Friday, August 28, 2015

Sharing Beyond Social Media

This post is from Melissa, a guest blogger on The Z Beat!

While attending the Zumba convention, I noticed a theme emerging and it got me to thinking about why I became an instructor in the first place.

The theme, as I saw it, had to do with sharing. As someone who has never been afraid to share my vulnerabilities with others, it doesn’t bother me to be open about my journey but I realized that I may be out of the norm.

At ZINCON, there was one session in particular that talked about how to connect with your students to make you a better instructor but also make your students feel welcomed and comfortable. It was there that I realized how difficult some teachers find it to open up and share who they are with their students. What I wondered to myself was, why?
All of us started somewhere and many, probably like me, in the back of the room at our first group exercise class. When I became a Zumba student, I had begun a weight-loss journey and was looking for a fun way to get my cardio in because sitting on a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill got boring really fast. At my gym, there were two instructors who embraced the business of fun that is Zumba and I regularly attended their classes.

After a few months, I was attending an Aqua class with Lilia “Zumbachica” Garza and when I finished one day, I mentioned to her that I was thinking I would like to become certified as an instructor but was worried that I wouldn’t be able to because I still had a lot of weight left to lose and that I may be too large. Nearly four years later, her words of encouragement to me still ring in my ears as if she spoke them yesterday.

“Melissa,” she said, “not everyone has to be tall, blonde and thin to be an instructor. Think of all the people you can inspire by teaching; you should definitely do it!”

I tell you that story to say that I think sometimes, as instructors, we tend to not want to share why or how we became fitness instructors because we fear our students may see us differently or maybe not as “the experts” we like to be in front of them. I believe it is just the opposite though. Sharing your struggles and your journey may have the same affect that Lilia’s words did on me.

We are all guilty of feeling like it is our responsibility to make sure every student or client sees us as the indestructible trainer and instructor we strive to be but sometimes we can send people running in the other direction if we don’t seem human. Starting something new is never easy and there is a balance between showing your students you empathize with them without seeming as if you’re not the expert.

In addition to sharing with students, I think instructors should lean on each other and not fear ridicule or competition. We all have our strengths and just because my style may not work for one person doesn’t mean I fail. None of us are superhuman and we all have down days and moments and who better to lift us up or understand our struggle than another instructor?

And I would encourage you to reach out to an instructor of another brand of group exercise than what you teach. For example, as a Zumba instructor, I would try to find someone who teaches yoga or maybe Pound or something like that so we can have a variety of experiences and classes to keep things fresh.

I guess the bottom line is just reach out and see what happens. Pick a student in the back of the class that you haven’t seen before and ask them how they are and what their goals are. Take that new instructor's class and introduce yourself. Be bold and share your story and don’t fear you’ll lose credibility. After all, you just may change the direction of that person’s life by doing it.

I would love from those who have never tried this to let me know how it goes for you. And it’s OK to share the bad experiences with me, I don’t mind, I’ve had a few myself.
Note from Jennifer: I love that Melissa wrote about this topic, because I'm always telling people about how I hated my first Zumba class! We're all human and it's very important to show our students that.


  1. My imperfections as an instructor are right out there - if I'm wearing short pants, my braces are on full view - but as I tell my classes, don't let what you THINK you can't do influence what you can....after all, if I let that stand in my way, I would never have tried Zumba, let alone become an instructor!

  2. Great article! I 100% agree! My students see my flaws, especially when I make mistakes during routines...hahaha! We laugh and keep going. I think that helps them see that I am real and definitely not perfect. I love connecting with them on other levels too though. Like doing fun stuff after class together. Ways that we can connect more on a personal level.

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