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Joy in the Journey

Sep 01, 2007

IDEA presenter Carol Murphy talks about passion for movement and how helping others keeps her motivated.

Carol Murphy is known for her precise execution of movements in well-designed classes. The knowledgeable owner and fitness director of FitLife in Rochester, New York, is a continuing education specialist and the national programming director for Resist-A-Ball®, among many other things. Her vision for success in the fitness industry can be stated in two words: helping others. She dedicates her career to spreading the word about health and wellness, while inspiring other fitness professionals along the way.

What sources do you tap for new ideas?

When I attend conferences, and Im not presenting, I participate in colleagues' workshops, workouts and lectures. This helps me learn diverse approaches to training and stay up on the latest trends. I also get tuned in to the needs within our industry that aren't being addressed. Other great resources I often tap into are
• lecture audios;
• industry reports, journal and magazine articles and books;
• certification manuals (for a return to basics);
• professional membership resource materials and websites; and
• DVDs, dance clips, movies and shows.

I also attend classes locally and, whenever possible, brainstorm and network with instructors, trainers, coordinators, club owners and fellow presenters. Most important, I am in the trenches every day, teaching real people. I look and listen to the needs of my clients and students. If I keep people and their specific goals, needs and concerns at the heart of the matter, new ideas tend to evolve naturally.

How do you stay motivated?
I remind myself why I do what I do. I am only fully alive when helping others. To me, there is nothing sweeter or more rewarding than knowing I've made a positive difference in someone's life. My hope is that I might be able to help people realize how uniquely special they are, to believe in the beauty of their dreams and to reach toward their highest aspirations. This brings purpose to my life. After more than 25 years in the fitness industry, I look forward to the future with incredible optimism, as I am constantly reminded of the necessity of our work. Yet, in any "giving" field, burnout is a risk. Here are some things that have helped me to remain excited, positive and focused on the higher good:
• I mix things up and teach a varied, balanced schedule. My typical week includes aerobic dance, step, circuit, group strength, Pilates and instructor's choice! Cross-training prevents staleness and keeps things interesting for me as well as for my students.
• I switch up the environment. Although I mainly teach large group classes at a club, I also teach 1 day per week at a friend's mind-body studio, and I train private clients both in my studio and at a local golf club.
• I take time off, whether it's just a hike in the woods, a long weekend at the lake or a full-blown vacation. I come back rejuvenated, missing my students and feeling more motivated than ever!
• I attend conferences, workshops, weekend trainings or other instructors' classes. The magnitude of energy, passion, pumping music and inspiration that come from a conference experience is infectious. The fresh ideas you take away will fuel your classes for quite some time.
• I occasionally step outside my comfort zone. New experiences remind us what it feels like to be a new student— less skilled, awkward and unsure. It may also inspire you to go in a direction you had never considered. Years ago, I ended up in a golf conditioning workshop by default. Little did I know that several years later, I'd find my niche working with a client base of golfers at a local country club.

Who is your most inspiring class participant and why?
My students have taught me a world about life, love, humility, friendship and caring. Each one of them is very special. One especially inspirational participant is Terrie, a 59-year-old, semiretired teacher, wife, mother, friend and dedicated fitness enthusiast who is a beautiful example of being fully alive. A regular in my classes for the past 12 years, Terrie often rides her bike to class (by choice), and also swims, hikes, cross-country skis or rollerblades with her friends, family and co-workers. She is very busy in her personal and professional lives, yet never loses sight of what matters most—family and community. She brings incredible strength to others through random acts of kindness. Beyond that, she is a shining example of "pay it forward." Her infectious, positive energy inspires and nurtures many toward a healthier, happier lifestyle.

What advice do you have for new instructors?
• Teach for the right reason—to help people.
• Stay focused; the goal is to inspire and ultimately empower others toward healthy living.
• Continue learning and embrace change. Science and technology are constantly evolving. Stay aware of cutting-edge techniques, training approaches and scientific research to bring the best workout solutions to your clients.
• Care about people. There is a saying: "They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Teach each class as if it were your last. Project your passion, energy and genuine caring continuously. Nurture your students' success.
• Be positive and see the amazing possibilities not only in others, but also within yourself.
• Choose a mentor—a trusted and qualified professional—who selflessly empowers others to find their own direction.
• Network and ask for help. Surround yourself with strong support.
• Be a teacher, not a performer.
• Impart knowledge; remember it's about them, not us. Help people understand not just how to do an exercise, but why, and the positive effect it can have.

How do you avoid injuries?
I listen and respond to my body. There are certain days when I coach more and exert less. Circuits are ideal for those days. There are also times when I lower my step height or teach group strength with an empty bar. Through this example, our students learn to nurture themselves. I also plan a varied schedule of different formats that are a balance of "hard" and "soft" training. I maintain proper form, alignment and technique and always use a microphone. I design and teach safe, effective classes that adhere to industry standards, and I take 1-2 days off from formal exercise each week.

What can group fitness instructors do on a daily basis to further the positive growth of the industry?
Each of us has the privilege and responsibility to change lives. Seek opportunities to make a difference. Mentor others, share ideas and always remember the incredible worth of your work. Go out there and touch lives with the joy of fitness. Begin with your family, co-workers, friends and community. Maintain high professional standards so our industry can grow in credibility. Develop intriguing, accessible, affordable, effective methods for all people. Stay on top of cutting-edge science as it applies to healthy living and incorporate that data into practical programs. Remember, there should be joy in movement, and exercise should not hurt. Classes should be nonintimidating and without comparison or expectation.

My hope is that all of us in the industry will strive together to bring joy to the journey, and we will create fitness experiences in which all participants find hope, energy, peace of mind, friendship, wellness and more. In turn, I hope people find themselves forever changed in the way they view exercise, seeing it as something they want to do versus something they have to do.

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

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