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How Fit Do You Need To Be As a Trainer?

Those of us who have chosen careers in the mind body fitness industry clearly have a passion for movement and wellness, and an appreciation of the value for being fit. We have a great deal of knowledge of what it takes to be strong, flexible, toned, and conditioned for an array of intense physical pursuits. Sometimes we may see images on Instagram and Facebook of highly fit bodies achieving impressive feats of strength, balance, and endurance in the same movement modalities we teach and feel we should be pushing ourselves just a bit harder. Or maybe we do push ourselves to maintain that ever instagram fit, high performance body.

A lot has been written about the pressures social media put on people to strive to achieve this ultra high level of fitness, and how that can negatively effect us emotionally. And I believe this can be magnified in those of us in the fitness industry, as high achievement in our movement careers may define a great deal of our identity.

I’ve written before about the importance of us as trainers taking care of our health, fitness, and wellness, as have many others. But what we don’t often hear about, or maybe even consciously think about, is exactly how fit is fit enough for a trainer.

I’ve been a mind body fitness trainer for pretty much the entirety of my adult life, and plan to keep teaching long into old age. I love what I do and don’t see any reason to stop. Ever. But as life winds along it’s unpredictable path we’re inevitably going to have ups and downs, shifts and changes in our level of fitness. I’m hearing the term “seasons of life” popping up a lot lately, and I think this is a good concept to keep in mind as we’re striving for balance in our careers and in our health.

The seasons of my life have evolved over the past 25 or more years from dancing 6+ hours a day, backpacking after college, working as a trainer and dancing with few other responsibilities, being married while running a larger studio, having a baby and being a working mom, recovering from a serious accident, being a single working mom, and now having a nine year old, a supportive partner, and embarking upon a massive remodeling project on our dream home.

With all of these changes there have also been changes in my body and fitness. Not only being in the fitness industry, but also coming from a dance background (with the slightly neurotic perfectionist tendencies that often accompany that), I can be pretty hard on myself. While I still keep up my workouts and am active and get to ballet class most of the time, right now it’s also very important to have chill out time with my kid and my partner in the evenings instead of going to aerial class. And on a weekend morning when I don’t have a course running, when I might otherwise have gone to a really intense yoga class, or spent time working on my handstands, now eating waffles in my pajamas with my family seems like the right place for me to be.

It all comes back to this unending quest for balance. What point is there in nailing amazing handstands if I don’t have happy relationships? I’m not performing as a dancer anymore, so there’s really no need for my leg to go up to my ear anymore, except pride. Am I still a good trainer if my spine doesn’t bend back as far as it did in my 30’s? Probably, right?

So how fit should we be as trainers? Of course that’s very individual to the season of life we’re each in at the moment. But I think our baseline is this:

1. We set a good example for our clients or students for living a healthy life.

2. We’re able to meet the physical demands of our work, such as demonstrating most of the exercises, spotting and supporting large clients, moving equipment, etc. (Of course, there will be times such as pregnancy or recovery from an illness or injury when we won’t be able to do even these tasks, and that’s ok).

3. We feel good in our own bodies.

Keeping up my workouts when I'm not home eating waffles

This last one might be the hardest of them all for many of us. It might take some stepping away from Instagram for awhile. Maybe it’ll take some serious reflection on what’s important in your life, or maybe it’ll take therapy if it’s a long lingering issue for you. But we owe that to ourselves. As trainers isn’t that our ultimate goal for our clients, to be happy in their bodies? And so maybe we should lead by example.

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