IDEA presenter and industry veteran Krista Popowych shares motivation secrets and explains why new instructors should "take the plunge."
Krista Popowych gives the term “multitasking” new meaning. The IDEA group fitness committee member divides her time among her roles as an instructor, a personal trainer, a program director, a writer, a media spokesperson and a general fitness business consultant. She attributes her pursuit of excellence to her passion for fitness and her goal of assisting others in connecting body, mind and spirit.
Have you noticed any new trends in music?
We certainly have come a long way from the limited music selections and tape cuing of years past! I feel fortunate that today’s biggest music challenge (which really isn’t even a challenge) is which genre to choose. Fitness music companies do a great job of providing options and really try to keep up with the latest and trendiest songs. The Internet has also opened up our ability to preview music. In response, I’ve noticed more instructors ordering music from other countries. Some still struggle with what music to play, but I believe that if you choose music you love and find motivating, your students will pick up on your energy and groove with you—regardless of the selection.
What sources do you tap for new ideas?
One of the great things about being an instructor is the ability to be creative. Whenever I attend a class, observe a personal training session or watch a sporting event, I am inspired. Even something I see on television or read in a fitness magazine can be a source of inspiration. I often recommend looking outside the studio to come up with new ideas. By following good instructing principles, you can tap into other movement sources and put together interesting and effective exercise selections.
How do you teach to a multilevel class?
I believe that we should always teach to multiple levels. Since we are not necessarily privy to every participant’s health or fitness background, it is essential to cater to all abilities and provide as many options as possible. Unfortunately, when we do cue an easier option, participants often attempt the more advanced version even if they aren’t physically ready for it. It’s human nature to do so. For that reason, I like to use this cue: “Your exercise of choice is [fill in the blank].” I provide choices without categorizing by intensity level. This hopefully encourages participants to attempt the exercise that is best suited for them.
What was the smartest thing you did to grow your career?
The smartest thing I did was to be as diverse as possible, work hard and be passionate about what I do. Whenever an opportunity presented itself—whether it was hosting a radio fitness show, being a spokesperson for a charity event or writing a fitness article—I jumped at it. This often forced me to move outside my comfort zone and learn a new skill set. Constant learning is invaluable and only adds to your life experience. There’s also a great deal of truth in the saying “The definition of luck is when hard work meets opportunity.” Be ready and open to every opportunity. And if opportunities aren’t being presented to you, make them happen. Be vigilant, work hard and love what you do.
What is your favorite warm-up/cool-down/abs section?
Unfortunately, we often spend the majority of our time planning the cardio section of our workouts and wing the other segments. I make a conscious effort to plan all parts of my classes. An upbeat and energetic warm-up sets the tone for the entire class. A cool-down that uses different music or that has a dance element adds an interesting twist. With the current focus on core training, the abdominal section no longer needs to include only crunches. Many participants have been programmed to believe that abdominal work happens only at the end of the workout. I tell my students that they are working their midsections during the entire class. Thus, if time is limited, they don’t feel that they’ve been shortchanged. When I plan the entire class from beginning to end, students truly get to participate in a full class experience.
Who is your most inspiring class participant, and why?
It is honestly difficult to choose just one participant. So many people inspire me on a daily basis. Because I don’t always have firsthand knowledge of my students’ backgrounds, I am often humbled when I learn of the obstacles they’ve overcome to get to a certain point. Being there for my students is very important to me. It may seem like just a fitness class to an outsider; but for many this is their only opportunity to do something for themselves. My goal is that all participants leave feeling better than when they first arrived. I want them to feel good about themselves so they can share their positive energy with others.
What advice do you have for new instructors?
First, take the plunge. So many times I see an instructor finish training but end up not teaching because she is too scared or is seeking perfection. Your first class will not be perfect, and neither will subsequent ones. Luckily, teaching is not about being perfect. Let the focus be on providing students with a good sweat and a good time. Nothing else matters. Next, discover your personal magic. What is it that sets you apart? Draw on your strengths and add in your own charisma. Lastly, find a mentor. I was fortunate to have some fabulous mentors early in my career. Their guidance and support facilitated my growth and gave me the confidence I needed to follow my passion.
How do you avoid injuries?
I believe the best advice for injury avoidance is to listen to your body. As soon as I start to feel a bit off, it’s a signal either to change what I’m doing or to take a break. I also live in a very beautiful neighborhood, so I get outside as much as possible for walks or runs along the beach and the endowment lands. A mixture of indoor and outdoor training provides variety and helps stave off potential overuse injuries.
What can group fitness instructors do on a daily basis to further the positive growth of the industry?
Inspire your participants. Although our goal is to motivate students, motivation is often short-lived. The participant who asks for fitness advice to lose weight before a vacation is motivated by the upcoming trip. Unfortunately, when the vacation is over, so is the motivation. Inspiring participants means encouraging them to exercise for a lifetime. Keep the focus on how exercise makes you feel and not how it makes you look. By doing this, you will encourage more participants to continue exercising. And, let’s hope, their feel-good results will inspire their friends and families to join in as well.