So are YOU a Fitness Role Model?

Having been a presenter for such a long time, I have learnt that the very people that one minute will be asking you to perform your latest masterpiece again and again one minute, will quite happily make not so nice comments about you as soon as you step off the stage. I suppose that if we make the choice to put ourselves in front of other professionals, we should then be prepared for that. We are seen by many fitness instructors as “role models” as people to aspire to and learn from. But what does being a role model mean anyway?

I know that some professionals I look up to in the industry inspire me because of their knowledge, their passion, their uniqueness or just their sense of humour. Aesthetics for me doesn’t have anything to do with it. But whenever I have presented abroad, especially in Italy, Spain and Portugal, the local presenters there do seem to have to pass a 0% bodyfat test before they even get onto the stage. Once on there they can be as crap as anything, but as long as they look good that is the main thing, sort of.

A recent incident has brought to light to me that different people view a role model in different ways

Recently I sold an ecourse called “my Conditioning Secrets Revealed”. The reason that I used that title was that I had the great pleasure with working with an Excellent Personal Trainer, Kelly Lane, who had served an apprentiship with American Guru Alwyn Cosgrove.

I managed to transfer the exercises that she put me through into the group exercise format and so my classes were always popular, for the exercises that I put in and the way that I structured the sessions. That has always been the aim of my masterclasses; to provide something different, innovative and inspire instructors to think differently about how they create their sessions. That was my interpretation of being a role model

However one instructor on my mailing list seemed to have a different view. Now I am not sure what she was trying to do, but I think that she was aiming to forward my email advertising my course to her friend, but instead ended up replying to me! So there I was minding my own business when this email popped up into my inbox;

“A bit cruel i know but had to laugh at the words “My conditioning secerts” . So now we know how he keeps soooooo trim!….we’ll we would if we were to purchase the script…..Not”

She then went on to continue the email thinking that it was her fellow instructor reading this email when in fact it was me, but I think you get the point.

So, you may be asking how I felt. Well obviously it didn’t make my day, but luckily I could see the funny side of it. I knew the instructor in question and she had been to many of my classes, including my conditioning sessions for many years. She is entitled to her opinion and to be honest to a certain degree she does have a point.

Many of us would admit that the appearance of the instructor in front of a group does make a difference, initially. There are some training systems that specifically choose their master trainers based on their appearance. In fact when I was presenting in Hong Kong, there was an advert in one of the gyms for members to get trained in this Training System “ No teaching experience necessary, as long as you look the part” So I can appreciate that view point.

It is no secret that I have struggled personally with my weight for most of my adult life, which seems strange that I have chosen to continually put myself in the presenting spotlight. Plus I came into the industry at a time when it seemed that many male presenters were getting their kit off to wow the crowds rather than just being good at what they do (it’s a shame the female presenters didn’t do the same, but hey ho!)

So I tried to overcompensate for that by really trying to be the best presenter I could be. If I wasn’t going to get an encore for getting my kit off, I wanted to get one for just teaching a good masterclass! I must have done something right because I managed to present internationally for a long time, and, I think, earnt the respect of presenters, instructors and fitness enthusiasts alike.

So what can we take from this little episode in my life? Well firstly be very careful who you email, as it could get into the wrong hands!! But the main one I suppose is to work out what being a role model means to you, and create your life and business based around that. It may not fit in with other’s perceptions but you can only be true to yourself.

Those of you that know us presenters know that we are just normal people, with normal lives, with the same hang ups as everyone else. We have just been lucky to chosen to take our instructing to a bigger audience

Just so you know, the instructor and I have since “made up” and it is all water under the bridge. But I bet she double checks her emails now though!!

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  • Dr Hayley

    I think these discussions just go to show that really there is no one perfect instructor. Some participants favour an instructor that looks more ‘normal’ and are motivated by the fact that ‘if he/she can do it, then so can i’ whereas others prefer to aspire to the ‘perfect’ body on their favourite instructor. The best role model is the one that works for the participant and our participants are all individuals, so lets have a mixture of people, personalities and skills on display.

  • admin

    Hey Hayley, great to hear from you and thanks for the great comment. I am glad that some people are agreeing with this way of thinking, and focus on aspects that make them a good instructor as well as just the aesthetics.

  • Dr Hayley

    Indeed Linx, and good article, nice and thought provoking.

  • Sporty

    I like this article. Indeed, it’s what you provide
    as a trainer is what matters. Not whether you
    are geared up to do sports illustrated or not..

    I would like to see more on circuit with teaching
    styles, breakdowns and most of all how we connect.

    A true role model is there always to share knowledge
    and be there. It is amazing that the human mind is very shallow
    to think that the appearance reveals all 🙁 I love training
    love the buzz but would never compromise health to look
    like an artificial human.

  • Paul Thorne

    Hey Linx

    I think that there is no single ideal role model when it comes to Group Exercise…

    I think it’s horses for courses… You need to look at the psychological needs and expectations of your participants…

    Take Freestyle classes – the majority of people who comes to an intermediate/advanced class just want to challenge their brains – you can be any size/shape/gender to do that – so, inherently I think that freestyle participants are more forgiving/accepting of us for who we are… And to be a good role model, you need good teaching skills…

    For a lot of people getting started in group exercise as participants can be very intimidating, they want to feel like they fit into the classes that they go to – especially conditioning classes like LBT… They want to be able to relate to the instructor and make a connection. So, having a stick thin or muscular instructor at the front of the room can be a turn off as they find it intimidating. At the clubs that I have coordinated at I have always found that the busiest conditioning classes are taught by instructors who look like “normal” people – their classes are rammed because they have great personalities and they create an enjoyable experience for their participants… i.e. to be a good role model/to have full classes, you need to be a good communicator…

    However when you look at Les Mills, there is a definite emphasis on how you look (in certain programs) and to an extent I agree with this… I recently participated in a course ran by them that had a large focus on the psychology of participants and what members want when they come to a class – including, teaching skills, physical role modelling etc… For certain programs, especially Pump/Balance & RPM, members look to the instructor to be a model of “physical perfection” and if they don’t see that at the front of the room they are less likely to return to that class… Where as, other programs, such as Jam and Vive have more of a focus on interaction and socialisation instead of physical aspects, so you need to create a great atmosphere if you want busy classes…

    As a coordinator, I like to think that good teaching skills are a pre-requisite when it comes to teaching on my timetables… So, if I have two instructors that are both equally good teachers, but had differing physical appearances, I have to say that if I know the instructor that is in better physical shape will get more people into a class, then they would get the class… On the other hand, in another situation/for a different class, I might go for the teacher with better communication skills or better teaching skills, and again, we’re back to horses for courses… I need to make sure that the instructor teaching a class is meeting the needs of their participants, whether it’s as a physical role model, a good communicator or a good teacher of choreography….

    As to the initial question of “Are you a fitness role model?” to answer that question, instructors need to look at the classes that they teach… My answer would be, you are a good role model as long as you are meeting the needs of your participants…

    Paul 🙂

    p.s. I’m loving reading these articles – feel a bit out of it living round the other side of the world at the moment lol…

  • Maaike Parrel (Holland)

    Love this article! And no matter what size, your my role model anyway 😉

    See you in Blackpool!