This article was written for the REPS blog to encourage other fitness instructors to consider moving into this specialist area but is may be useful for anyone who would like to get fitter but is unsure where to start. I am happy to meet anybody keen to start an exercise programme on an informal basis to chat over the best way to get started, I am also happy to advise other exercise professionals on working in this area.
REPs member Anne Mercer shares her story on how she has succeeded on a prosperous career in the fitness industry.
I have been a full time fitness instructor for just over 30 years now. I started in aerobics, moved through ‘Bums, Legs and Tums’, callanetics and even line dancing to an altogether more interesting and rewarding area of fitness best described as "Exercise for all ages and conditions".
I struggle to find a name to cover all that I do but I think that this pretty much does it. It’s a rewarding area requiring experience and specialist knowledge. I never simply go through the motions of a class. There is no standard class format. Every movement is thought through to consider what it does in terms of the potential benefit as well as the potential risk. This specific approach enables almost anyone to take part in my class. Some may need to lie on a massage couch rather than the floor, the class size is very small and I have a selection of pillows for added support and cushioning.
I base my class on the focus, control and concentration of Pilates. Clients learn to control every movement their body makes and to be aware of exactly which muscle is causing the movement or stabilising the body while it moves. Added to this I use the fundamental back care exercises as recommended by Williams and McKenzie. I consider the spinal load through each movement. I never teach roll downs, sit ups and rarely use seated positions. The recommended range of movement required by life is my goal with clients aiming for this, not the extreme range some exercise regimes use.
Bio Mechanic principles of pelvic stability and nerve mobility play a large part in ensuring mobilisation and the prevention of dysfunctional muscle tissue. I work on the abdominal stability muscles along with the gluteals, teaching the principle that our muscles provide the scaffolding to our bone structure. Balance is another important area with simple exercises to improve balance and to reduce the risk of falling in the future.
To complete this I work on postural muscles of the upper body to ward off the hunched neck position so often seen in the older generation.
Some of my clients have back pain, joint replacements, degenerative conditions of the spine, or are recovering from mild strokes. Most simply have the general aches and pains that accompany getting older. They need a class which supports them in their quest to keep fitter and keep active as they age. Many classes (including those that I have taught) are aiming at an altogether higher level of fitness which my clients would feel intimidating and at which they would probably be unable to do many of the exercises. Even clients at perimenopausal age have muscular aches that appear from nowhere and affect their ability to exercise.
Added into this mix are many men who have sustained sporting injuries in their youth (rugby/football/tennis etc...) which then return as early joint degeneration or suspected arthritis by the time they are in their mid 40’s.
Over recent years I have seen huge progression in my clients which I find incredibly satisfying. They show a great tenacity in sticking with the exercises and the results are well worth it. They have smaller waists – no mean feat in post menopausal women, balance (for men and women) so good they could be garden statues and they all stand upright within a few months.
To teach this age group you need to specialise into the Low Back, 50+ and GP referral qualification, and then read as much as you can about the effect of ageing on the body. I have found that a sport massage qualification is invaluable to allow me to be ‘hands on’ in certain situations. Talk to people with these conditions, work on a one-to-one basis with them to see what they can do and how exercise can help them.
If you’d like more information on my techniques do get in touch. I am passionate about enabling this sector of the population to be able to take part in group exercise and happy to help anyone move into this area.