Before we dig deep into how to have longevity in your Les Mills career I think we need to define what longevity should stand for. The reason I say this is because when I first started teaching there was an Instructor at my gym who had been teaching for over 20 years but represented everything about the past, they taught old tracks in every class, said the same thing over and over again in their classes, even their fashion was the same as 20 years ago! I remember thinking to myself ‘I never want to be this kind of Instructor’. This Instructor didn’t have longevity in the way that I think it should mean.
While longevity does mean a long existence, a better definition in our world could be ‘a long career where you keep evolving as an instructor to higher levels’.
Whilst thinking about this refined definition, let’s look at some of the key mindsets/attitudes you need to install in yourself to have longevity in your career.
1. Keep Growing
The beginning of your Les Mills teaching career is such a stimulating time - completing your first module, putting the work in to prepare for your first classes, getting on stage for the first time, then aiming to improve from there so you can go solo. Can you remember what this was like for you?
The reason this time is so stimulating is because you are growing in so many ways and you are continually discovering amazing things about yourself, often things you never thought were possible. You were stretching yourself and maybe often stepping outside your comfort zone.
After the first period of growth and stimulation we can get to a place where we fall into the habit of ‘just teaching’. You have the skills to do a good job but you are no longer challenging your growth to the same level and while you may be doing a good job and enjoying your teaching, the inner rewards aren’t the same.
For longevity, we need to have continual growth. If we commit to ongoing growth we spend time self-reflecting on where we currently are and where we can aim for next. We then do the work which leads to the moment where you find that next level.
Your evolution needs a combination of both self-guided and supported growth. Your self-guided growth could be something like making a commitment to video and assess a class every three months, then giving yourself one or two ‘work on’s’ from that for the next period of time.
2. Stay Current
Les Mills is always evolving. The best way to see this is to go back and watch some filming classes from over five years ago - when you watch these you see how much our programmes can progress in such a short period of time. The training, music, coaching, the look and feel is constantly evolving and moving forward and if you fall behind you can end up becoming that ‘old school’ Instructor, like the one that I was inspired not to be when I started. Staying current is not only important for the results and experience of your members, it keeps you sharp and helps you find new ways to express yourself.
3. Respect your Position
I’ve always reminded myself that I’m very lucky that people choose to take time out within their busy lives to come to my classes, people are so ‘time poor’ these days and to me there’s a responsibility that comes with this. If I don’t prepare for my class, if I turn up just seconds before my class starts, make lots of mistakes with my choreography or don’t spend time with people to make them feel included and supported then I’m not respecting the role that I’m fortunate to have.
When we constantly remind ourselves that we have a responsibility to do the work that delivers an amazing experience for our members, we do the work it takes to deliver a high level experience. Experience has taught me that when I do the work I end up teaching the classes that I love the most. When I’ve done the prep, turn up early and nurture the relationships with my members and teach a sharp class I walk away loving the experience and being proud that I’ve done the work for my people and, more importantly, they have a better experience. This is what respecting the position is all about.
While there are other areas that are important to longevity, like looking after your body and developing other areas of your life, if you can work on installing the mindset and taking action towards continual self growth, staying current, and respecting your position, I guarantee you will have a long career where you keep evolving to higher levels - which is so incredibly rewarding on so many levels.
BEVAN JAMES EYLES is from Christchurch, NZ, where he still lives. He began teaching in 1999, and has raced in eight Ironman competitions as well as marathons. Bevan is also a writer, and contributes to his hometown newspaper, the Christchurch Press.