Choosing the right music for your playlist can make your classes "funtastic."
I'm currently using a water-themed playlist in my Splash Dance classes at the YMCA. Every song has some connection or reference to water, including Jimmy Buffet's "Fins." During the chorus, my class sings the lyrics about shark fins to the right and left with gusto. Afterwards, one of the men told me that the routine was "fin-tastic." Then he added, "No, it was "fun-tastic!"
Let's look at the ways music can inspire, motivate and leave your class with an emotional high.
1. Music can be a time machine: people associate certain songs with important events and significant times during their life, especially their youth. Choosing songs that were popular when your participants were teens and young adults takes them on a journey back in time to positive memories.
2. Our bodies all contain a natural rhythm maker: our hearts. Our hearts pump blood rhythmically like a bass drum pounding out beats per minute. Interestingly, people tend to exercise at a heart rate that corresponds to the beats per minute of the music they're moving or dancing to. Faster music tends to elicit a higher heart rate, which is why yoga tends to be performed to slow peaceful music and spinning is done to fast, high energy music. There are exceptions to this, such as working double time to a slower song.
3. Music that inspires us to sing, clap our hands and snap our fingers helps relieve stress and raise our energy levels, especially in a group. Thus, using music that gets your class doing the same will raise the energy not only in your class, but in you and your participants.
4. The right music can make the time pass quickly. Personally, there are very few classes that I would take if music wasn't involved. I find the prospect of working out w/o music to be boring. But a great playlist can make a fifty-minute class seem like half that amount of time.
5. Music can also inspire theatricality, which can entertain and motivate your people. I like to think of my aqua classes as "Water Fitness Theater." All the deck is my stage and my playlist gives me ideas for fun hats, props, costumes and choreography. Tempo changes and musical quirks also suggest choreography, drills, and fun games and formations.
Examples: During the 60s song "Red Rubber Ball" we play a game with balls. The theme to JAWS inspired a game of tag with "it" wearing shark goggles. For "The Stars and Stripes Forever" I wear flag-inspired attire as we perform a variety of marching moves. "Welcome to Burlesque" by Cher has me wearing a feather boa and dancing the tango. The possibilities are endless.
So if you've never taught exercise to music, think about the type of class or classes you teach, who your participants are, and then brainstorm some ideas for a playlist. If you're not sure about taking the plunge, try dipping your big toe into the water of using music in your class and incorporate a few songs into the sounds of silence. You may find yourself hooked and your class begging for more.
Today I tackle a heavy subject: weight. What is it and do you want to lose it?
Weight is a scientific term defined as the force of gravity on an object and is calculated as mass times the acceleration of gravity. [w = mg] In regular speak, weight is your size (mass) multiplied by how much gravity is pulling on you. So what you weigh on Earth would be different than what you'd weigh on the moon since the moon has less gravity than Earth. And in space you'd be weightless. Imagine that--no matter what your mass, you would weigh absolutely nothing in outer space.
In terms of health and fitness, we tend to be obsessed with our body weight. Some of us want to lose it, some of us want to gain it and some of us just ignore it. But do you really want to lose weight?
In a nutshell, no. And here's why.
The more you weigh, the more calories you burn.
I can hear some of you protesting: "But my clothes are too tight, I have love handles, my thighs are too large, my butt jiggles, I need to lose weight."
In these instances, what you're really wanting to lose is body fat. Because your weight, or more accurately, your body mass, is comprised of muscle and organ tissue, skin and bones, blood and other fluids, and fat.
A certain amount of body fat is needed for good health. Men need at least 2-5% of their bodies to be composed of fat with up to 24% being acceptable. Women need a body composition of at least 10% fat with up to 31% fat being acceptable. Anything more than that is considered obesity.
Muscle tissue, on the other hand, is metabolically active and burns calories. So the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn even at rest...even while you're sleeping! Muscle is more compact than fat. A pound of muscle takes up less space than a pound of fat which is why if you gain muscle tissue and burn off fat, your net weight/mass might not change, but your clothes will fit better, your measurements may decrease, and your metabolism will increase. And this is a good thing.
Another type of weight you want to be careful about losing is fluid weight. If you weigh yourself before an exercise session, workout and sweat vigorously, and then weigh again right after, what you've lost on the scale is not body fat but fluid. And you need to regain that weight by drinking water to prevent dehydration. The American Council on Exercise recommends drinking at least 8 ounces of water before exercise, 8-16 ounces during exercise, and at least another 8 ounces after exercise. That's almost a quart of water.
So to summarize:
Weight/mass = body fat, muscle and other lean tissues, fluid.
Muscle mass = maintain/build this
Fluid = replenish fluids lost via exercise; drink 8-10 glasses of water daily and eat plenty of vegetables and fruits that contain water. Go easy on the salt which causes the kind of water retention you don't want. Remember, your body is 98% water. Fluid intake is vital to good health and proper body functioning.
Lean body tissue = eat a healthy, balanced diet so that your body doesn't break down and consume your organ tissue for nutrients. If you're not sure what a healthy diet is, check out http://www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlate
And lastly, I say throw out your scale. Weighing yourself is deceptive because the number on the dial doesn't tell you what % is fat, fluid and lean body tissue. But you know what isn't deceptive? Clothing. Clothes don't lie. Buttons, zippers and belts are brutally honest. When your clothes become tight, you know it's time to make some lifestyle changes. And when you find you can comfortably notch your belt a little tighter or your pants slide on easily, or you can zip up that little dress you've been wanting to wear, then you know you're making good progress in changing your body composition.
So wait on checking your weight. Focus on acting like the person you want to become. When you live like a slim, active person, you'll become a slim, active person.
"I feel the need...the need for speed."
While this line from the movie TOP GUN is appropriate for jet pilots, is faster really better when it comes to your fitness program?
If your goal is to run a faster 5K, then yeah, speed training would be appropriate. This is called Specificity of Training and means that your training needs to be specific for your goal, i.e., if you want to lift heavier weights, you need to weight train rather than surf. If you want to become a better dancer, you want to take dance lessons rather than play hockey.
In a general fitness program where the goal is to improve health and fitness and maintain or reduce body fat, then speed should be added to your program AFTER you've mastered a move, exercise or dance step at a slower pace with a full range of motion (abbreviated as ROM.) Going faster doesn't necessarily equate to burning more calories because you start using more momentum rather than muscular force to execute a move. And using your own muscles to move is what burns calories.
Too often participants think faster is better, even if they can't execute the moves properly with good form at a higher speed. There seems to be an erroneous assumption that if their instructor is moving at 90 mph, then somehow (by osmosis?) they're moving 90 mph, even if they're not.
Ask anyone who has ever taught water aerobics from the pool deck if slow with full ROM is challenging and they will resoundingly say, "YES!"
People who attend my Zumba Gold classes are often surprised that they're sweaty at the end. "But it's so much slower than basic ZUMBA," they say. "I can't believe I worked up a sweat."
I tell them, "Yes, but you were performing the dance steps with a full range of motion, which actually works you more than going fast with a small range of motion."
My advice as a degreed Exercise Specialist and certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Health Coach is to walk before you run. Master the moves of whatever activity you enjoy at a slower pace with a full range of motion before adding speed and acceleration. This is not only more effective, but will also reduce the chance of injury. It also gets momentum out of the picture and allows you to really feel your body moving through space (which is called kinesthetic awareness.)
And if you're a beginner, an older adult, have medical issues, or are returning to movement after a hiatus, then "walking before you run" gives your body time to adapt to the physical stresses of exercise before you place greater demands on yourself. After all, you wouldn't build a house starting with the roof because without a good foundation, a house will collapse. The same is true of the human body.
So be kind to yourself and focus on proper execution, form, and range of motion. Add speed only after these are mastered.
For new fitness instructors and the general public, the terms "licensed" and "certified" can be confusing and are often used interchangeably. But are they really the same thing?
The answer is no.
In the fitness world, a license is permission granted by a branded fitness company to teach their brand of classes and use their logo and brand name to market classes. A fitness-brand license does not give the license holder qualifications to teach movement education nor does it imply such. Very often the only prerequisite for acquiring a brand license is paying the workshop registration fee. Anyone with the cash to attend gets a license. Literally anyone.
A certification, on the other hand, usually involves a written exam and could also include a skills test. A good certification will require months of study before the exam and will cover a comprehensive body of material such as anatomy, exercise science, First Aid, teaching skills, musicology, liability and legal issues, and equipment usage. The really good certifications have a high first-time failure rate, meaning that a large percentage of people who take those exams do not pass the first time they take them.
So if you've recently started teaching fitness, you owe it to yourself and your students and participants to become certified in the areas that you teach, such as group fitness, personal training, health coaching, water fitness, etc. How can you lead others if you don't know the science behind your movement selections? How can you effectively design a class or a personal training program if you don't have any education in those areas? How can you safely teach movement to a variety of ages, shapes, fitness levels and medical issues?
And in this day of lawsuit happy citizens, why take the risk of being held liable if someone should sue you when they get hurt due to your lack of knowledge and skill?
So what are some good certifications?
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), The American Council on Exercise (ACE), The Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) and The Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA), to name a few. These four are a good starting point and also require CPR/AED certification.
And once you become certified, you'll be able to keep your certification current by acquiring CECs or Continuing Education Credits every year or two to keep your knowledge and skills up to date.
So are you just licensed, or certified and licensed?
And if you're neither, then jump on your cyber surfboard and check out the certs I mentioned, order a manual and start studying for an exam.
Once you pass your first certification, you'll join the ranks of professional instructors rather than remaining an amateur. You'll feel a sense of accomplishment for getting an education in what you teach and your students will benefit.
How can you tell the difference between a complaint and a complainer? At first blush, it would seem the two are inextricably linked. After all, isn't a complainer someone who makes complaints?
The answer is yes and that's how you tell the two apart.
A complainer is someone who chronically complains. For example: the pool is too hot, too cold, too wet, too noisy, too large, too small, too deep, too shallow, too something. And it's rarely just the pool, but everything the complainer comes in contact with. And they love to vocalize their dissatisfaction.
A complaint can and does come from a complainer, but a legitimate complaint is a concern by a member, guest, client or customer. They can range from constructive criticism--"I was wondering if your facility might be able to buy some more free weights" or "I don't see any yoga on the class schedule. Could you schedule a regular yoga class a few mornings a week?"
Or they can be informative, letting you know something isn't functioning properly or a staff member isn't performing optimally--"Did you know that treadmill #4 isn't working?" or "The ten o'clock instructor is always late."
They can also be passionately unsatisfied, yet factual--"The women's restroom has been filthy for a week. When are you going to do something about it?" or "Please fix the leg curl machine; it's been broken for a month!"
A complainer usually begins their complaint with the words, "I don't like" and very often the word "too" is used in their complaint--"I don't like your pool. It's too small." or "I don't like the beginner class, it's too easy." or "I don't like your facility, it's too far from where I live." Chronic complainers love to spread their misery with chronic complaints for which there is usually no solution other than that they find a new class or facility to join or a new personal trainer to hire. In the examples above, there is no fix for their complaint.
Then there are also complainers who like to make subjective statements that are beyond their expertise. For example, a group fitness participant may complain that a new instructor is terrible, yet the fitness director knows from the instructor's credentials, audition and job performance that they're actually an excellent instructor. This is one of those complaints where the complainer is really upset about change and not the instructor's actual ability.
Don't take complainers personally, but do listen to them with compassion. Offer suggestions to counter their complaint and then let the complaint go emotionally. For example: the easy beginner class--suggest another class the complainer might want to attend that would be more in line with the intensity they desire. If alternative suggestions don't curb your complainer's complaints, politely let them know that you hope they find another class, pool, facility, etc, that meets their needs.
Remember, it's your job to provide sound classes and/or a clean facility with courteous staff and properly functioning equipment, but it's not your responsibility to "make" people happy. Each person has to take responsibility for his/her own joy and happiness.
And knowing this will allow you to have more joy and happiness.
For the past 37 days, I've been making small lifestyle changes that are adding up to a big positive. I'm sharing this because fitness professionals are human and subject to the same stresses and temptations as anyone else. Sometimes the stresses become too much and we succumb to unhealthy choices that wreak havoc on our bodies, minds and spirits.
All too often I see social media posts from people trying to make major changes all at once like going from inactivity to jumping into an insanely intense exercise program or extreme diet with the idea that they'll beat their body into some kind of submission.
What you don't hear is how they manage to maintain this all or nothing approach for a short time and then revert back to their former lifestyle, losing everything they gained and gaining everything they lost while telling everyone that diet and exercise doesn't work or that it isn't for them.
However, psychologists and exercise scientists have shown that a series of small positive changes implemented slowly over time is much more likely to be maintained indefinitely than trying to tackle too many changes at once or making changes that are too large.
Make a list of all the changes you'd like to implement to reach the lifestyle you'd like to have and then implement one small change each week until you've implemented every change on your list. An example of a small change might be: drink an additional glass of water each day this week. Or: Walk briskly for 20-30 minutes 2-3 times this week.
Small steps add up over time to create positive changes in your spirit, mind and body. Incorporate positive lifestyle changes into your life and your body and mind will follow. Living an active, healthy lifestyle will become a habit and a way of being. You'll get more personal rewards from living well than from making poor nutritional choices or remaining inactive.
You can accomplish amazing progress by making your changes one at a time and it will certainly be less painful. Think of it as nourishment for yourself rather than deprivation. Trust me, your body is worth it.
Moving:(adjective) 1.causing or producing motion. 2. involved in changing the location of possessions, a residence, office.
Moving has taken center stage in my life over the past several months. I relocated from Alabama to rural Georgia two months ago and it's taken all that time to unpack and we're still not finished opening all of the boxes.
Back in February I gave notice to the Parks & Rec Center where I'd taught a variety of group fitness classes for the past five years and then promptly suffered a freaky back strain that had me bedridden for a week and caused a delay of two months in our moving plans.
After a week of rest, I still couldn't even do Zumba Gold without a flair up, so I turned to walking--first on my home treadmill and then outside with my dogs. My pups had become couch potatoes from my teaching schedule, but all that changed in March.
I discovered something strange: after five years of teaching 5-12 group fitness classes per week, I had no desire to take or teach group fitness.
So we walked. And on the first of May, we moved. To Georgia.
In mid May, I had the honor of presenting aquatic fitness workshops for the second year in a row at the International Aquatic Fitness Conference (IAFC) in Tampa. I enjoyed the classes I participated in when I wasn't presenting. (See photo above of me in the Acquapole: Power master class.)
But when I returned home, the pool at our new house wasn't open yet and my fitness dvds, dvd player, and music were still packed up, so I continued to walk the dogs and added bike riding to my weekly movement.
Last week, I finally felt "moved" to workout to dvds for the first time in years. I pulled out old favorites of mine such as Kari Anderson's Hot Steps and Push dvds. I'd forgotten how fun and effective a great step class can be. Yesterday I tried Zumba Toning with Jani Roberts and today was another fabulous Kari Anderson dvd, Reach, which beautifully combines ballet, Pilates, yoga and strength training. And I'm loving them.
I'll be starting a Zumba Gold class at the Golden Isles YMCA in Brunswick, Georgia next month, as well as a yoga class. I'm sure I'll expand my schedule there in time, but for now I'm enjoying my walks, bike rides and favorite fitness dvds.
Moving and moved in every sense of the word, forward, backward and full circle. Sometimes the circular path is the right choice.
Treadmills and mini-tramps aren't just for people anymore.
My dog, Moxie, used to walk on a home treadmill several times a week. She also swims laps in the pool during the summer months.
You may be shaking your head, thinking: a dog on a treadmill? Well, it all started when I enrolled Moxie in obedience training several years ago and quickly realized that I’m a terrible dog walker (although I recently overcame this deficiency by starting my newest dog on a leash at 3 months of age). Putting Moxie on a leash quickly became an un-fun dominance challenge between me and the dog, each of us battling to see who could pull whom down the sidewalk.
So, I taught her how to use a treadmill as if she were a personal training client of mine. I combined dog training techniques with personal fitness methods. We took everything step by step, beginning with standing on the machine in the proper position. We progressed to turning it on in the lowest speed to get her used to the sound and feel of the belt moving under her feet.
Moxie caught on quickly. Over a period of several months, she worked up to being able to walk for an hour, including a gradual warm-up to prepare her for vigorous activity and a warm-down to allow her heart rate to return to normal. Our veterinarian was pleased with the results: fit dog, a happy owner, and a fun trick to show house guests.
Now that she's a senior citizen, she walks on a leash just fine. But the treadmill is handy for winter and rainy days.
The mini-tramp, on the other hand, makes a wonderful dog bed. It's elevated off the cold floor, has some give to it and is easy for older dogs to climb up on. We found ours at the thrift store for twenty bucks. I'd bought it for myself to jump on, but Moxie loved it so much as dog furniture that I gave it to her. She's the only pup I know with her own home gym.
Ever wanted to play the drums or be a rock star? What if you could combine drumming and exercise and have fun in the process? You can. It’s called Cardio Drumming and there are two branded group fitness programs out there that provide it: Drums Alive! and Pound Fitness.
Drums Alive! combines traditional aerobics with the rhythmic movements of drumming. Drums are made by placing stability balls (think Hippity Hop ® without the handle) on upside down step risers. The entire workout is performing standing up although some of the stretches at the end are performed sitting on the stability ball. Most of the aerobic moves are low impact. Athletic shoes are recommended.
Pound combines low impact aerobics with Pilates and uses weighted drum sticks to drum on the floor and bang your sticks together to the beat of good ole rock and roll. It does involve a good bit of unsupported forward flexion (bending over and reaching down the the floor) and getting down on the floor and then up on your feet again throughout a class so it may not be the best option for beginners, older participants with joints issues,or those who have difficulty transitioning from standing to floor work. However, if you already have a moderate to high fitness level, Pound is a fun way to workout and tone up and is done barefoot.
The health benefits of cardio drumming include coordination, intellectual stimulation, cardiovascular conditioning and muscle toning, not to mention the stress relief from drumming to pulsating music. It’s better than primal screaming and so much more fun. A forty minute class can burn anywhere from 300-700 calories.
According to Rhythm for Life, drumming can boost the immune system, reduce stress, and enhance spirituality. Many ancient cultures practiced the art of drumming, believing the music to be a conduit to the Divine.
So, if you’re looking for a fun way to get fit or just want to bang on a drum or beat a pair of drum sticks together, check out Pound Fitness or Drums Alive! And feel the beat.
What’s a fabulous way to workout in the winter? The answer: Water Fitness.
Water Fitness has gotten an undeserved reputation as being a workout that’s only for older adults. While older folks can and do enjoy exercising in the pool, water fitness can provide both a cardiovascular and strength training challenge for any age due to the unique properties of water such as buoyancy, drag, inertia, turbulence and surface area. A variety of equipment can be added for progressive overload, including Lycra or Neoprene gloves, float belts, buoyancy cuffs, noodles, kickboards, hand buoys, weights, and rubber tubing. And shoes are actually recommended for shallow water workouts—either Aqua Sox or Water Aerobic shoes. Shoes provide traction against the pool floor, protect feet from abrasive tile, and provide drag.
Unlike exercising on land, water constantly presses against the body, and this hydrostatic pressure prevents the heart rate from elevating as high as it would when performing the same moves in a gravity-based air environment. However, this in no way means that you’re working less intensely. Studies have shown that water workouts burn as many, if not more, calories than land workouts. And it’s time efficient—combining strength training and aerobic fitness at the same time. Participants definitely sweat in the water, but don’t feel it in the pool. And just like dry-land exercise, water consumption before, during, and after a pool workout is highly recommended to stay hydrated.
There are many water fitness formats to choose from to suit your preferences: shallow water workouts focusing on repetitive athletic moves to music, boot camp, deep water workouts, choreographed water dancing such as Aqua Zumba ®, and even small-group personal training. And since water is fluid, everyone is able to work at their own pace. The harder you push against water, the harder it pushes back. And vice versa. Water provides the freedom to move in ways that are impossible for most people on land.
So, head on over to your nearest indoor pool this winter to reap the benefits of this fun, effective, and time efficient workout. You’ll discover that water works.
Lover of dance, dance-fitness and aquatic fitness.