The energy, idealism and enthusiasm generated by fitness industry newbies are amazing. However, the flip side can be burnout, injury and neglected personal relationships. Based on wisdom gleaned from experience (sometimes the hard way), a few veterans share their thoughts on how new pros can safeguard self-care early on in their careers.
Make a list—and stick to it. “Make a list of what’s important to you, and let go of the thought that taking care of yourself is a selfish act,” shares Marien. “When I say yes, it has to fit with the values on my list. Fit pros want to advance their careers, and so they make too many commitments. Make a list and refer to it.”
Work on you first. Author Cheryl Richardson writes that it’s time to “quit being a martyr and focus on getting your needs met.” She emphasizes the need to be direct about asking for what you want, and to focus on sharing the load rather than being a hero—before it becomes a habit to accommodate others. she calls bending over backward to help an employee do his or her job “hiring people to work for.” And she calls overscheduling oneself “insanity.”
“You need to master the art of disappointing and upsetting others, hurting feelings, and living with the reality that some people just won’t like you. It may not be easy, but it’s essential if you want your life to reflect your deepest desires, values, and needs.”
Take care of your mind and body. “I have lived long enough to know that staying fit and healthy is the best way to survive, with positive thinking,” says Lugo Lásser. “As I age, I need to be aware of my physical changes, because if I get injured, that injury can take me away from what I wish to do and need to accomplish. I need to acknowledge the messages my body sends to my brain. I know that I alone am responsible for my decisions, both good and bad.”
Pressure is mental, which Kortebein also addresses. “Success has to come from the head before the body. Negative thoughts are disastrous to a healthy lifestyle. Plan out your day for success, which includes surrounding yourself with positive people, healthy foods and manageable workouts, especially during times of stress.”
Pace yourself. “Don’t feel pressured to keep up with Sally who teaches 20 classes a week. You will burn yourself out that way,” advises Parker, who learned this lesson the hard way. “I experienced burnout early in my career by teaching too much and not getting enough rest.”
Eventually Parker recognized that her need to keep up left her way behind, so she went from comparing herself with others to comparing herself with her desired schedule.
As an employer, Micco has seen a lot of burnout in newbies. “Be patient. the fitness industry is exciting, and there is so much to learn and share. Pick one or two skills to work on at a time, to build your repertoire. Hold back from trying to be everything to everyone. Take 1–2 full days off per week. It’s easy to blur the lines, because we love what we do, but we can confuse who we are with what we do. I insist that my instructors take time off if they’re getting overloaded. It’s only a class, and it will be there next week. Your students will get over it. life is too short for that nonsense!”
Minimize Stress. On a pragmatic note, Suzi Fevens, certified fitness instructor from Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, suggests that new fitness pros work for a facility rather than themselves, to alleviate the stress of dealing with rental fees, music licensing, liability insurance, equipment and so on. She also believes in incremental growth. “Start slowly. Build up endurance. teaching a class is totally different than participating in one.”
To read the full article which was published in the July-August 2014 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal click here.