This evening I was lucky enough to be a participant in first a Zumba class, followed by a 45 min. Spinning class. Both classes were lead by experienced and motivating instructors. What struck me in both classes and inspired this blog post was the fact that both instructors taught class without a microphone, even though there was a working mic available in both rooms. I'm especially sensitive to this issue because as a group exercise instructor for 23 years (I started teaching Step Reebok in 1988), I also have permanent vocal cord damage from teaching without a microphone for several of those years. When we teach without a mic and project our voices (especially over music), it causes our vocal cords to slam together instead of vibrate, and that repeated collision over time leads to thickening of the cords and then nodules and/or polyps. Once this occurs, it can only be corrected by surgery.
Fitness instructors as a whole have an extremely high vocal cord damage rate, for obvious reasons. I'm surprised and alarmed at the number of facilities I conduct trainings at that don't provide a microphone for their instructors. I understand that mic systems can be expensive and high maintenance, but it truly is an occupational hazard to teach a class without a microphone. If your facility doesn't have a mic system please share this blog with your boss/supervisor (I will take the blame!). If you do have one, please use it every time you teach! I didn't realize the harm I was doing to my larynx until it was too late, and the damage was irreversible. I haven't had surgery to repair the problem yet, but I don't enjoy waking up every morning sounding like a seasoned smoker. As a coincidence, I happened to notice that fellow Spinning coach Jana Rusk in Wisconsin posted the following this evening as her Facebook status update: "Dead microphone battery means 45 minutes of yelling and an even bigger headache than I had before class." You can take a quiz at the Voice Academy (website of the National Center for Voice and Speech) to see if you may have vocal strain: www.uiowa.edu/~shcvoice/
I know we spend a lot of time focusing on injury prevention for our students, but as instructors it's also important that we take care of our precious bodies from head to toe.
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