Marcos Prolo, owner of Fitness Factory and creator of STRONG™ and FAST™ workouts, instinctively knows how to work a room. He has an understated sense of humor that is instantly engaging. Prolo is also a “student” of group fitness and takes form, function and safety very seriously. His knowledge base goes very deep, and he pulls from an expansive mental Rolodex of moves, transitions and tips. Prolo teaches from a well that overflows with positive energy. He models this force for his students, who benefit from his commitment to professionalism.
Have you noticed any new trends in music?
I believe the new trend in music relates more to equipment than to the music itself! With the introduction of numerous MP3 players, iPods, and legal websites where you can purchase music, it has become much easier for instructors to keep their classes fresh and exciting. It’s hard to use an iPod for choreography-based classes, as you do not have access to pitch control. However, for indoor cycling, group strength, yoga, etc., using a portable MP3 player is an easy and affordable way to keep your musical library up-to-date. Also, many health clubs are adapting MP3 connectors to their existing sound systems.
What sources do you tap for new ideas?
I have been teaching step and high-low classes for 17 years and still use the same method as when I first started. I lock myself in the studio (or sometimes in my garage), blast some of my favorite tunes and create new choreography. Movement ideas come from movement. The best thing to do is to have fun and let the combinations “just happen.”
For other classes, like strength and indoor cycling, I read articles, research the Internet and even go to bookstores for ideas. For example, Lance Armstrong’s coach, Chris Carmichael, has great training books. There are several road drills that can easily be translated to the indoor world.
How do you stay motivated?
It’s not easy to put out all that energy class after class; the effort can be draining. I try to remind myself every day that many people rely on me to help them stay healthy and fit. They count on me to drive and motivate them to be their best and achieve whatever fitness goals they have. That alone is a great way to keep going and stay motivated. When all else fails, I order a new music CD or wear a new exercise outfit. That can motivate anyone!
What was the smartest thing you did to grow your career?
I believe that when you put your heart into what you do, success will come naturally. I also believe that trusting your gut feeling is a great way to make good business decisions. You can’t grow a business without having supporting people around to inspire you. It’s important to build great relationships, as they will help you achieve your goals!
What is your favorite warm-up/cool-down/abs section?
I still love step classes. My favorite part of class is when all the choreography has been taught and the members are just having a blast with it! I also really enjoy my STRONG group strength classes. I love to see how weight training has become such an integral part of my students’ exercise routines.
Who is your most inspiring class participant, and why?
I have taught so many people and have met wonderful friends along the way. But the one who is always on my mind is Cynthia Dickerson. Unfortunately, Cynthia lost her battle with lung cancer several years ago, but I will never forget her energy and how inspiring she was to the entire class. Even during chemotherapy treatment, Cynthia did her best to attend or at least to stop by the class to visit everyone (when she was too tired to exercise). She brought a smile to us all and held a permanent spot in the front row for many years!
What advice do you have for new instructors?
There are too many class formats out there! My advice is that new instructors choose what they really love to teach and then work to be the best that they can be at it. Teaching too many classes can be overwhelming, so pick a few of your favorite modalities and stick with them. Teaching a 1-hour class requires a lot more time than just that hour. Preparing that single class can take several hours, days or weeks. To avoid burnout, work with your favorite formats and allow time for your personal workouts.
How do you avoid injuries?
I try to keep my workouts balanced. Just a few years ago, I was teaching an incredible number of weekly classes and I thought I was in perfect shape. It wasn’t until I noticed I was having a hard time walking in the morning (when I first got out of bed) that I realized I was doing too much of one thing (or too many jumping jacks!). I began a weight training regimen, stretched more often and cut back on some of the impact classes. Slowly I started to feel better and have more energy. We are not made of metal, and teaching too many classes is really not a good thing.
What can group fitness instructors do on a daily basis to further the positive growth of the industry?
You can do so much, but the easiest and most simple thing is to inspire everyone around you to keep moving. Most people think that exercising is too difficult and that it takes too much time, which is not true. Any kind of movement and any amount of time are good enough! Teach and inspire people to set short-term [realistic] goals and to stick with them. Sometimes a simple hello to a student in the back row will inspire that person more than you could ever imagine!
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