We've got another election year here in the USA. Based on what I see on my Facebook feed, I get the sense that there's a few Instructors* out there that might be thinking, OH GOODY! I've got a captive group of people riding in front of me. My “peeps” see me as a leader. It's my job to “educate” them so they vote properly!
It's my belief that there's nothing better at destroying your class' sense of unity, than injecting politics.
So if you're tempted to sit there front/center and extol the virtues of some candidate (or criticise another) during a recovery, might I suggest that you consider these five reasons why you shouldn't?
#5 It's unprofessional behavior.
You're paid as an Instructor to conduct a cycling or fitness class – not to convert people politically as a political pundit. A true Fitness Professional would never discuss politics during the course of conducting their class. They understand exactly their role in the studio and understand politics isn't in their job description.
How would you feel if your doctor, accountant, mechanic, hair stylist, or other Professional (whom you're paying for a service) began to lecture you about the evils of a particular politician? One you happen to admire and plan to vote for this fall?
Fitness Professionals also understand that they represent the club or studio where they teach. As a representative, anything you say or do could reflect poorly on the business. So just don't go there.
As the owner or manager of an Indoor Cycling Studio, do you think that a friendly preemptive reminder to all of your employees might be helpful?
#4 It's disrespectful to your riders.
People are inundated by politics near constantly during election season. Unless you go completely off-grid, you really can't avoid the constant poll results, he said/she said breathlessly reported ad nauseam on TV, radio and the Internet.
At some level, most (if not all) of your riders participate in your class as an escape from the real world. Don't ruin their hour of aerobic bliss, by mouthing off about income inequality, social security, pipelines or other non-sense. Your class has no interest in hearing it and you'll only wreck their workout… and probably not see them again 🙁
#3 You'll instantly alienate half your class when you open your mouth.
The US is politically split approximately 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats. So it defies explanation why any rational* person would purposely choose to insult the political beliefs of 50% of their class, by publicly taking one political position over another. Seriously, why would you ever do that?
OK, I realise that there are some who couldn't care less who they alienate by mindlessly parroting what they've heard or read – please show your Professional independence by not being one of them 🙂
#2 They'll “unfriend” you.
I'm not specifically referring to unfriending someone on Facebook, although I guess I could be. I'm certainly not against dumping a FB “friend” who's frequently posting stupid stuff about politics. What I'm referring to is the damage you can do to a relationship by needlessly introducing conflict .
Think about the last you were lectured by a friend or acquaintance about something you disagreed with. How did it make you feel? Did you leave feeling like you'd be excited to talk with him or her again?
#1 I'm not stupid, nor am I uninformed or uneducated, so don't treat me like I am.
My number one reason why you should leave politics out of your class; it's insulting and demeaning to lecture other adults about pretty much anything, especially things political. There a very good reason that you, yourself, have felt insulted when this happens. You're being told (no matter how nicely) that if you disagree, you're simply wrong … and they're right.
But it isn't just that you are mistaken, like you turned left, when you should have veered right. No, you feel insulted because the act of lecturing is about power. The lecturer has asserted a position of dominance over you, attempting to make you feel small. How do you respond in a situation like this? Does it make you feel valued and/or respected?
But what if a participant brings up politics first?
Refer to #1, regardless of you're in agreement or not.
I have to compliment the personal trainer of the boot camp I was at this past Saturday. One participant made a number of political comments, that he initially ignored. Sensing the guy wasn't getting the hint, he said very politely; “this is a politics free zone” – smiled and disengaged from the conversation. That was all it took.
*This might not describe you… however you probably know a few Instructors who it does. Please feel free to share this article with them, before they irreparably damage their relationship with their participants.
John is a member on the AFS (Association of Fitness Studios) Advisory Council.
Holding certifications from; Schwinn, Heart Zones, Team ICG and Life Time Fitness, John's held regularly scheduled cycling classes between 1998 and 2015 when he moved to Florida.
When the weather permits, you'll find him riding and leading outdoor groups by himself or with his Tandem partner (wife) Amy.
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