Nothing is quite like being sidelined with an injury, especially if you make your living as a trainer or group fitness instructor! Unlike many other professions, it’s almost impossible to get ‘sick’ pay in the fitness industry; the harsh reality is that if you aren’t leading, you’re not earning. So how can you continue to make money while sidelined with an injury?
Speaking from experience, I’ve had many injuries in my 32 years of teaching and nearly all of them have been related to bike crashes. For the past 30 years, I have been a competitive cyclist so, I’ve had my share of falls. In fact, as I type this, I have two broken ribs and five stitches in my elbow. I’ve had several previous rib fractures, a broken clavicle and three shoulder surgeries, including a total replacement, all of which have been related to cycling. I know this makes me sound like a pretty bad rider, but in my defense, falling off a bike is pretty easy to do and pavement is hard!
With that being said, how do you teach around injuries?
I believe the answer lies in how much it will affect the member experience. If you can still maintain a high-quality experience by using your voice and vocal cues, then go for it. A dance class won’t likely be something you can cue and not do, so you will likely need to get a sub. But an indoor cycling, rowing or even some strength and conditioning classes can be taught without you physically doing the class. And it is always a good idea to let your classes or clients know you are injured, especially if you usually physically lead the class.
One of the best things that resulted from my injuries is the improvement in my cueing and communication. Cueing without doing is an art in-and-of-itself. Learning to be effective with verbal coaching and kinesthetic hands-on (when appropriate) gives your participants a chance to have more personalized attention. Teaching classes should never be about you as the instructor getting your workout in. Not being able to participate at all makes it more than clear that you’re there for them.
The key to effective verbal cueing is to teach as if they can’t see you. I first learned this on the video shoot for Cher Fitness. We were all lying on our backs as I was having them stretch, but no one could see me! I had to describe EVERYTHING we were doing in enough detail that they could follow precisely. Prior to this experience, I’d relied on my demonstration skills so this was a lesson I never forgot.
Kinesthetic coaching can also be helpful. This doesn’t involve pushing people into position, but rather having them move towards a target such as your hand. Of course, you should always ask if it’s ok to touch the participant before doing so. Using a light and gentle touch can help your client perform the exercise. Just remember that you NEVER push someone into position!
An injury doesn’t have to be a negative experience. I’ve learned so much from attending physical therapy as part of my recovery! I have been introduced to new and different modifications for standard exercises. Plus, an injury can build your knowledge as well as your empathy towards people coming back from being hurt.
An injury doesn’t have to end your career. It can create an excellent opportunity to learn how to be a better and more compassionate instructor or trainer. Remember that keeping a positive mindset can help the body heal by lowering your stress levels. In my experience, an experience that starts with something difficult, like being hurt, usually ends as something that can enrich your life as a human being.