We often hear people say “you’ve got to get a blog!” Obviously blogging serves many purposes, both personally and professionally. But creating a blog is easy – otherwise Technorati would not be tracking 112 million of them. It’s maintaining a successful blog, that counts.
A few months ago, I discussed Blogging for Health & Wellness when reviewing “Top 100 Blogs in Health & Fitness”. Over the past 7-8 months, one blog in particular (which was not included on the 100 list, but should have been) has caught my attention: “Unleash the Power of Group Fitness” authored by Krista Leopold, Director of Group Fitness for several clubs in the Charleston, SC area.
This blog is unique in that the blogger caters to an audience that is least represented in the blogosphere: Group Exercise Instructors. In addition, this blog is a true illustration of how a blog can be useful in educating and elevating the professional expertise of its audience. Krista’s voice is authentic and her posts are timely. I had the chance to connect with Krista and ask her questions about her experiences as a blogger.
BFWB: When and how did you get the idea to start blogging about group exercise?
KL: It started with reading blogs. There was a point when the Internet exploded with weblogs and it was impossible to avoid them. Most of the blogs I read at first were trite and self-absorbed, like public diaries. I was frustrated that most fitness sites had minimal substance and maximum vanity. I wanted to provide value to readers that I had been unable to find. After considering the different forms my message could take, I decided to reach out to Group Fitness Instructors and provide a service that I had not found anywhere else on the web.
BFWB: Who does your blog target – the newbie or the veteran instructor?
KL: Both, but more specifically newer instructors. I remember how frightened and intimidated I was in my first days of teaching group fitness. I had many many questions but no mentors. My first Director attempted to be helpful, but she didn’t know how to teach me to bring more people in to my class — she only insisted that I did. I made lots of mistakes figuring it out on my own, so I try to be a mentor for new instructors who are in the same boat. I also try to remind veteran instructors that there are things they may have forgotten, never learned or taken for granted. I also try to provide choreography, tips and motivational cues that are usable by anyone, regardless of experience level.
BFWB: I love your blog’s mission statement “to assist instructors, whatever their experience level, at being the best they can be.” Can you expand on that?
KL: I recognize that group fitness instructors don’t teach just one medium anymore. We are yogis and spinners and dancers and steppers and body sculptors and kickboxers and more. But whatever the discipline, GFIs are also salesmen, customer service reps and personal trainers and even therapists! I try to provide a broader picture to instructors that I hope allows a vision of themselves as more than the person barking orders to students…[rather] to rethink how you as an instructor approach your class and can provide a positive learning experience.
BFWB: Why don’t you think more fitness professionals – group ex instructors especially, are out there blogging?
KL: I would guess lack of time, experience, and knowledge. This is a pretty big time commitment if you intend to provide well-thought, relevant, helpful inspiration. Other instructors may also be unaware that they have experiences and information that could help others. Trusting yourself and knowing your message take time and self-evaluation. I overcame the time issue when life asked me to take a full-time corporate job that allowed me to do most of my writing on lunch breaks. Before, when I was at the gym all day, it never would have happened. I also imagine that whereas a personal trainer can see a direct marketing effect from their blogs in the form of clients, a GFI may not see where they can gain anything tangible. I began with no known benefits except for an occasional pat on the back from a commenter or email.
BFWB: What has been a rewarding benefit you have seen come from your blogging experience?
KL: The most rewarding thing is how I have improved as an instructor. I started blogging with a pretty big ego; I thought I was doing a great service and that I had enough knowledge to tell others what they were missing in their instructing. It is refreshing to say that my ego has shrunk with every post and my skills have flourished. Writing involves a humbling self-evaluation and a challenge to fight my own bad habits and laziness. I have experienced growth that I never expected and it has been a real blessing. The effects to my career have only recently begun to happen. I was asked to contribute to a book that will be published later this year and have had the opportunity to network with folks working in areas I want to pursue. While no dramatic changes or “lottery moments” have happened yet, I see many doors opening that will allow me very soon to leave my corporate shoes behind and return full-time to the fitness industry.
A big thanks goes to Krista for sharing her insights. We all can learn from her knowledge and experience (not just in group exercise, but through her blogging efforts, as well). I know she will continue to contribute to the growth of this industry and raise the bar for the group exercise profession.