life are some of the activities that help my career. I’ve been successful as a result of hard work and continuing education, but the most help has come from traveling the world and meeting people from all different walks of life. Learning about different cultures and seeing what incredible things are taking place elsewhere has really changed me. It has also changed my approach to teaching and education.

I also take time to “smell the flowers” and do non-fitness-related activities. This has allowed me to continue to enjoy my work and to stay motivated. We all need some downtime, like curling up with a good book, getting lost in a great movie or indulging in a wonderful meal with friends at a fun restaurant! Career is important, but don’t let life pass you by!

Who is your most inspiring class participant or client?

During my career, I’ve have had countless participants inspire and motivate me, both on a personal and a professional level. But there is one person in particular. Her name is Kalleen Flood, and she is one of the regulars where I’ve been teaching for more than 17 years. She has been attending my classes since I arrived in Paris and has been a committed student since then. Kalleen recently retired after a wonderful 30-year career and still comes to my classes despite the fact that she is no longer working and has to travel a good distance to get to class. What is wonderful about Kalleen is that she always has a smile on her face and a positive attitude, and her presence in my classes all of these years has made my teaching experience a more enjoyable one!

What advice do you have for new instructors?

Education, education and continuing education. Learn as much as you can, but this does not mean only in school or in the traditional sense of the word. Life experience is one of our best sources. New instructors should nurture themselves with everything that surrounds them, which is what learning is really about.

I also believe it is a good idea for new instructors to experience all kinds of activities from a variety of teachers whenever possible. We can’t be experts in every area, and shouldn’t try to be, but I think new instructors are much more marketable if they have multiple skills. My suggestion is to gain as much knowledge as you can, but concentrate on the activities or specialty areas you are passionate about and in which you excel. Often instructors want to be at the top of their game right away, but this takes time, hard work, dedication, experience, observation and learning from mistakes. Don’t try to conquer the world! My last word of advice is to follow your heart and have fun!

How do you avoid injuries?

To avoid injuries I cross-train, take off at least 1 or 2 days a week from exercise, have regular massages, eat healthy (but not only “health foods”) and get a good amount of sleep. I always listen to what my body is telling me and react accordingly. I’ve made it a personal rule to respect industry guidelines for safety and injury prevention when I am teaching class, as well as during my own workouts. I also participate in non-fitness-related activities. Although I love this industry and what I do, I firmly believe that we need to have balance in our lives between work, play, family, friends and leisure activities.

What can group fitness instructors do on a daily basis to further the positive growth of the industry?

Educate yourself, demonstrate professionalism and be positive about our industry! We make huge differences in people’s lives, and we should be proud of that. We must talk to people about how our industry has evolved and how we impact the health and well-being of people worldwide. Encourage the people around you to discover the benefits of fitness and exercise, and be a resource for them.

© 2007 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

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March 2007

© 2007 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

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