On Being an Introverted Fitness Instructor with Depression

I became a fitness instructor because I loved taking Pilates classes. I really didn’t give much thought to whether or not I would be a good at it. I took the certification expecting it to illuminate the whole process of teaching but I found that it did not. I had more questions about how to teach an exercise class than when I had started my training.

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At the studio I started teaching, there were two instructors that were put on pedestals by the clients. I wanted so badly to teach classes like them. I studied their exercises and cues and tried to imitate them. it didn’t work. Clients complained my classes were too easy or that IĀ needed to exude more “energy.”

I was nervous and began dreading teaching because I did not want to disappoint more people. I had two things, that I felt were really holding me back. First was the fact that I was very introverted. Being introverted means that you gain energy from being by yourself and that time with others tends to drain your energy. The other was that I had been struggling with depression for years. The way depression manifested for me was in lack of energy, lack of self confidence and constant self criticism and doubt. These are exactly the opposite characteristics of the stereotypical fitness instructor who loves being around people and bounces in with positivity and motivation.

Still I REALLY loved Pilates and I REALLY wanted to share that love so I kept teaching hoping that eventually I would get better. As time went on, I became more comfortable with teaching. I learned how to teach a class that challenged my clients and how to harness my own powerful energy (which by the way wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows). Sometimes even dark energy can be powerful and motivational. Learning gave me confidence. Although I am introverted, I found that teaching classes and being in front of people in control of the situation was less draining. I began to get to know my clients and to learn how to conserve my energy by commanding the conversations that took place in the class.

With the self doubt and criticism I just tried to “fake it till I could make it.” I sought out new certifications and classes so that I could feel more confident in my knowledge and feel less doubtful. I learned how to change the volume and tone of my voice to make my instructions more dynamic and interesting to improve the energy of my classes.

Still, being an introvert with depression is part of my personality and not everything that comes from these traits is bad. I am more compassionate towards my students because of my struggles. I also am very empathetic andĀ authentic, which I think my clients appreciate.

Eventually I started to get more complements about my teaching than criticism. As I found myself as a teacher, I started to truly enjoy teaching. Granted, I still have times of self doubt and criticism, but I now know how to manger those times and make the most out of my experiences.

I am writing this blog with the hope that my story can inspire you. If you have held yourself back because you think that you have some innate limitations, you are crippling yourself. Turn your weaknesses into strengths, because where you struggle to succeed there is room to learn and grow as a person and to help others through the process.

XOXO

Valerie

 

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