Do you want to be a legend in the eyes of your members? This isn’t just about being a good Instructor, it’s about being the Instructor who has ‘mana’, which in New Zealand Maori means an aura that’s not tangible but is felt and respected.
Before I started instructing, I remember this one experience where I was in the locker room having a chat with another member called Bruce. Bruce was this outgoing character with a big laugh and was a well-known personality at the gym.
During our conversation, Bruce started talking about an Instructor by the name of Chris and how impressive he was. Bruce was singing Chris’ praises and for the next 5 minutes Bruce was Chris’s number one fan, telling me how fit Chris was; I remember him saying, “Chris will do a 2 hour run before coming in to teach a class, he’s that fit!”
Bruce’s story had a massive impact on my perspective of Chris. Within our relatively short conversation he had infiltrated my mind and now I thought this guy was a legend! I remember thinking that I have to try Chris’ class and the following week I went along to see what this legend was all about.
I know that when I became an Ironman triathlete I seemed to have more impact because people saw me in a different light.
Looking back, Chris’ job to win me over was easy because Bruce had already done the work. As Chris walked in the room I remember thinking, “this guy is definitely an athlete”; he had my buy-in. For the next hour I was in awe of Chris, an instant fan.
Suddenly, going to Chris’ class was the most important class for me each week, Chris’ legendary status also meant that he had a lot more credibility. Chris could say something that other Instructors also said but because it came from him, it had a lot more impact. As a result, I always got a lot more out of Chris’ workouts.
Every gym has the ‘legend’, the person who everyone is impressed by and tells stories about. So, what does it take to be this ‘legend’?
While there are many factors that create a legend, I feel there are 4 key tools:
1. You have be more than an Instructor in the minds or your members, and you can do this by achieving fitness goals outside of the group fitness environment.
When I think back on all of the legends I’ve come into contact with throughout my career, all of them have achieved big fitness challenges outside of the group fitness world. I think of Steve, a BODYCOMBAT Instructor who was Third Dan Black Belt and New Zealand champ in Taekwondo. There was also an RPM Instructor by the name of Scott who was a top cyclist for his age group. I know that when I became an Ironman triathlete I seemed to have more impact because people saw me in a different light.
These achievements build credibility, and tell your story.
2. The achievements are aligned to your program.
Being a fast marathon runner may not hold as much credit for a BODYJAM Instructor or a Yoga guru as it does for a BODYATTACK Instructor. While many of us teach more than one program, we tend to have one or two that are our strongest and are most aligned with our true ‘fitness self’. I know I’m always going to be strongest in the athletic programs, so my achievements should match this. You want to be aligned with where your strengths are and put your energy into these areas.
Having a reputation that helps you have an impact on others is a great thing, but it should be the result of you chasing personal development, not chasing ego. It’s this development that will help you be better at helping others.
3. Use your "legend" to help your members get to the next level.
You have to be careful here because no one likes a show off, but if you can share your experiences in ways that will motivate others and help them to grow it can aid your members’ development. For example, I would use lessons from challenging 6-hour bike rides when I taught RPM and when I did this I could see how it helped my members to work harder.
The key to this one is that you aren’t sharing to build your legend, you are sharing to help others reach a higher place.
4. Do it for the right reasons.
Having a reputation that helps you have an impact on others is a great thing, but it should be the result of you chasing personal development, not chasing ego. It’s this development that will help you to be better at helping others.
There’s a reason there are only a few legends out there: it takes a lot of time and effort to be this person. It’s also important to say that not everyone has to be a legend but if this is a level that you want to achieve in your fitness career, start putting time into the areas I have identified. You’ll find that you’ll have a much bigger impact on your world if you do.
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. Listen to Bevan’s podcast.