As a fitness professional, the scope of my students this summer includes a child with Asperger’s syndrome of ASD (autism spectrum disorder) and epilepsy, a collegiate soccer team, and a senior citizen with severely limited mobility. In some cases my students and I work one-on-one; however, as a group fitness instructor and coach, my job is to facilitate a workout that is inclusive for people of all levels of physical abilities. When I enter a group studio or meet a team for the first time, I have no idea what kind of condition each person is in, but as a teacher, it is my job to do the best I can to offer a way to tailor and customize a group fitness experience to best suit each individual’s needs.
My mentor, Melanie Guertain, CEO and Director of Education of the Groove Method, provided insight that has helped me achieve this. The first thing that Guertain will tell you is that her teaching method respects the individual and the individual’s physical literacy. Physical literacy involves the awareness of the movement of one's own body for the purpose of sustaining health throughout a lifetime. “I am not a follow-the-leader instructor,” is her typical introduction to a class. Instead Guertain provides easy-to-follow moves that can then be modified to meet an individual’s objective.
Metaphorically speaking, the way this translates in my teaching is by handing over the “volume button” to my students. “You control the volume,” I say during our class. “You can do X to make it more cardio, X to work range of motion, and X to make the move powerful; do what you need to do in order to make the movement work for you.” I have people in my aqua classes that are triathletes, training for power, speed, and agility. I also have people in the very same pool that are rehabbing a knee, shoulder, or hip. When I hand over the “volume button” to my students they take responsibility to meet their own goals within the context of their bodies.
For example, in my dance class when we are working on the barre and the students are asked to do “passe” or toe to knee of standing leg, I let them know their “options.” “You can work this for speed; add more cardio by incorporating your arms over head. You can work range of motion by making the move bigger and at a slower pace, or you can add power by bending deeply into the standing leg and focusing on isometrics.” “I represent the common denominator,” I say as I demonstrate the movement in terms of cardio/speed, range of motion, and power, “You have control of the volume to make the move your own, to get what you need out of this workout and this particular motion.”
By giving up the reigns as a “follow-the-leader instructor” and giving students options to customize their exercises, students are more mindful and considerate of their bodies. This manifests into a more effective and ultimately safe workout.
Whether you are fitness professional, student, or your own coach, you can use this idea of “volume control” to morph a movement and provide a holistic series of movements that involve cardiovascular endurance, strength, range of motion, and agility. When you give people the “volume button” you are showing your respect for their individuality and providing an opportunity for mind/body awareness that can be lost in a typical “follow-the-leader” class. When a person is using the movement for range of motion, she is less likely to be thinking about her “to-do” list; when a student is focused on getting his heart rate up, he is probably engrossed in “the now.” This concept of options, of handing over the “volume control button” can really help the class. Try it and notice the differences in movement. Encourage your class to crank it up, turn it low or in some cases just mute it. You provide “the music,” let your class be their own DJ!
In good health,
Heidi Aspen Lauckhardt-Rhoades
Professional Fitness Instructor, ACE, AFFA, TRX, Indo, PIA, GROOVE
Dance and Creative Movement Productions
Writer and Social Media Correspondent
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