Step height should be dependent on participants height and fitness level and familiarity with Step Aerobics. Even athletes should limit the step height to the lowest possible height until the coordination is achieved on the step. Under no circumstances should the step height be high enough to require a 90 degree or greater flexion of the knee. A maximum of 60 degrees is sufficient for all higher intensity levels.
Always ask if anyone is new to step. Keep a watchful eye on new people to insure their adherence to safety standards. They may not be aware of their limits yet. We all have a tendency to get complacent over time so always instruct participants in the proper technique, regardless if there are new people present or not.
Instructors should be conscious of the fact that the class will try to follow your intensity level. Therefore, if you use more than one step riser, the class will follow even if they are not ready. Considering all the classes that we generally do in a week, it's not really necessary to use more than one riser. The additional stress on your shins, knees and ankles may take it's toll in time. As instructors we sometimes don't get the chance to follow ACSM guidelines for alternate days of aerobic activity to heal properly. Proper technique, enough sleep and proper diet are of utmost importance.
Before starting class make sure that all towels, weights or other items are stowed under the board or at the wall so as not to provide a hazard during class. Insure that each step participant has a minimum of 25 square feet of space. In other words a 5 foot by 5 foot area with the step positioned in the middle of this area.
Begin with a progressive, limbering warmup and stretch period followed by stepping with a tap up then basic step up moves. Progressively add arm and then leg changes. Observe the class's response to cuing. This will give you a idea of the overall class experience level. Adjust the class accordingly.
Face the class providing a mirror image of the moves. During such maneuvers as turn step or over the top (not across the top), it may be less confusing to the class and therefore easier for them to follow if you face front. Remain flexible in your teaching style and use common sense guided by the participants perspective.
Intensity And Complexity
There is a misconception of what constitutes beginner, intermediate and advanced levels of aerobics. Generally, people equate class level with choreographic complexity. It is physical exercise intensity level alone that determines class level and subsequently heart rate. Complex moves, although fine for dance enthusiasts, can be defeating and demoralizing to most of the people who are trying to learn complex dance moves when they are really there to burn fat.
Intensity can be better served by utilizing large muscle groups quantitatively. Complex dance moves can be icing on the cake after the intensity level has been achieved by the aforementioned method. In many cases this may serve as a great cool-down method since intensity and subsequently heart rate generally drops as the participant slows down to learn new steps. Therefore, beginner, intermediate and advanced level classes can be grouped further into two categories, complex and non-complex denoting the choreographic complexity.
Leg muscles and arm movements will also add to intensity level. Intensity level can be reduced by placing hands on the waist while continuing to step, by reducing the height of the step or by reducing the tempo of the music. Step heights of 4 inches provide intensity levels near those of walking briskly. A step height of 12 inches exhibits near the same energy level as jogging at 5 to 7 mph.
Components Of An Aerobic Class
Aerobic classes are generally one hour in length. The warm-up segment should last about 10 minutes and be composed of limbering type exercises to provide a core body temperature increase. Warming up the muscles is of prime importance in preventing injury due to the fact that they are more elastic. Lower body stretching should then be done for about 5 more minutes.
Begin stepping using simple moves. The aerobic segment should last about 25 minutes and should increase gradually in intensity and complexity. All moves should be less than full range until full warm-up is achieved. Heart rate can be checked about half way through the aerobic segment and is a good time for a water break. The class should be adjusted according to the results of the heart rate check. A cool-down segment follows the aerobic segment lasting about 5 minutes.
Heart rate should then be checked again to assure a rate of less than 120 bpm. Anyone still at a higher level should be instructed to continue marching or walking around the room. Floor work should then begin and continue for the next 10 minutes followed by stretching for the last 5 minutes. None of these times are cast in stone and may be adjusted accordingly. For example, the instructor can reduce the aerobic segment to 20 minutes and increase the final stretching segment to 10 minutes.
Injury Prevention And Treatment
Watch for fatigue by keeping a periodic scan on participants. If you observe someone losing coordination, stumbling or appearing red faced and flushed, instruct them to stand down and take a few minutes rest. If the severity of fatigue is not as grave, just instruct that person to continue with their hands on the hips to reduce the intensity.
If someone falls and is uninjured, instruct them to discontinue stepping immediately. It is most likely that they have pushed themselves beyond their fitness level. Have them report to the front desk. If they are unable to walk without difficulty or the situation involves cardiovascular or respiratory difficulty, discontinue the class, escort them to the front desk and notify medical personnel. If they are not able to walk, discontinue the class, and send someone to the front desk for help, stay with the injured participant in the event that more serious complications evolve and keep them immobilized. Sprains are treated with Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (RICE). Apply ice for no longer than 20 minutes at a time every 2 hours. Apply compression above, on and below the injury. Elevate the injury above the heart.
Shin Splints are caused when the calve muscles are trained and the opposing or antagonist muscle, the Tibialis Anterior, is left underdeveloped. This causes a muscular imbalance as the calve muscle attempt to tear the Tibialis Anterior away from the bone. RICE is the prescribed treatment and toes raises are the prevention.