I rolled over in bed this morning, picked up my phone to check my social feeds and up popped a memory of the day I filmed my certification video. It made me think back to how I felt in those early days. The first time I took the stage with another instructor was both excruciatingly nerve-wracking and a joyous out of body experience. This was true for the first few months of me teaching group fitness.
It was probably after I secured my first permanent class that I started to settle in and really find my groove. There was just the right balance between being slightly nervous because I was still finding my way as an instructor and knowing that my class were a good group and understood that sometimes mistakes happen.
A trip to the dentist
Fast forward 12 months and I was at the dentist for a check up and he said he needed to remove an old filling and replace it, as the existing one was not doing its job properly. What the heck does this have to do with teaching group fitness you ask? Well, I should preface this by saying that I have always had “white coat syndrome”. That terror that enters my body anytime I go to the doctor or dentist and there is a remote chance they are going to stab or inject me with anything. I don’t have a fear of blood or needles, just them going into me. At an intellectual level, I am fully aware that what they are wanting to do is for my benefit and for my health. I don’t avoid seeing a doctor or dentist but there is something under the surface that always turns me to a nervous wreck in the presence of a medical professional.
Anyway back to me sitting in the dentist chair, mouth wide open and the dentist drilling away at my teeth, I had a sudden and all-consuming thought: “I’m not nervous!”. Normally but this stage I’m a little sweaty-palmed and clinging onto the pleather arms of the seat, bracing myself for the slightest bit of discomfort or the sounds of metal on bone. On this particular visit, however, NOTHING! I was cool as a cucumber and had no problems with nerves or that uncontrollable stress.
As I paid the bill and left (thanks for nothing Medicare) I started to ask myself why I hadn’t experienced those feeling that has accompanied me on my oral checkups for the past 25+ years. Plodding down the stairs with a partially numb mouth and a little dribble coming out I had a thought: “Could this be because of me teaching classes?”.
So I no longer feel nervous getting on stage
I thought about it for a while; In the early days of being on stage in a gym, my feelings of nerves were actually very similar to those I felt when I went to the dentist. Uncontrollable jitters just below the surface that you do your best to hide. Thing is, over the past year I had become very proficient at suppressing those feelings before I got up on stage. When I stood up in front of my class I no longer felt nervous but instead, it swung between quiet confidence and on occasion thinking “I’m really boring and my class doesn’t like me” (see my related post on class breakups). Either way, the nerves had gone, even when I covered other instructors classes in new gyms I was able to be cool, calm and collected and just do the best I could.
and this is problem because?
By all accounts things sound good right, No nerves = good, being aware of your class = good, being able to cover other classes confidently = good. So what’s the problem? Here’s my main gripe; when I started teaching I was able to channel those nerves into energy and excitement and I felt like it was this twinkle in my eye, the little edge that I could use to really amp up my presence on stage. With those nerves gone I now have to dig around inside sometimes to find my inner Richard Simmons (he was always my goal as to how I wanted to appear on stage, just minus the creepiness).
This is only amplified when I’m having a down day, I can’t simply rely on the nerves to mask it. It does present a new opportunity though to create more intentional connections with my participants and explore new sources of excitement and energy within my class. I try to create small pockets of play and interaction that help to bring back some of my inner Richard to the group.
As a trade off I would say my teaching is now much more consistent and I am able to be present with my class and coach based on what I see, and not be blinded my nerves.
Until I find that silver bullet, my little trick is to just face the wall for a few seconds, and as soon as I turn around I whip out my instructor personality and it’s show time. After all it’s not about me, it’s about my class that show up, want to get sweaty and forget about their day. Hmm, maybe I can add therapist to my resume now.