Spirited Mainstay

Nov 01, 2006

Veteran IDEA presenter Gay Gasper talks about music trends, motivation and integrity.

If Gay Gasper isn’t traveling to a fitness conference in one corner of the world or another, she’s probably working on a new DVD, book or other side project. This prolific IDEA World Fitness Convention® favorite works hard to stay current on research and trends and is always gracious with her time. Her dedication to the group fitness craft has been inspiring fellow fitness professionals for two decades, and her influence is poised to keep on going.

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

There are so many new trends happening in group fitness right now. The music companies have given us lots of choices to spice up our classes. From Dynamix to Power Music and Burntrax, they all cut CDs with different speed ranges and styles, including hip-hop, mind-body and senior fitness. Since most of the group fitness instructors I know teach a variety of classes, the music companies make it easy and accessible to have any “flavor” we need. Another trend is being able to go online and listen to the songs offered on each CD. Some music companies are also selling MP3 players with tempo control. This gives instructors more control overall.

What sources do you tap for new ideas?

Mostly I pray for new ideas! Also, I am fortunate to teach at many fitness conventions, which enables me to see and learn from the greatest instructors in the world. In addition, I am inspired by a few of the instructors who teach at my home club, where I direct the group fitness program. They are creative professionals who constantly go to conventions, buy new videos and work hard at home (and in their sleep) to teach solid classes.

How do you stay motivated?

I stay motivated internally. The thought that drives me goes something like this: “Am I being the instructor I would want to get out of bed or drag my tired bones into the gym for after working a 10-hour shift?” I also try to take a vacation and lie on the beach once in a while. Then I do workouts, such as sea kayaking or running along the sand, on my own time and by choice.

What was the smartest thing you did to grow your career?

I feel I’m always growing in my career. Some of the smartest things I’ve done are to have integrity, be professional and stay on top of industry trends and information. Also, regardless of whether I’m teaching at a convention or in my home studio, I do the very best I can. Last, and this is one of the most important things, I continue to live and love fitness. This makes it possible to share exercise information with as many people as possible.

What is your favorite warm-up/cool-down/abs section?

My favorite warm-ups include a yoga sun salutation or cardio fusion with as many modalities as possible, including high-low, step, stability ball and Gliding moves. During a cool-down, I like anything dance-inspired and love to incorporate yoga stretches. When it comes to abdominals, I’m partial to exercises that use a BOSU® Balance Trainer and a Power Systems medicine ball (they make a great ball with a raised grip).

Who is your most inspiring class participant?

I have taught for 22 years now, and so many students have inspired me. There is one special person in particular who comes to mind and brings a tear to my eyes: my student Marie. In 2004, her son bought her 20 sessions with me as a Christmas present. We trained the first day, and all she could talk about was her wonderful, smart and athletic son and how happy she was with her gift. The next day her son passed away in a car accident.

I never thought I’d see her again. A month later she came back to training because she had made a promise to her son to get in shape. She began at 55% body fat and was completely out of shape. After a year and a half of training she is down to 32% body fat and still losing. Marie is my hero.

What advice do you have for new instructors?

Practice makes perfect. Give yourself a year before the butterflies in the stomach go away. Also stay current on fitness trends and new information in the industry by renewing certifications, attending conventions and workshops and subscribing to fitness journals.

How do you avoid injuries?

I have to confess I do suffer from overuse injuries because of the number of classes I teach. I’ve had Achilles tendonitis, a heel spur and lower-back spasms. This is all from teaching 8–10 classes during the week and then traveling to teach seminars on the weekends. The word rest is not in my vocabulary.

Also, for the first time in my career I am suffering with a torn meniscus. I was teaching a cycling class and was clipped into a pedal that was externally rotated. I knew the clip was off and my knee was hurting, but I continued to push and teach. That same night my knee swelled to twice its normal size. I limped around and finally got an MRI confirming the tear. So I advise everyone never to keep going if the pain is too great. We know our bodies and should listen to them. Now I’m trying to rehab the knee and learning to rest and recover.

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

Be an intelligent instructor. Learn as much as possible, yet be humble—never think you know it all. Get as many certifications as you can in order to gain many perspectives on fitness. Finally, continue to be a positive example to your students.

IDEA Fitness Journal, Volume 3, Issue 10

© 2006 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.