Not quite cool as a cucumber: A mindful approach to overcoming your nerves before teaching.

As a fitness professional, I’m sure you know the feeling of pre-class jitters and are familiar with performance anxiety. Whether you’re about to lead a group fitness class or teach a one-on-one session, it’s common to feel nervous before your client walks in or as your turning on your mic. It makes sense, I mean so many people are afraid of public speaking and what is our job if not public speaking while demoing a lunge, keeping count during the Pilates Hundred, giving motivating feedback, AND making sure our playlist is hitting just like we though it would when we made it in our heads on the way to the gym. Sometimes it can feel like you’re the only one that still gets nervous before class but it’s important to remember that these feelings are normal. And they’re actually pretty common considering how many fitness professionals have reached out to me about how to cope with performance anxiety. I’m happy to share with you that there are ways to ease these pre-class jitters so that you can teach with excitement rather than dread or fear.

In a recent episode of the Mindful Fit Pro Podcast, I shared some tips on how to ease performance anxiety that are straight from sports psychology and recent research on how not to choke under pressure. If you haven’t yet had a chance to tune in, I’ll link the episode below so you can give it a listen on your next commute between studios.

Guided Body Scan for When You're Feeling Anxious The Mindful Fit Pro Podcast

In this guided practice, Shelly leads you through a body scan meditation designed to help you connect with your body when you're feeling anxious. The body scan meditation is a practice that involves intentionally bringing attention to each part of your body and cultivating a sense of presence and awareness of how you are doing right here, right now. As Shelly guides you through the meditation, you're invited to focus your attention on specific parts of your body, such as your feet, legs, arms, and face. With each area of the body, you're encouraged to notice sensations, or lack thereof, without judgment or analysis. Simply be present with whatever you feel. This guided meditation can be helpful for anyone looking to shift from the anxious thoughts running through their head and tap into a felt sense within the body. It can be done in a seated or lying down position and is suitable for beginners or experienced meditators alike. ********** If you are experiencing worry, doubts, or symptoms of anxiety that are interfering with the quality of your day to day, affecting your performance at work, or overall feel like they're getting to be too much, I want you to know help is available. I encourage you to reach out to a friend for support and consider seeking additional support from a mental health professional as well. For a list of mental health resources accessible in your area, click on the link below. Entering your email using that link will send you a .pdf that contains a regularly updated list of national organizations, local support groups, and other services you can search for with your zip code. — Support this podcast:
  1. Guided Body Scan for When You're Feeling Anxious
  2. Ep. 2: How to Overcome Performance Anxiety & Pre-Class Nerves
  3. Ep 1: What is mindfulness?
  4. COMING SOON! Mindful Fit Pro Podcast Trailer

I’ve also learned a few other tricks from my own experience teaching. Here are some of my not-so-secret secrets on how to get your mind set on teaching an epic class:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings: It’s important to recognize your feelings are valid. By acknowledging your feelings of anxiety or nervousness you’re not trying to ignore or suppress them. These feelings reveal that you really care about what you’re doing, although your brain might be a little confused as you just how much is on the line so it goes into the frazzled state I call “what if?” mode. By acknowledging these feelings and thoughts as just that, they hold less power over you.
  2. Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness practices and intentional breathing can help you feel more capable of stepping up to the front of class and focus on the students in front of you. Pick a color you find pleasing and look for it in the room or space around you. This subtle shift in focus can allow those nerves to pass. If breathwork is more your thing, try taking a few breaths before starting your class or private session but keep in mind you’re not trying to go from freaked out and frazzled to cool as a cucumber. As I discuss in The Mindful Fit Pro Podcast, trying to shift from anxious to calm is a lot harder to do than shifting from anxious to excited. You can focus on your breath to find steadiness but allow yourself to feel those butterflies as cues of excitement.
  3. Visualize success: Visualization can be a powerful tool to help ease performance anxiety too. You might do this the day before when you’re not in the grip of those pre-class nerves. Imagine yourself leading a successful class or private session. You’re in your element, students are focused and engaged, they may be rolling their eyes at your ideas of “fun” but they’re laughing at your instructor jokes. Visualize yourself feeling confident and capable. Imagine the smiles and happy sweaty faces of your students at the end of class. This can help shift your mindset from one of “but what if they don’t like it,” to one of confidence.
  4. Prepare in advance: Being well-prepared can tremendously help ease your performance anxiety. Make sure you have all the equipment you need set up, prep notes ahead of time if that’s your style, and maybe practice a few exercises you have planned. The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll feel. Just remember you’re not preparing for perfection. There will always be things adjusted on the fly so you can teach the people in front of you.
  5. Connect with others: Connecting with other fitness professionals who have experienced similar feelings can be helpful. Share your feelings with a supportive coworker, or even join a community of like-minded fitness professionals who can offer support and encouragement. We’re always here for you at Mindful Fit Pro 😊

Remember, it’s normal to feel nervous before leading a class or private session. But by acknowledging your feelings, practicing mindfulness, visualizing success, preparing in advance, and connecting with others, you can ease your performance anxiety and get to what you do best. If you give these tips a try, I’d love to hear how they help you.

Happy teaching!

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