Joy in the Journey
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
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
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
What advice do you
have for new instructors?
Teach for the right reason—to help
Stay focused; the goal is to inspire and
ultimately empower others toward
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
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
Choose a mentor—a trusted and
qualified professional—who selflessly
empowers others to find their
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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