Coping with Change – World Mental Health Day

Like everyone, the fitness and leisure industry is living in a new world. Our mental health expert, Claire Ballardie from ‘Wiltshire Wellbeing’ talks about how to cope as a fitness instructor during these challenging times.

Change can be challenging

Decisions, decisions, do we do classes on Zoom or face to face? Is it better to work outside in the park or a large garden? What if we get ill? What if our class members become poorly? So many unanswered questions create stress for us, leaving us feeling anxious about working and wanting to hide at home and eat chocolate (or bananas if we are being health conscious!) But that’s ok. If running classes in an alien world is just too much, it is fine to take time out.

As an exercise teacher, it has been a massive learning curve over the last few months. Trying to get to grips with new technology and failing to comprehend ‘live’ sessions on trends Facebook Live and YouTube can leave us feeling inadequate or a failure. This eats away at our confidence as teachers. But just because we find a new way of working intimidating does not make us bad teachers.

In times of change, historically, people band together to find a solution.

Isolation is not natural for humans. Coping with change and the introduction of new technology and its impact on our lives in isolation is scary. My own personal experience involved having to get a new computer and an iPad. I discovered that it was not my ineptitude that was holding me back, but a rather elderly laptop, which beeped and grunted as I grappled with our inconsistent and sluggish internet connection.

Once the technology was sorted, I less concerned about peering into the little boxes on screen in an effort to see more of my class members than their head and shoulders. I was able to focus on adapted exercises to fit into the average bedroom space between the bed and the wall, which is what most people seemed to have available.lockdown teaching

Feeling alone?

Being an exercise teacher is a lonely profession, which is why FLexercise offers support for all their teachers, with a Facebook teachers’ group to share experiences, and on-line CPD sessions to inform us about how to work on-line. The FLexercise Essentials Course is a fantastic bolt-on for instructors who are looking for something extra to teach. You’ll never feel alone once you’ve linked up with our trainers and teachers.

Now getting back to live classes, a new set of worries appear. Are our halls safe? How do we follow the many guidelines? As it often is, the anticipation is worse than the event. It has been a joy getting back to seeing whole people, and to feel the buzz or exercising together. Being able to use ‘proper’ class music instead of worrying about sound quality on-line. I actually gave up with music and coached instead, which worked very well. I am keeping this in my live classes.

There is an opportunity to learn from every experience, so taking the skills of ‘keeping it simple’ and working in a restricted area are very useful aspects for exercising in our 3 metre boxes in our halls. A flashback to the past with the Women’s League of Health and Beauty exercising in huge groups, with just a metre square each.

So, going forwards, who knows if we will be back in lock-down again, but with our new-found on-line skills we can offer different options to our class members, and embrace the joy of exercise with them.