JOHN Lennon wrote in one of his songs: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” Have you ever felt that way? Thinking you’ve got a nice routine worked out, busy, maybe, but your activities nicely dovetail and there’s some breathing space built in to make a cuppa and watch the grass grow.
All of this happens by text of course: hardly anyone actually uses a phone as a phone any more, so by the time you’ve laboriously tapped out your responses to the five people involved your tea has gone stone cold. And that breathing space has turned into several gasps and a long sigh instead.
What to do? We are encouraged to practise self-care and assertiveness skills and sometimes just say no. For the most part, as a practitioner of health and wellbeing, I endorse this view. On the other hand, integrity to your goals is important too, and if you have stated publicly that you’d love to teach as many group exercise classes as you can, then you can hardly complain when they are offered.
I reviewed my diary entries recently. I could be called on to teach any time between 9.15am and 7.15pm at locations between five and 45 minutes drive from home, class durations 45 to 60 minutes. On any week day, as well as Saturday and Sunday mornings. The classes are located at five different places within Bass Coast and South Gippsland shires. I may be contacted by any of five different managers and another six fellow instructors when they need someone to fill in for them. A smartphone and a manual diary as backup are essential.
Then there’s my day job. I am eternally grateful that my primary workplace is so flexible about my ins and outs, but I do need to be there. Apart from the financial stability (exercise instructing is no goldmine) I love it too. And it requires no prep; I just have to dress neatly and remember to bring my lunch.
I’m not alone; this is the life of people who work in exercise and fitness. I was a participant elsewhere once and the instructor’s phone dinged during the class. Without missing a beat she said “That’ll be someone wanting a cover”.
Covers are great; many careers start by filling in for other instructors until you eventually land your own permanent gigs. It certainly worked for me. As soon as I qualified I shared covers for my mentor when she and her husband went away on their annual adventure, and while she was away I also filled in for other instructors my mentor would have covered. It wasn’t too long before I had permanent classes of my own, and of course by now I’ve dinged other instructors’ phones seeking covers myself.
But if you want them you have to pay attention, respond promptly, and be willing to twist everything else in your life into a shape that will accommodate the re-arrangement of your day or week. You also have to be prepared; I carry my music, my mat and a charged-up portable speaker everywhere and it’s certainly come in useful; I covered a class with five minutes notice once when there was a roster mix up; luckily I was there to participate anyway.
I love it. As I write I’m in the middle of the busiest fortnight of my exercise instructing life taking covers while others are away on school holidays, yet I’m already putting out feelers to add more to my permanent roster.
But as I write I’m also having a fight with a virus that has attacked my sinuses and vocal chords. I sound like a young bloke finally hitting puberty; the vocal squeaks and sudden pitch variations sound hilarious, but are far from ideal in a woman of more mature years trying to steer a class of moving bodies through effective and safe exercise.
I don’t believe I took on too much for my body to handle, nor did I abandon my usual healthy eating or sleep routines. What I will admit to was getting stressed about all the extra engagements before they happened and I believe that is what made me vulnerable. And there’s the key.
As in group exercise instructing, so in life; it’s not the amount of work or even the circumstances, it’s how you respond to it.
I’m learning from this experience to anticipate just one day at a time and not worry too far ahead. To delegate where possible; though it hurt giving away time with my regular participants I’m glad I arranged covers for some classes to give myself time to prep the extras. And above all to enjoy every moment regardless, reminding myself that this is what I wanted to do, and as a bonus I even get paid for it.
I may need to re-arrange John Lennon’s lyrics: the “other plans” are becoming the busy life that happens to me … bring it on!