Body Empowerment to me is about getting rid of the insecurities and doubts you feel about yourself. It can be related to how you feel about your body shape or appearance, but it can also be related to how you feel about your own talents and skills.
I was born an introvert with a lot of insecurities. I remember being very hesitant about becoming a Group Fitness instructor. Looking back, I am so glad I got over my fear and just went for it. To this day, I’m still nervous before each class I teach, but now, I feel more confident and empowered as an instructor and person due to all that I’ve learned throughout the years. Finding confidence in myself as a Group Fitness instructor has impacted other areas of my life as well – taking away the general insecurities I felt about myself in the day to day. I’ll admit, it took a while for me to gain enough self-confidence to think I could really do this – it definitely didn’t happen overnight.
I started as a beginner just like everyone else: unsure of what I was doing, but excited to try something new. The first class I ever taught was in January ‘05 called Jump n’ Jab: a cardio kickboxing class with jump rope intervals interspersed between kickboxing combinations. I had 3 people in that class and none of them came back. My class was cut by the end of the month.
While it was disheartening to experience that, and it really shook my confidence, it made me realize I had no clue what I was doing and needed help despite being “qualified to teach” on paper. I decided I wasn’t going to just give up and asked for feedback from my manager and other fitness instructors so that I could improve my teaching. I continued to take classes from other veteran instructors teaching similar formats to observe their skills and rehearsed for hours at home. I quickly learned: practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect; imperfect practice only creates bad habits. Getting their honest and constructive feedback helped boost my confidence levels since I knew I was now much more prepared to teach.
The next class I was given was Ball Blast – a total body strength training class with dumbbells and stability balls. Taking the feedback from my last teaching experience, I grew the class from 2 to 15 in 3 months. Finding another format I could teach successfully was a huge self-confidence boost for me.
Five years later I was introduced to BodyPump, a pre-choreographed barbell strength training class. This was my first experience with a pre-choreographed format and verbally pre-cue using a microphone. My initial thought when asked to take the training was “No way! I’ve been teaching freestyle strength training classes for years successfully, why would I take this training?” And, given the introverted person that I was, I couldn’t imagine my voice being projected over the speakers.
But curiosity and interest in learning something new got the better of me so I took the BodyPump training. That 3-day training was an eye-opening experience for me. In addition to learning how to teach BodyPump, I also learned new skills that applied to teaching any format. I realized the benefits of pre-choreographed formats (as I was teaching freestyle up until that point) and gained more confidence in myself as an instructor when I got over my fear of verbally pre-cueing. The longer I teach, the more I realize there’s still so much to learn.
In 2010, ZumbaⓇ started to gain traction in gyms. Members who took my classes asked me to teach it – much to my amusement! Since I had no formal dance training in my life, teaching a dance class never crossed my mind.
However, since I was always telling my clients to try new exercises, I didn’t want to be a hypocrite so I went to ZumbaⓇ. Even though I nearly tripped over myself several times, I loved it! It was a fun time whether I was getting the moves or not. The music made me smile the entire hour! Finally, in 2011, when my ZumbaⓇ instructor moved to NYC, they needed someone to replace her….and they were looking at me. I had a lot of doubt in my heart of not being able to fill her amazing shoes, but I went ahead and got my ZumbaⓇ license and danced my butt off learning her routines.
My first ZumbaⓇ class sucked – of course – but since I had my regulars in there from my other classes, and friends who were there to support me, my first ZumbaⓇ class was an entirely different experience compared to my first Jump n’ Jab class. Since I had been feeling so insecure about teaching a dance format, it was amazing to have that support. It did give me more motivation to keep on improving so I could give them the best experience possible.
Now, looking back, if I could give myself advice back in 2005, I’d say: Fen, you are new to teaching a group fitness class, and you’re teaching a new format (Jump n’ Jab) – it will be tough. No one knows you; no one knows the format. Be realistic in your expectations, go in prepared, go in hungry for experience, be excited to meet new people and know that your journey has only just begun. It’s ok to be nervous and not 100% confident in the beginning. But have the confidence to know that you have great potential, and each time you teach, you are empowering yourself with more education and experience. Enjoy and celebrate YOU and YOUR journey! There’s no need to compare your timeline with anyone else’s. Be empowered knowing that you are always growing at your own pace and always moving forward. You will get there.