For the past few years, I've been teaching group exercises classes. From ZUMBA to Pound, step to boot camp, and even yoga at times, my teaching schedule has been a staple of my fitness lifestyle for so long now that even missing one class night on a holiday feels a little strange. I cut back from multiple nights per week not long after accepting my full time race manager position, but as of last week I have actually stepped down from my classes entirely. It's the first time I've chosen to stop teaching since I started years ago.
A lot of factors went into the decision to no longer pursue classes for a while, but one of the major reasons I'm not teaching anymore is the amount of time it takes to BE an instructor, especially compared to the typical paycheck received for the amount of work. It's not just the hour of class time, and I think a lot of participants don't realize how much goes into the classes they take. For a class like ZUMBA, prepping new songs takes me hours, even for simple choreography. I try to introduce new routines regularly, but sometimes it's just so hard to finalize a routine when you're working a (more than) full time schedule. Sometimes it's the song - I love it at first, but after listening to it enough times to have my routine read, I'm completely sick of it! Other times, it's the choreography simply refusing to click. And other times, it's just plain exhaustion. When you're teaching multiple choreography-based formats regularly, it becomes exponentially harder to provide your students with new material, especially when very few gyms are able to offer wages that can take those extra hours into consideration. It's not the gym's fault most of the time, either, it's just difficult to make enough money off of classes to be able to spin that back to the instructors, especially at small local gyms.
When you're struggling to keep your classes current, but are finding yourself struggling, it takes away from your energy levels in class too. It gets harder to be as enthusiastic about your routines when you know they're getting a little stale. Add the stress of trying to get something together but having trouble working the time into your schedule, and suddenly every class becomes a burden. Group ex classes should never, ever be a burden to someone like me. I should thrive on every hour I spend in a studio - and when that's no longer the case, it's time to back off for a while.
But even when you know it's needed, recharging is hard. It's been two weeks without classes and though I have a little more personal time now and am definitely less stressed, I miss the fabulous women who make teaching classes one of the best jobs in the world. Whenever a song I used to teach comes on the radio or at a race or other event, I have to fight the urge to start dancing. That's not exactly a new urge, but without my regular outlet to look forward to, it's getting harder to fight! And a little selfishly, I miss knowing I will have a guaranteed workout on my schedule every week. Now I have to work up the motivation for a self-starter workout more often, or risk getting further out of shape. I know, it's horrible, especially when I'm trying so hard to get my marathon training back on track...
The big question on my mind at this point is: when should I think about getting back into it? Some of my classes require licenses that cost money every month, but letting those lapse means having to take the basic training class all over again (which is even more expensive). My race schedule will be intense for a couple more months, but then it'll be back to slow season for a while and I'll have more time, but does that mean I should expect to start teaching again then, or do I wait until I'm actually feeling ready to take on that responsibility again? I've been telling a friend who is trying to make a difficult career change decision that she needs to "follow her heart." That same advice is what got me into all of this fitness stuff in the first place; it's what got me teaching at all. Sometimes, though, it's hard to know what your heart wants. Hopefully, when the time is right, my heart will speak up again to let me know. I've been doing a much better job of listening to what my heart is saying; as long as it keeps talking to me, I know I'll stay on the right track.
Have you found yourself having to take a break from something you loved? How does following your heart help you navigate difficult decisions? What's your favorite group ex class?