I have started instructing again after more than a year away. I am subbing for an instructor for a few months while she takes some time away to have a baby and start her family.
When I stopped last time it was right at the peak of the most successful period of my instructing career – I had been given the opportunity to create and lead a program that we called AfterBurn that used heart rate monitors and combined weights and indoor bikes to create full body work outs that challenged and improved the participants cardiovascular heath. It was really amazing to be a part of and I’m very glad that I did it. But I left it, right when it was becoming a draw for the gym. I came up with a number of reason why I stopped doing it, but it didn’t become clear until yesterday when I finished teaching a class.
Teaching a class, for me, is a performance, it isn’t a job. The lead-up is nerve-racking. It feels amazing to do, and there are times when I am sure I have helped people change their life, at least take a small step forward towards a goal, but I don’t think about it in the same way as I do about personal training, or making panels.
Personal training doesn’t feel like anything. I’m confident in my abilities and there are many right ways to go about training someone. It has been years since I was nervous about it. I’m prepared with the program and if a client shows-up with an injury or issue, we change the workout to accommodate for it. It’s really simple, almost mindless and automatic, and it doesn’t feel like anything out of the ordinary the night before work or as I drive there.
Instructing is very different. It feels like something beforehand and after 10 years and more than a 1000 classes I would have expected it to feel less and less like something. I get nervous before every class and there is a lot of anxiety. There isn’t anything else that I do in life that has this impact on me. I have been at it too long that I have to accept that the feeling is there to stay.
And I don’t like the feeling. It sucks to be completely honest; although when it leaves I do feel AMAZING and it know that the increased heart rate and being worked up does help me perform better. After 30 seconds the feeling goes away and is replaced with something else, something that is easier interpret as excitement or being on. But the build-up is negative and it does take a toll.
Being prepared doesn’t diminish the feeling much. I still remember the first class I taught, and the one I taught last night felt almost exactly the same. I have less self doubt now – even me being at my worst is still going to be an okay class. The feeling isn’t about believing that I am not good enough, not capable, or incompetent, it’s about being able to deliver a performance that is worthy of peoples limited fitness time.
And that feeling is what prevents it from being a job. Needing to be on to entertain is probably something that is fun to do, but the sense that I need to be on to be more than just an entertainer increases the stakes, and it ties my stomach in knots. It’s a feeling that is easy to turn your back on, and walk away from.