After battling and overcoming an eating disorder of my own, I am now comfortable, content, and confident with my exercise regime and body image – though, still at times, I do have self-doubt, but need to bring myself back to reality. After experiencing an excessive exercise issue, as well, which typically goes hand-in-hand with an eating disorder, I am now conscious of these ever-so prevalent issues, and how they may affect others.
I had just finished my workout. As I walked down the steps to arrive in the health club lobby, I collided with a group of women who had seemed to just finish a group fitness class. Some were so flushed with cheeks and foreheads as red as Rudolph’s nose. Some sweat like I do, and were drenched from head to toe. A few appeared to still be recovering as I heard the huffing, puffing, and extreme deep breaths; a sound of pride after just completing a high intensity, lengthy, aerobic exercise session. And, some just looked satisfied, and enjoying the feeling of completing their daily workout. Let’s put it this way: it didn’t matter the person, they appeared as if they got their asses kicked. After hearing what the class entailed, it sounded like a workout many would consider more than sufficient for a day’s work.
So, after watching that group of women barely make it up the stairwell following the physically demanding and exhausting class, the lead instructor followed behind them on a mission. From a member who may not understand, it appeared she had just demonstrated, led, and performed all tasks demanded in class, and was then heading over to the stairmaster to continue her workout. I watched as people stopped dead in their tracks and just stared at her.
They appeared confused, disappointed, almost even spiritless. What kind of message does this relay to these women? Was their intense group fitness class not enough? I could hear the thought in people’s head: In order to look like this instructor, is it necessary to workout multiple times a day? And, for a second, these women were feeling such pride, joy, and sense of accomplishment from having survived one of the most challenging classes offered at their gym.
Listen. I, more than anyone, understand the thought process and reasoning behind the need to exercise and meet a personal daily goal. It may be because the instructor is training for a marathon, and needs to fulfill training requirements for that day; or, they are just so exceptionally fit that their class did not even phase their physical threshold; or, after a teaching a class, with loud music and a microphone to motivate others, some instructors want to just enjoy the quiet on their own exercise machine. These reasons are all valid, and while I completely understand them, others may not.
This day brought back some feelings I had ten years ago. If I had seen a coach on the soccer field go for another run after practice, or my trainer continued a workout after we finished, I may have thought, “Did I not do enough?” And, again, this is not an instructor’s fault or the one to blame, but this may have been a trigger for me back then.
Many fitness instructors and personal trainers have a tremendous following when it comes to fitness, exercise, and appearance. They may not realize it, but they are admired and idolized by many. Health coaches are not only respected for their instructional and motivational skills, but because they typically appear thin, toned, and fit. These professionals are role models, leaders, and experts in one of the largest industries that exist.
Health, fitness, and diet have been the focus of our society: losing weight, looking beautiful, and attaining the ideal figure. People struggle immensely to maintain a desirable weight for many different reasons; the lack of motivation, unable to find the time, the inability to self-discipline, and more. No matter if you are a working mom, a CEO of a large company, an athlete, a dieter, or just your average person, we naturally admire fitness instructors and trainers, as they are supposed to be true experts and examples of healthy living.
We are coaches, instructors, leaders, and role models preaching that balance is the key to a healthy lifestyle. In society, we are trying to promote exercise as a great means for you heart and cardiovascular system, but not to overdo it; as excessive exercise can lead to damaged results, injuries, and even psychological and physical disorders. In an innocent member’s eyes, it may have appeared her instructor was overdoing it. And if we believe our most notable leaders in the industry are not modeling healthy behaviors than how can we expect to make progress as a society?
Many leaders do not realize the influence they have on those around them. That every move is being watched, admired, and noted; and not because people are staring at them to judge, but because people strive to be like and look like them. So, it is the responsibility of a teacher, coach, instructor, and leader to demonstrate and model healthy behaviors and practices. It is important to remember that we are more than just instructors teaching a class; we are role models. And we need to set the greatest example. Especially in an industry as large as this one.