Compassion and Love Essential Qualities in an

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Compassion and Love:
Essential Qualities in an
Margaret Walton Schwinn Indoor Cycling Master Instructor
I have been carrying out doctoral level
research to investigate the nature, meaning
and benefits of regular exercise participation.
The study is a qualitative one and focuses on
the human subjective experience of regular
participation in exercise. In earlier articles I
discussed some of the holistic benefits that
exercise provides and its influence in
promoting individual and collective well-being.
In this article we explore the instructor’s part
in providing access to some of these benefits.
My research includes consideration of how
the fitness industry trains its instructors and
whether that provision equips them
adequately for the job. Exercise instructor
training programmes tend to concentrate on
the scientific aspects of exercise and physical
activity. Most courses cover topics such as
basic anatomy and physiology, exercise
physiology, fitness principles, health and
safety issues, teaching/coaching techniques
and programme design. Modules on aspects
of the person-centred and subjective
elements of exercise participation are rarely      focus and subjective viewpoint about exercise         may facilitate greater empathy with
found in basic training courses. Continuing        is inherently natural, built very firmly into their   newcomers to an activity environment and
education or advanced modules for fitness          whole life view, and therefore largely                with those who resist physical activity. It may
and exercise instructors generally focus on        unconscious. Exercise instructors and their           enable exercise instructors to make conscious
specific areas of fitness such as strength,        training providers, who already function from a       use of techniques and approaches in their
cross training, fitness testing and heart rate     positive perspective in an exercise                   work to open people up to the full extent of
training. Again person-centred topics are rare.    environment may not perceive of a need to             the benefits of involvement in exercise.
We rarely give attention to the subtle energetic   investigate the factors that underpin their own       An area for development in future training
aspects of personal experience.                    perspective and enable them to maintain their         provision for instructors involves us
                                                                                                         recognising the value that participants attach
The instructor has the potential to enable each individual to                                            to high quality exercise experiences that
                                                                                                         enable them to take uniquely personal, and
connect positive meaning with exercise participation.                                                    also collective, benefit. Where instructors
                                                                                                         intuitively focus attention on their interaction
Bear in mind that many of the people working       own involvement. The answers to the                   with participants in their classes it works! It
within the fitness industry already                behaviour change debate and the retention             cannot be assumed that this is generally the
demonstrate a predisposition to exercise.          question could be within, rather than without.        case, however. There is the opportunity for
They value physical activity and already have      There is the opportunity, within our industry, to     training providers within the industry to
a positive perception of exercise and of           give attention to the wider outcomes and              acknowledge, honour and respect depth in
themselves in an exercise environment. Their       benefits of exercising. Also the opportunity          the exercise experience and to recognise the
personal values, beliefs and self-concept in       exists to focus conscious attention on the            instructors’ capability in engendering
relation to exercise are likely to be positive.    factors that contribute to the creation of a          exercise’s therapeutic and growth enhancing
They are also likely to take for granted that      positive experience for participants in               potential.
exercise is a positive experience and is to be     exercise. Greater understanding of the factors        The instructor influences the meaning that
experienced on a regular basis. Their own          comprising a positive perception of exercise          participants attach to their exercise

16 Professional Fitness Spring 2007
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                                                                                                                                                   LI TE
 Exercise Instructor

    experience. Each person takes part in an            relation to specific involvement in the activity,   as a result of their participation – regardless of
    exercise session from a unique position within      but also to its connection with each person’s       their level of fitness or capability with an
    personal experience. They each take                 unique broader context of personal and              exercise option. Instructors who love their
    something personal and unique from the              interpersonal experience.                           work, have a passion for exercise themselves,
    session that is then integrated holistically with   Fundamental to the creation of an experience        and can relate to the individuals in their
    their previous experience and learning.             that offers positive benefit is the                 sessions, demonstrate that positive energy.
    Progression through personal experience and         establishment of an emotionally safe,               This is a crucial element in the facilitation of a
    the subsequent development of the self              supportive and inclusive environment. My            positive experience for class participants.
    through those experiences is a uniquely             research has demonstrated the value of              Come on guys, let’s acknowledge and
    organic, holistic and dynamic process. It           accessing positive emotions in people.              celebrate the value of ‘passion’, ‘compassion’,
    impacts on individual and collective                Instructors ‘switch on’ that emotional              ‘love’ and ‘positive energy’!
    progression. The implications for the fitness       connection in other people when they exude
    instructor are that directions to class             positive energy themselves, and when they
    participants need to be appropriate to the          demonstrate a compassionate recognition of
    whole range of individuals taking part.             the personal perspective of each person in              To find out more about the Schwinn
    Directions and suggestions for participation        their sessions. It is the instructor’s presence,        fitness Academy visit
    need to be such that they can be interpreted        and the quality of the interactions between the
    appropriately by each individual and can be         instructor and the class participants, before,          To find out more about Schwinn Indoor
    identified as being applicable to each              during and after the session that enables or            Cycling concept, the bikes and the
    individual’s personal situation. In short, the      limits access to a high quality experience. The         instructor education programmes
    instructor has to ‘stand in the shoes’ of each      style of delivery is important in ensuring              contact Nautilus, 4 Vincent Avenue,
    participant in their sessions. The instructor       sessions are enjoyable for everyone, and                Crownhill, Milton Keynes, MK8 0AB.
    has the potential to enable each individual to      retain a sense of joy and interest. Interaction         Tel (01908) 267345
    connect positive meaning with exercise              is also significant in moving all participants          email:
    participation. This is possible, not only in        towards a sense of contentment and serenity

                                                                                                                  Professional Fitness Spring 2007 17

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