Back in 1999 when I first started teaching, there was an Instructor at my gym who was the ultimate Pied Piper, they drew people to exercise like a moth to a flame. It was as if the Connection part of the Les Mills Instructor Manual was based on this one Instructor, they were the blueprint for creating amazing connections within their classes.
The level of connection they achieved was unbelievable. Every time this Instructor taught, members who couldn’t make the class would ring reception and leave a message for the Instructor to let them know they wouldn’t be there! I’ve taught for over 20 years and I like to think I’m a good connector but I’ve never had anyone call the gym to let me know that they can’t make my class — this Instructor took connection to the next level.
I was lucky to have time to learn about the level of commitment needed to be successful with connection by watching this Instructor work before they moved on to other things about 18 months later. And although this Instructor reached the heights of success in this area, there was one disappointing thing about their journey - when they left the gym pretty much all of the members who did their classes disappeared.
The Instructor moved to another city so it wasn’t because the members followed them to another gym. Not only did this Instructor leave a gaping hole at our gym, they also left a gaping hole in the fitness lives of their members because most of them fell away from exercise. These members seemed to rely on this one Instructor to keep them active so when that was gone, so was their exercising self.
I remember my manager at the time used this as an opportunity to teach me something. One day we were talking about what had happened and he said: “This is a good reason to think about your legacy”. He explained to me that he believed that the true representation of legacy is what happens when you move on from something. The proof of true legacy is when you move on from an area where you have had a big impact and the impact stays and resonates long after you have gone.
The question of legacy is a great one to think about as an Instructor. We all want to have successful classes but when we start to think about our legacy and the bigger picture, we start to think about the real and lasting impact we can have on our world.
Legacy makes you think about how you can help a beginner learn to have a lifetime love of exercise. Legacy makes you think about how you can develop and give back to new Instructors so they can have an impact on future members. Legacy makes you think about how you can help your gym be more successful in getting people into exercise. Legacy makes you think about the relationships and connections you can create for others around fitness. Legacy opens you up to so much more than just being a good Instructor.
This conversation with my manager — 20 years ago now — has always sat in the back of my mind and I’ve tried to build a career where I’ll leave a legacy, where I will have an impact on the fitness world long after I have left it.
If you think about yourself and the legacy you want to leave behind, what do you want it to be and what do you need to do to create it? Some questions to think about include: what impact do you want to have on the world? What would you want someone to say about the impact you had on their life? What are the small steps you can take now to start creating this?
Never forget that the work you do today is an opportunity; you have the opportunity to touch the world in ways you can never imagine — even when you aren’t there. It’s powerful stuff.
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.