IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  June 1, 2003

New Instructor

Teaching a class for the first time is not easy, regardless of how easy it looks. Never teach a whole class for the first time teaching. Start out by approaching your favorite instructor and telling them that you're new. Ask if they can help. Most instructors are more than willing to help new instructors. A good instructor is also a good teacher with a responsibility to teach. Never start with the warmup exercises. There is too much pressure created for first timers by all those eyes staring at the instructor looking for guidance and direction. Ask to take part of the floor work, in particular, the abs. Everyone is already on the floor so there is no chance that you'll be responsible for that, through bad queuing.

Don't worry about your performance on your first class. Most first classes are real disasters, mine included. I wanted to never attempt to teach again. After about a year, my classes were the most popular at the University.

Queuing is by far the hardest part of becoming an instructor. Everyone has the ability, but to some it comes easier. It didn't to me. So I can give you my perspective from one who was a hard learner.

Try not to worry too much about choreographing an entire class. Focus on short sections and then just put each section together as you progress. If something goes awry, you can always go back to the sequence that was most basic. For example, in step class, you can do a step-up and step-down followed by knee raises. If you feel you are losing it, go back to the step-up step-down. Transition to the corners and then finally a turn step. Keep it non-complex and easy to remember. As it turned out, people appreciate the simplicity. Most people are confused by complex choreography except another seasoned instructor. Talk to the class participants about this not another instructor. Marketing people talk to consumers for perspective on products not the manufacturer. Other routines can be added to the mix until you have lots of little segments that you can put together. It's much easier to remember small sequences than large complex moves. I knew an instructor that choreographed to one tape. She couldn't do a class unless she had that tape. It can make a class predictable at best.

Once the routines are simplified, you can then focus on the music. Don't fret over 16 count, 32 count. Beats are all in 4's and multiples. So keep your routines simple and match to the beat. The top of the phrase is when it's time to change. This will be something you will feel or hear coming. This is the hard part, matching the top of the phrase to the end of one routine and start of the next. This is what pumps the class up and gives the class life.

You will need to practice listening for this on your own, in the car, at home. Try it at home by queuing yourself. This is very easy to do. Next transition to queuing a friend. It will be harder than you expected. Then begin to focus on listening for the top of the phrase.

It takes time and practice, but it's worth the effort when you see people packing into your class. Only when you are comfortable with what you are doing will your personality be allowed to come out, which is what will actually make the class great.

E = mc2

We've been misdirected. Previous studies have shown that the most efficient fat burning occurs at a heart rate of between 50% and 60% of maximum. Earlier studies in the 60's led us to believe that the slow steady pace workout burned more fat than high intensity workouts. In some manner this is correct. For example, you can walk for many hours and run for a much shorter time. If you try to run as long as you can walk, you'll develop stress problems. Walking for 60 minutes at about 3.5 mph burns about 220 calories. Running for 60 minutes at 7.5 mph (8 minute mile) burns about 682 calories. However, you can walk for maybe 2 hours in a stretch, which would burn 440 calories. It's healthier and stress related injuries are minimized. So it appears that lower intensity would burn more fat.

The truth is that it can, if you increase the duration of the low intensity exercise. The three facets of exercise are intensity, duration and frequency. Decrease the intensity and you have to increase one of the other two to have the same training effect. In high school physics class, we were told that power is equal to the work done. Energy is the ability to do work. Power is work done over a specified period of time. Power requires fuel. The more power, the more fuel required. Low intensity work as on a treadmill for an hour is not going to be as effective as higher intensity work on the treadmill in consuming fuel. In this case, the fuel is fat. Remember, Einstein's special theory of relativity from Physics class or the Twilight Zone catch phrase? Energy is equal to the mass multiplied by the acceleration squared. Reduce the speed or acceleration and you reduce the energy or work done.

Remember, you only store 20 minutes of carbohydrate type fuel stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver. If you ingest carbohydrates before you workout, you increase the body's carbohydrate storage. Basically, as you are using your carb stores, they are being replaced by the metabolization of the carbs that you ingested. If your goal is performance, then this is acceptable. If you goal is fat loss, then you are missing the mark. You must determine your goal before you enter the gym. Is your goal muscle building, weight loss or cardio performance? Your workout will be different for each goal.

For drink water before, during and after a workout. Water helps to metabolize fat and increase energy levels. Increase your intensity, duration and frequency. Interval training is also helpful. Remember, a car uses more fuel in stop and go traffic than it does cruising on the highway. It's not just because you're in a lower gear. The very reason that the car is in a lower gear is that more torque is required. Torque is what gets the car up a hill. A car requires only about 6 hp to cruise at 55 mph ... really. It's the torque that gives it acceleration and hill climbing power. Remember this on the treadmill. Stop and go and uphill. This is interval training. Repeating the sequence of alternating high intensity and low intensity. The only difference between our bodies and a man-made machine is that we can become more efficient at a repeating task. A man-made machine becomes less efficient the more it is used. Given that, keep switching workouts. Your body will get used to the treadmill and therefore burn less fuel to do the same work. Keep your body guessing. Now, don't you wish you had paid more attention in Physics class.

Q & A

Q: What exactly do we mean by the word 'coordination' when used in association with physical tasks like running etc? What does it mean to say that a person has lower coordination connected with fitness? No name.

A: It's a function of the interaction of the nerves and muscles and how well they communicate with each other to provide movement. As we get older and more inactive, we lose nerve and muscle fibers. It is analogous to trying to control a kite with many strings and later on with one or two strings. The resolution becomes less and therefore harder to control.


Q: When I first started exercising, it was easy to get to 90% of my maximum heart rate but now that I have been exercising for some time it is very hard to get to 85% of my maximum heart rate. My numbers won't go up past 160 unless I try to 'kill' myself with something extremely strenuous. What gives? Thanks for your response. Verna.

A: Like any muscle, the heart becomes stronger, that's what you want it to do. Now it takes the 'pump' a lot less effort to do the same work. Now switch your exercise efforts to something else like weight training and fat burning (if needed). Ideal fat burning occurs at about 60% of the max HR. You've reached one goal.


Q: I am on a diet of about 1800 calories per day, and I'm hearing more and more about how this is possibly affecting my metabolism negatively. It's hard for me to understand the need to have more calories. Your website calculations have me at about 3500 calories per day with a medium level of activity. Any ideas? Thank you. Jennifer

A: There is usually not a metabolic problem until you go below 1500 calories per day. Everyone has an answer to your problem, but unfortunately, there are not only many correct answers but many wrong ones too.

Primitive humans existed on a lot less. Civilized humans eat so much more than they need to, hence the overweight problem that is so prolific today in more westernized cultures. Even the 3500 calories requirement, I feel, is excessive. If I ate 3500 calories per day, I would be overweight. So just continue doing what you're doing now. What is more important is that you eat a balanced diet that includes all the basics. Remember, it's quality not quantity.