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June 3, 2014, 12:00AM PT in Fitnovatives Blog  |  0 Comments

Why Fitness Pros Should Focus on Helping Each Other Instead of Competing with Each Other

Fitness professionals talking

Did you hear about the fitness professional who said he was banned from attending future classes at a SoulCycle studio. The reason? SoulCycle cited their policy against instructors from other chains taking their classes. According to ABC News (where the story first broke), they’ve been unable to confirm the policy or that this ever happened. But it certainly does lend itself to an interesting conversation, don’t you think?

Several fitness professionals interviewed for the ABC News story said this is common and expected these days. Fitness is a competitive business and a “free for all” without regulation (according to one source) and studios are doing what they think is necessary to remain competitive. No one defended SoulCycle’s supposed reaction, but, here’s my reaction…Seriously?!

What are you afraid of? Someone stealing your secret exercise for getting people fit? Does Coke tell Pepsi workers they can’t drink their product for fear their “secret recipe” will be found out? Does Apple ban Dell employees from using their products? No, of course not. It’s the most narcissistic, near sighted argument ever.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say again—there are PLENTY of unfit, unmotivated and unhealthy people to go around. Are we really that nervous that someone is going to “steal” our clients, our program or our signature move? Wake up fitness pros—there’s no shortage of folks who need our help. But if we continue to focus on competing with each other rather than working together to figure out how to serve a larger segment of the population, we aren’t the only ones who will be hurting.

If you’re truly in it for the right reasons (to help people, not be a rock star), then you’ll live your life as a fitness professional guided by these three principles:

Share

In the words of one of my mentors, Michael Port (NY Times best-selling author of Book Yourself Solid), to be successful you must learn to share. You should consistently share: 1) who you know, 2) what you know and 3) how you feel.

Sharing who you know with members might mean introducing them to the “perfect” class or trainer for them (yes, that might NOT be you!). After all, each client has unique needs, tastes and personalities. And with fellow fitness pros, that might mean helping a new instructor find a mentor, a veteran instructor find a sub, or an instructor who just moved to the area find a manager looking for talent.

Sharing what you know with members could include articles, websites, blogs and other exercise ideas BEYOND your class! For fitness pros, you could share choreography notes, resources, videos, music ideas and more.

Sharing how you feel with participants turns you into a real person instead of a fictitious character. This could help those who haven’t quite found their “place” in fitness to lean in. Being real with fellow instructors could help with solving problems we all face and feeling supported with the immense responsibility we feel at times.

Sharing your knowledge, your network and your compassion helps feed the engine. Just because someone has your contacts, your information or your true feelings doesn’t mean they can or will “steal” your business. Giving comes back to you and if we are looking for our industry to up its game, it will start with sharing.

Compare

Next, you MUST compare yourselves to external standards instead of providing feedback to your reflection. No professional is allowed to continue advancing in his or her career without objective performance reviews. How have we survived so long with tons of clubs that don’t have “time” to review their employees?

Start by insisting on reviews from your manager at regular intervals. If he or she refuses and/or you are the manager, then ask for reviews from other instructors. And if that’s not possible, seek feedback from your back row. Ask specific questions such as, “What could I have done today to make you feel more successful” or “Which part was your least favorite today and why. How can I improve?”

Attend other instructors’ classes on a regular basis. Of course, given the intro to this blog, it’s probably best to let the instructor know and tell him or her why you’re there. If it’s a similar format to yours, you’re there to see what they’re doing that’s working and how your workouts compare. Perhaps you can put your heads together and share ideas! If it’s a format you don’t teach, you’re there to be a student and feel what it’s like to be taught. This will undoubtedly provide a new perspective when you next put on the microphone.

Of course, some of the best feedback will come from YOU. We are our own worst critics and while I’m not asking you to beat yourself up after every class, I am asking you to compare yourself to the ideal instructor as you drive home. Do consistent self-reviews after each class by thinking about one thing you could improve on for next time and two things you did really well. Write it down, review it before the next class and get better. Every single day.

You should constantly seek perfection through comparison; you don’t have to achieve it, but you should pursue it. When you learned to write someone gave you the perfect alphabet to trace, didn’t they? It’s the only way you learned to write legibly. Be more than “good enough”—those taking your classes deserve more.

Compete

Another one of my mentors, Julz Arney, turned me on to two resources that changed my definition of competition: Fierce Females by Yael Cohen and Elite Minds: Creating the Competitive Advantage by Dr. Beecham Stan. Competition is NOT what I was referring to in the opening paragraphs of this blog.

Do you know the true meaning of competition? Stan explains it this way: Compete comes from the Latin word peto, which means to go out or seek. Com means together. What you start to realize is the word actually begs us to seek our absolute best and suggests the only way to get there is by “competing” with each other. With is the most important word in the sentence; to be your best you, you will be assisted by the other people on your team instead of inhibited by their greatness. They will help YOU take your skills to a new level.

Many group ex instructors are women and, let’s face it, we were brought up with a pretty warped sense of competition. Yael says:

Instead of being taught healthy competition, the kind that pushes innovation forward and fosters some sense of camaraderie, women are taught (admittedly largely subconsciously) that there is a finite bucket of success and happiness. When another woman dips into it, there is less left for the rest of us.

That just about sums it up. Girls compete, women empower. Stop being a girl!

Stop fearing the gal that teaches opposite you, stop worrying about the person who has larger numbers than you, stop lamenting about how you don’t teach the “popular” class. Instead, lean IN to the competition and allow this to fuel your greatness.

Sharing, caring and competing in this way will help our industry shift from being perceived as a platform for performance to a true agent of change in the fight for health and wellness. We’re all involved in one great big science experiment trying to figure out the best way to get the world healthy. Each of us is a researcher with an important and UNIQUE role to play. Embrace YOUR part, stand beside women (and men) who play the part differently (and, perhaps, better) than you do. Then celebrate the TEAM you’re on. There’s room for all of us!

By Shannon Fable
Shannon Fable

Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is the founder of SFR, a consulting firm for aspiring fitness educators, manufacturers and managers, as well as the owner of Balletone® and GroupEx Pro®. Shannon is a 15 year fitness veteran, freelance writer, as well as an international presenter for Schwinn®, BOSU and ACE. She is a member of the ACE Board of Directors, has helped author portions of the ACE and ACSM Group Fitness manuals, and has starred in over 25 fitness videos. Shannon is a certified Book Yourself Solid® Business Coach interested in helping fitness professionals navigate the fitness industry and find their place. She's busy improving the self-esteem of the world as the the Director of Exercise Programming for the Anytime Fitness Franchise.