I asked a few indoor cycling instructors how often they take time off from teaching and all I got was ………………….. Yup, dead stares and dead silence.  What are you taking about?  You know, like taking a week off from teaching — a little R&R?  Once they understood the question (which I thought was clear the first time), the common response was — never.

I’m going to switch into Coach Tom mode.  I want you to consider yourself an athlete, because frankly, that is what you are.  The instructors I asked taught a minimum of 4 indoor cycling classes per week PLUS some taught other group fitness modalities, also worked as personal trainers and even competed.  One of my future articles is going to specifically address balancing competition and teaching, but for now let’s just talk about taking care of YOU.

I’m going to shoot straight — many of you reading this (at least this far) will not agree or believe me until you actually take a legitimate break.  No explanations will suffice and no scientific studies will convince.  Why am I so confident of this?  I experienced it.  I was teaching 12 classes per week, commuting to the clubs and coaching riders on the road.  Most of my weeks totaled 19-29 hours in the saddle.  My justification: “This is what I do.  I’m a indoor cycling instructor and coach.”  People told me I looked tired and gaunt.  Well, I’m supposed to look gaunt, I’m a cyclist. Due to a combination of business travel and a family vacation, I was forced to take 2 weeks off from teaching.  I know what you are thinking, and yes, finding subs for 24 classes was overwhelming but doable. When I returned, I was refreshed, enthusiastic and healthy. It was noticeable by more than just me.

We will fight the concept of taking the needed time to care for our bodies and recover physically, mentally and emotionally, but we need it.  So how much and how often should we take a break?  That is a good question and one I don’t have an answer to because it depends on how much you teach and your lifestyle.  As a coach, I like my athletes to take a week of rest and recovery for each 4 to 5 weeks of focused training.  This may be a bit much if you teach fulltime as a means of making a living.  I like to get a break after every 8 weeks of teaching.  That works for me.  Now there are other options as well. You don’t have to take a week or two off consecutively, instead take 3-4 days off or setup a long weekend.  Remember, it is not just about you.  You are providing the energy and inspiration for those in your class.  If you don’t walk in with it, you can give it.

So how do you know you may be in need of a break?  If you still have not been able to answer my opening question, the answer is simple — IT IS TIME!  Some other signs are lack of energy (particularly before class), fatigue, low motivation, bored with your workouts or profiles, classes appearing longer than normal and overuse injuries.  Listen to your body and listen to others.  I’m very fortunate to have riders in my classes who respect me and who are not afraid to provide feedback.  One rider in a class that I’ve taught for 7 years approached me afterwards and said, “you didn’t have IT tonight”.  He said the class was still good, but it wasn’t at the level he had come to expect and enjoy.  It was tough to hear, but he was right.  It was time.  I owed it to myself and I owed it to my class.

So take care of yourself.  Listen to your body.  You are an athlete, a motivator and an inspiration.  Lead by example and lead strong.

Originally posted 2011-07-29 05:00:00.

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