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The Case Against Allowing Injured Instructors to Teach

Owing to the part-time nature of most group fitness instruction jobs, program directors don’t always interact with staff on a daily basis and may not know that an instructor is teaching while injured. Carrie Haines, a medical exercise coach in
Truckee, California, recommends that directors carefully watch for injuries among staff, and she offers the following tips:

Walk the talk. “I hear many instructors and trainers advise their clients to take care of their bodies and to avoid exercises that may aggravate an injury or cause pain,” says Haines. “I believe it sends a far more powerful message to members when instructors live by example.”

Prevent pain and further injury. Even the smallest, most-insignificant-seeming injury can lead to serious pain and further debilitation. Ignoring minor pain and “working through it” may result in major pain, surgery and, ultimately, more time off from exercise and teaching.

Give your all to members. Teaching with pain or injury prevents an instructor from being 100% present. “Instructors who have taught while injured have admitted to me that those class moments were not their best,” says Haines. “Our members deserve a quality experience every time.”

Mentor newbies well. It’s imperative that veteran instructors mentor and bring up a new generation of qualified teachers. If led in the right direction, newbies can learn from the mistakes of “old guards,” Haines believes.

Keep track of frequency. Many instructors teach several classes per week at numerous studios. Some people teach more than 15 classes per week, which is a recipe for disaster. Consider setting limits on the number of classes instructors can teach at your facility, and encourage them to get the rest they need.

Shirley Eichenberger-Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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