5 Life Lessons I Learned as a Fitness Instructor

Health & Fitness, Workout Style

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Over three years ago I took the plunge and completed my Zumba certification. I had been doing Zumba regularly for about two years at the time, and thought that this would be an awesome personal accomplishment. I had no intentions of actually teaching Zumba, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could if I wanted to. And I did!

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Fast forward to last year, I was still attending Zumba classes and knew every song by heart. I could literally do it in my sleep. My Zumba instructor was injured and couldn’t do all of the dances at her full 100%. At first, she had me come up for a few songs here and there. Her injuries weren’t healing, so it became clear that she needed to tone down her movements even more, so I offered to help her and be “her legs” since she was nursing a leg injury (and later, “her arms”, when she was nursing an arm injury). Slowly, but surely, I was on stage more and more. And then she started leaving me on stage ALONE more and more. A few weeks later, she was sick and with hardly any notice, leaving me as the solo Zumba instructor. It was terrifying, but honestly I was grateful for the last minute notification because I didn’t have time to stress over it. It definitely wasn’t my best class (apologies if you were there, but come back, I’m much better now!). I remember shaking and being so nervous, forgetting choreography, and worrying that I wasn’t good enough. But, I took the risk and I survived. Dare I say, deep down I even enjoyed it!

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I’m an introvert, so being overly loud and upbeat does not come naturally to me. Teaching Zumba puts me outside my comfort zone which, while uncomfortable, is a great experience. And guess what? I survived all of those first few classes I nervously taught, and now I’ve taught more classes than I can remember. I no longer get [too] nervous and every class I challenge myself to come more out of my shell. I never thought that being a fitness instructor would also give me so many life lessons, that also apply to my “regular” life!

  1. It’s okay to make a mistake. The best and most seasoned instructors will make a mistake. For me this has been one of the hardest to wrap my head around. I’m a perfectionist, so even one slip-up and I’m beating myself up over it. But mistakes do happen, and the world will keep turning. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep going! Chances are the class either didn’t catch your mistake, or if they did they feel better knowing that even a pro makes mistakes from time to time.
  2. Laugh at yourself! Whether you’re making silly faces, sweat is dripping down you, or you’ve made a mistake, the ability to laugh at yourself is an art form. If you make a mistake – or completely forget the choreography – laugh it off! Even if you don’t make a mistake, laugh! Have fun! Smile! Always keep the positive vibes flowing. Even in life outside the gym, we should be able to laugh at ourselves.
  3. Even fitness instructors have off days. Yep! Everyone has them, whether fitness professional, career woman, stay-at-home parent, or anything in between. The ability to recognize an off-day and realize that this only temporary can be hard in the moment, but remind yourself that in the grand scheme of things, this is small potatoes.
  4. When you feel you can’t continue, you can. There are days when my body is TIRED. It could be from lack of sleep, sore muscles, or sickness, but most of the time, it’s just a little voice in my head trying to discourage me from going to workout. Or, in the middle of a workout, my muscles will be burning and that little voice pops up again making me think I can’t continue because it’s too hard. But, I can! And so can you. And guess what? That little voice pops up at work too, telling me that I’m not good enough, experienced enough, or smart enough to do something, I have to remember not to listen to it there too. I can do this and I will prove that little voice wrong.
  5. Encouragement is key. Whether you’re an instructor encouraging a student, a student commending an instructor, a boss encouraging an employee, a mom encouraging a child, it goes a long way. You never know what the other person is going through and those few nice words may have made their day and been just what they needed to keep on pushing through.

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Being a fitness instructor has been a great experience and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Without my original instructor’s encouragement and belief that I could do it, I never would have taken this risk. It’s amazing what can happen!

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Sweatshirt // Top // Capris // Shoes // Bag 

Outfit c/o Brooks Running

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Rachael Riveira Photography