Eiler Technical Enterprises: Tech Division Fitness Division World Domination Personal Contact Info
Aerobics Journal #1
IDEA Fitness Fusion - Chicago, 2005
Operation Silver Hammer
The Adventures of an Aerobics Instructor, Variously Known to the Web as Scott Eiler, or Eiler Technical Enterprises Fitness Division, or the Guard of the Domination of Eiler, Hereafter Referred To as "The Eiler Aerobic Force" or Simply "The Force"
Years ago, the Eiler Aerobics Force got nagged into getting itself certified as a provider of aerobics group fitness instruction (and thereby a ready source of substitute teachers). As sometimes happens with Eiler hobbies, this hobby got so far out of control, the Force made money at it.
But let's face it. People at most gyms could benefit from knocking off the workout early and going to the pub. The hyper-fit turned out not to be the best target audience for the Eiler Aerobic Force. But a good audience eventually revealed itself.
You see, there are apartment complexes huge enough and affluent enough, to hire aerobics instructors to teach their residents for free. Those are, by definition, the people who'll never pay to get fit. That is the frontline of fitness. The Eiler Aerobic Force has served on that frontline, and seen the value of its service. This makes an excellent target audience for the Force.
To keep up its aerobics certification, the Force has therefore deployed to the nearest fitness convention, held near Chicago O'Hare Airport by an organization called "IDEA". Don't ask what that stands for; the Force didn't pay attention when it read the convention brochures.
Since the convention is a three-day weekend which required much planning, this is treated as a full-fledged Eiler Force operation. Therefore, it gets its own journal, similar to many others, except filed under "Aerobics". Operation is titled, "Silver Hammer", after a Beatles song which is amazingly suitable in tempo and attitude for a step aerobics class.
So, what is the Eiler Aerobic Force learning at convention?
Not exactly a learning experience. The Eiler Force already knows not to pay $200 extra for an extra day at the convention, especially when the con already costs over $200 for a three day weekend.
The convention is in Rosemont, convenient to the Eiler Force's home base - except during rush hour. Instead of fighting Chicago rush-hour traffic and convention registration lines to make the Inspirational Welcome at 7:30 and the first session at 8:15, the Force chose to sleep in and show up stylishly late. Good decision.
This being the Force's first fitness convention, suitable attire was in question. (The last time there was this much doubt about clothing on a Force mission, it was dinnertime in Bermuda.) For this mission, street clothes on top of workout gear were chosen. Good choice, but jeans should be avoided in future, just because slacks are easier to stow in a gym bag.
Music and Cueing, Jayme Zylstra, MS. The Force breezed through registration and was on station by 9:30 am, thereby giving time for a partial first session. This partial session gave more information than many of the other sessions did in full.
- Get an ASCAP or BMI license before playing music in an apartment complex. They may not have thought of it.
- Make sure that the CD you buy in the dealers' room, isn't full of MP3s. (The Force provided instruction on this one, upon hearing a horror story of a CD that wouldn't play in a CD player.)
- Starting on the 32-count isn't a safety issue, but is recommended. (Long-time aerobics instructors with no rhythm, take note! Improvement is always possible.)
- Lifetime Fitness "networking party" in the lobby at 6 pm tonight!
Community Relations and External Marketing Initiatives, Sherry McMillan, B.H.K., M.Sc. Useful for those who want to market directly to the public... which the Eilertech Fitness Division usually doesn't, but the Stickcarving Division does.
- Goal: 5% of gross revenues on marketing.
- Your target audience is within 15 minutes driving time. (Well under that, in the Force's experience.)
- Traditional forms of marketing only work, if you have lots of money. What you want, is:
- Your current customers
- Chamber of Commerce
- Non-profit organizations
- Untraditional forms of marketing:
- Get nearby cashiers at related businesses to hand out your promos! (Luckily, the Force includes a cashier and has connections with non-profit thrift stores.)
- Make donations of your product! (Good move for stickcarving, so why not for personal trainers.)
- Give seminars! (Luckily, the Force includes a teacher of modest skill.)
- Write articles for local papers! (Luckily, the Force includes a writer of massive skill, even if it does say so itself.)
- Get an apartment complex to sponsor you. They usually bring the equipment! (The Force has actually done this for fitness.)
- Organize some fun events, under your company name. (Domination of Eiler Bike Parade, coming soon! And beware the Eilertech Halloween Party!)
- Other pointers:
- Feel free to spam your customers with teasers. (This seems counter-intuitive, but hey, so is most traditional advertising.)
- Let people know, what's in it for them.
- Get insurance, even if your customers have it too.
- Eventually, you'll have to advertise the usual way... like Yellow Pages. And you'll have a yearly marketing plan, and all that rot.
Lunch Hour and Expo Room. Plenty of free swag, but huge lines for lunch. Nearby hotels have better service, if one sits at the bar, but that might be a bad idea for a fitness lunch. Brown-bag it from now on!
Zen and the Art of Group Fitness Programming, Sherry Catlin. Target of opportunity; not pre-booked, and about 10% full. Useful for Fitness Directors, or those who want to know more about Zen, or both.
- Zen is the opposite of the Domination of Eiler, except that Zen and the Domination are both subtle things.
- Group Fitness is when you don't lead the students, you lead the instructors. Which the Force doesn't do. Oops!
- If you want to host a special course, go no longer than 2 hours once a week for a month.
- Other pointers: all common-sense management stuff.
- Still, 2 pre-paid credit hours is better than sitting at the bar... at least today.
Step My Way, Patrick Goudreau. Real exercise! But practical is the wrong word, for advanced step training by an instructor who displayed few cueing skills. The best lesson from this class was, smile and keep moving.
| Just watch me, okay? Now face the back of the room... |
| REVERSE TURN DOUBLE LUNGE STEP DOWN! |
Happy Hour, Jennifer Renfroe. More real exercise, and much more practical than the last session. The only thing the instructor could possibly have done better, is stay to the 32-count instead of the 8+24-count at times. But that's just a quibble.
Reception and Networking Party, Lifetime Fitness. Featuring cheese and crackers (a.k.a. "high energy nutritional supplements"), and loud microphones with continuous fitness ads (to drown out networking and other conversation). Not exactly bad moves in the self-interest of Lifetime Fitness, but still kind of ironic.
Warmup by riding the bike 15 miles from Scumburg to Rosemont. An expeditionary Eiler Force was assembled for this purpose.
- This ride is proven to be within the Force's powers... and what better place to do it, than a fitness convention? There, it's okay to show up sweaty.
- And this convention's theme is, "Inspire the World to Fitness". It would be hypocritical of the Force to inspire only engineers and not its fellow fitness professionals.
Saturday morning traffic was light, and the ride was without incident. The fine airport hotel "Travelodge" will prevent the need to ride back home tonight, for only $33 more than two days of parking in Rosemont would cost.
The mighty mountain bike of the Eiler Force was parked just outside the main entrance of the convention hall, to inspire all conventioneers to even more fitness.
Lego Blocks, Pamela Cosmi, M.A. Real exercise, and fairly practical too.
- And the instructor was sensitive to her roomful of tired sleepy people, including herself and the audio tech (who took a nap at one point). That's a Good Thing.
But the Force was hard-pressed at times to modify the maneuvers to be safe for problem populations (such as 40-year-old men with knee problems, as form the core of the Force). The instructor was called on this, but was of little help.
It was reported later, the presenter was ill that day. We may disagree on best practice, but she's still a trooper.
Bag Lunch in a quiet corner of the convention hall, convenient to a table, an electrical outlet, and a window. Conducive to journalling, and very relaxing.
Schwinn Cycling Advanced Coaching Clinic, Jay Blahnik. Real exercise is available in this presentation, but it's optional and only for demonstration purpose. The education is mostly lots of pointers.
- Unlike other fitness courses, bike courses don't have that much to demonstrate. Most of the fancy stuff (like "Up one minute, down one minute") comes from the instructors trying to keep themselves amused.
- A better approach is: You've got time to coach! And, as long as you're coaching, you might as well be good at it.
- Good coaches don't care if their students get better than them. That's the objective!
Our objectives as cycling coaches are, in decreasing order of importance:
- Cadence control.
- In biking, the goal is intensity (wattage, that is), not resistance.
- All activity should be 50-100 rpm. (Lance Armstrong averages 86.) Beyond that, fewer calories are burned. There is much more research to support this, than AFAA has for its step limits.
- (The Force showed itself the best at guessing the cadence when it was 120 rpm! Thank you, Maxwell's Silver Hammer.)
- The four best ways to measure pace are: Easy, Medium/Comfortable, Race/Uncomfortable, Out of Breath. (Does "About to Puke" count?) More than that, the customers get confused.
- The best measure of intensity is perceived intensity. The famous Karvonen Formula for intensity is crap, because if you're awake, you're never at the perfect resting heart rate. Garbage In, Garbage Out.
- Triple Link. To be more clear: Add clarity. Tell your students what the plan is, and how long this hill is!
- Dimensional Cueing. Full-dimensional examples: "There are three people in the room who haven't touched their knobs. Are you one of them?" Or, "Is this what it would feel like to finish the race next to your greatest competitor?"
- One-Dimensional: Just the facts.
- Two-Dimensional: Compare, contrast, look, touch, feel, story, analogy with something.
- Three-Dimensional: Ask questions. People may not respond, but they'll at least think about it.
- Mind-Body Link. Put your mind on intensity, or take it off. One or the other.
And show some common sense in cueing. If one cue doesn't work, try another, but be ready to let the bad form slide sometimes too.
| I've already ridden my bike fifteen miles today, maybe I should skip the workout and let someone else ride. |
| DOM WANNA RIDE MORE! |
Then, the workout... Brutal! Sprinting, and sweat dripping, and "About to Puke" (should we blame the bag lunch?) and everything. Good thing the Force had some clean clothes ready afterwards, and that there was a visitors' shower on site.
- At one point, the participants were asked to imagine (per Dimension 2 of Good Coach Training) that we were each dragging a needy person up a hill to see a really nice sunset, and we had to hurry.
- The Force chose the Shaved Ape Baby from the Weekly World News as the recipient of this charity... because the Force is pleased not to have any real friends who are so helpless, they need dragging up a hill.
- Really, it's the wrong scenario anyway. Eiler Force Doctrine says, if you ever have to drag a shaved ape baby up a hill, plan ahead so you don't miss the sunset...
- But still, that's no detraction from the training.
All in all, the most excellent presentation of the lot.
It turns out Jay Blahnik is a champion aerobics teacher! And also a dot-com.
Summary: The lesson which the Force will add to its doctrine from most of the presenters here is: They're only human, and the Force can already do as well as them. Many people can! It's just that these presenters get off their asses and do it.
- Some presenters acted like hot shits, some didn't. But they practically all made mistakes of one sort or another. Much like almost any aerobics teacher does, including the Force. We're all human, and we can all help each other improve.
- Some presenters had trouble cueing; some had trouble following the music. (We can't all have sung for audiences for 30+ years like the Force has. Church choirs at an early age, don't'cha know.)
- More seriously, some of the presenters have choreography so complicated, half a hallful of instructors couldn't get it. And if they can't, how will their students? (The Force has seen many too many beginners scared off by complicated aerobics choreography.)
- More seriously still, some of the presenters would be cited by the medical profession and/or the Fitness Police for making people stress their joints too much. (The Force is sensitive to joint stress, and has some experience in negotiation and even confrontation with instructors who wish to impose a joint injury.)
- ... Of course, all this is just fitness professionals disagreeing on best practice. You should see engineers do it sometime.
- But among these presenters, there is one exception so far. Jay Blahnik is the one who had no trouble in training, and indisputably followed best practice throughout. The Force no longer wonders why he gets the fitness perks.
After a heavy shower: The Fitness Pub Crawl!
- Sofitel Hotel Bar. Sofitel is a French chain, so it's no wonder they don't know how to mix a Black and Tan. And at $7 a Guinness, it's obvious this place isn't the major fitness post-convention gathering place. The Force therefore deployed to...
- Checkin at Travelodge in nearby Des Plaines, literally on the edge of O'Hare Airport. The room really is as quiet as one can expect with a close-up view of Interstate 90! To be recommended, especially at $55 a night. (But Orbitz has once again gotten a rate $5 above the walk-in rate. Ask for $50!) Then dinner withing walking distance, at...
- Harry Carey's. It is a Fancy Place and not cheap, but has good beer on tap. Like many places nowadays, it monetarily discourages the consumption of beef, but the Chicken Italiano was tasty. Then, dessert at...
- Shoeless Joe's Sports Pub. Cheaper, with better beer, and barmaids cute enough to be on Baywatch! Waaah, the Force already had dinner! But still good for dessert. To be recommended.
One or two other Fancy Places are available in the neighborhood, but this should be quite enough for tonight.
Bridges and Band-Aids, Pamela Cosmi, M.A. Instructor was rested and much more healthy this morning than yesterday.
- Bad things: Onto the teacher's habit of high-impact, she added abrupt transitions of the lead foot. The Aerobic Force's target audience will probably never get it.
- Good thing: She added some useful basic 3-steps ("mambo" and "weave"), and 5-steps ("over and mambo"), which go nicely together.
- Also a good thing: Q&A afterward. One answer is, you can't always cue every step of a complicated manuever. Or at least, neither the questioner nor the answerer can. (This just makes the questioner respect the instructors he's met, who can and do.) And the answerer has worked with thousands of people who don't need that much cueing.
Low-Impact Labyrinth, Marla Ericksen. Last session of the con, which is always fun. Music by a Canadian company, burntrax.com.
- Only good things from this one! This instructor believes in low impact and simple choreography, just like the Force does. One could actually use these routines on Monday, and not scare the beginners away!
- No mistakes from this instructor, either. Only a few "Oopses", for which she actually said "Oops!" And those don't count. This makes her one of the Top Two for this convention.
- This instructor was also the only one who did a stretch. Which is to say, she's the only one who did a workout according to American Fitness Association of America (AFAA) standards. So it's ironic that AFAA won't grant education credits for this session, because it's a workout, not a workshop.
- Even a gathering at the end, holding hands while the leader told us all inspirational things about making a difference in the fitness world.
And so the Eiler Aerobic Force was fortified and motivated for that long, lonely 15-mile bike ride home. Into the cold, wind, and a bit of rain. For sure, the Force is not the fittest of the fit, but it will go where not even the fittest would dare. And hopefully, inspire others to do likewise, each in their own way.
All praise to the One Maker.
(signed) S. Eiler for the Eiler Aerobic Force