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9 Tips to Prevent Instructor Burnout

Every once in awhile, I hit a wall.

My body stops doing what I need it to do to teach my classes, and it screams for a mental and physical break.

I’ve gotten better at slowing the frequency of my body breakdowns, but now and again they’re still going to happen.

No matter how often an instructor teaches (and I know that many instructors teach a LOT), our bodies will give up on us if we don’t take good care of them. I especially see this happen with newer instructors.

A new instructor in my Indoor Cycling Instructor Crew asked about how we can prevent instructor burnout- mental and physical. You can watch the replay of the Hoerner Happy Hour Q&A where I answer this here, but I wanted to share some extra quick tips for preventing burnout:

1. Sleep more.

If you’re so exhausted that you’re falling asleep at the dinner table, it’s probably time for some extra rest and sleep. Even if you’re getting your usual amount of sleep, that may not be enough. Your body is smart enough to know what it needs, so listen to it! Get an extra hour or two of sleep and let your body recover as it needs to.

2. Fuel your way.

I’m not going to preach to you about protein powders and pre/post workout supplements because I’m not a fan of 99% of them.

I’m also not going to tell you that you need to have a late morning breakfast of iced coffee, eggs, and veggies every day like me because what works for me might not work for you.

And I’m not going to tell you to drink a gallon of water before noon because that means a few too many trips to the bathroom.

What I will say is that fueling your body is extremely important, but it’s also very individual. My body is as different from yours on the inside as it is on the outside, which means that the way I fuel is very different from the way you fuel. If what you’re doing now is working, don’t change it. If it’s not, do. Make little changes here and there until you find a happy place, and hold on to it.

3. Take a breather for your brain.

Mental self-care is often overlooked or thrown at the bottom of the priorities list when, really, it’s one of the most important elements in staying healthy.

If you’re constantly feeling anxious or overwhelmed, and you can’t seem to slow down your thoughts, you need a mental breather. Set aside some time every day to do something that makes you feel good (journaling, meditating, walking your dog, doing yoga, cooking, etc.).

You know the saying…You can’t pour from an empty cup. Fill your own first.

4. Get comfortable with saying “no”.

“No, I can’t sub that class.”

“No, I’m not able to go out tonight.”

“No, that schedule is not going to work for me.”

These are all things I’ve said in the last few weeks. At first, saying these things felt like I was being lazy or inflexible, but eventually my body thanked me for it.

People-pleasing is a dangerous habit, and putting other people’s needs before your own will only wear you down that much faster. Before you impulsively agree to another commitment, make sure that you actually want to do it and that your body is up for it.

5. Get out of the saddle.

Indoor cycling is one of just a few types of group fitness that require an instructor to actually workout when teaching. Other modes of group fitness that I’ve taught, such as strength training classes or bootcamps, don’t require me to work through the exercises- just to instruct them. This means that there is quite a big difference in physical exertion levels from teaching 5 bootcamp classes versus 5 cycling classes in a day.

That being said, if you’re teaching multiple classes a day it might be time to consider hopping out of the saddle during class. If your studio/gym allows it, teaching a few classes off the bike can be a great way to give yourself a break while also mixing things up for your riders.

6. Fake it.

Don’t want to get off the bike during class, but need a break? Don’t go as hard as you’re coaching your riders to go! Make that heavy hill a little lighter. Power pose out at the handlebars and cheer them on while they sprint. Do what you gotta do to ease up on your body while still coaching with a strong energy.

7. Be the student.

One of my favorite ways to re-invigorate my energy as an instructor is to take classes with other instructors, whether that’s indoor cycling classes or other modes of group fitness. I pop around different studios in Boston, and I always look for fun workouts to try while I’m traveling. Attending other classes and pulling energy and inspiration from different instructors can help prevent burnout and make us better coaches overall.

8. Set new goals.

A surefire way to burn out and lose steam is to stop setting new goals.

What do you want to work on as an instructor?

What are your goals for the next few classes? For the next few months?

How can you work on personally connecting with your riders (learning their names, jobs, travel plans, etc)?

9. Know that it’s normal.

Being an instructor is a roller coaster. A beautiful, exhausting, fun, stressful, exciting roller coaster.

Some days will be great! Some days will be rough. Some classes will feel blah. 

Ride it out. Remember that it will get better. Take care of yourself. And know I’m always here if you need a little help.

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