Why teaching fitness is kinda like running a race

I’d say a 10k, but not quite a marathon 😉

running buddies

You have to train or practice for the main event. You need to know what you’re going to do in advance, or it can get a little messy (like the merengue I made up at 11 last night… thank goodness I remembered it today. Well, most of it, haha). It’s also a great way to risk injury if you try to do something your body isn’t used to.

Music matters. Not for all classes, or for all people, but for me, music is #1. Especially in my racing/running days, if my iPod died, I felt like it was all over. I admire the people who can zone out and run sans iPod. The same thing goes for classes- it’s fun to make your playlist appropriate for what you’re teaching. My fave for beginning aerobics is Mowtown 🙂


Never wear something new on gameday. I’m talking to you, white Zumba pants. Sweat —-> see-through.

-You have to fuel! Any race over an hour needs some kind of carb replenishment and same goes for teaching (or taking) more than one class in a row. I love homemade energy drinks or coconut water, and honey stingers.

The energy of others makes a huge difference. When I did my first 5k –Race for the Cure in college- I had no idea what the race atmosphere was like. The music blasting, being surrounded by survivors and their families and the excitement in the air lit a fire under my booty. My friend Mikaeala and I jogged through, high-fiving a cheering with total strangers, and it was a blast. Same goes for classes… the more, the merrier.step

You can’t quit. Unless you want to be picked up by the race truck, or fired. 😉 I have to admit that there have been a few classes in my life where I’ve thought “ok, I’d like to leave now.” Favorite moment: the stereo broke while teaching step in Valdosta, and I was yelling all of the combos to a basketball court with over 30 steppers. It was a hot mess.

Have you ever worn something new to race, teach or take a class and it failed? My worst was wearing a jacket for the last half marathon… when I got too hot, it was impossible to get off and re-pin my race bib while trying to run.

What’s your pre-workout fuel of choice? Back in the day when I enjoyed racing, the standard breakfast with either a small breakfast cookie or toast with almond butter and banana. Before teaching, I love protein oats or a smoothie- enough to get some carbs and substance without feeling too heavy.


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  1. Bryna on April 5, 2012 at 12:01 am

    okay… favorite post of all time. I’ve never used this perspective before, but it is SO TRUE! my favorite is never wearing something new on race day- golden advice. also, while I’m posting a comment I just wanted to throw you a shout-out Gina for being so awesome. I’m a personal trainer/fitness instructor/pre-chiropractic student at UNC Chapel Hill, and I wanted to commend you on the quality of your posts. a lot of blogs I read don’t have the accuracy that you do– all of the information you post is totally in sync with things I’m learning/have learned at school, conferences, expos, etc. it’s hard for women to know what’s good information out there, especially on health and fitness. you should take a lot of pride in the fact that yours is quality stuff!! thanks so much xoxo

  2. Lauren @ Fun, Fit and Fabulous! on April 5, 2012 at 12:22 am

    I totally agree, especially about the training part! So many people don’t understand how much time we spend preparing for each class! I have also taught to a room of 60+ hip hop students with a broken mouth! Rough! I so wish I could take your Zumba class!!

  3. Sara on April 5, 2012 at 12:38 am

    Fortuitously, I just spent two days of my life getting jiggy with nutrition for endurance sports (1-3 hours). Therefore I can tell you something truly nutri-geeky. You’ll love it. This is for performance, not weightloss and is based on recommendations of the International Olympic Committee.

    Before exercise:
    Consume 1-3 grams of carbohydrate per kg of body weight, with some protein in the 1-4 hours before exercise
    400-700 mls of fluids in the 60-90 minutes before exercise leaving time to pee
    300-600 mls fluid in the 15 minutes before exercising if there may not be opportunity to drink during exercise.

    During exercise:
    Consume 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour during exercise (1 g per hour is considered the max that can be metabolised)
    Consume fluids at the rate of 150-250 mls every 15-20 minutes during and after exercise until you have replaced estimated sweat losses (can estimate by weighing yourself before and after the event and subtracting the weight of food and drinks consumed already)
    Consume 1-1.2 grams of carbohydrate per kg of bodyweight per hour after exercise for up to four hours

    It is best if drinks contain 3-8% carbohydrate and 250-500mg sodium per litre (i.e. isotonic) – you can eat or drink your carbs, no difference. Lower GI carbs before exercise and higher GI carbs after. 1kg = 2.2lb.

    • Sara on April 5, 2012 at 12:39 am

      I mean – the definition of ‘endurance’ was exercise that lasts from 1-3 hours. If it’s longer or shorter than that, the recommendations are different.

    • Fitnessista on April 5, 2012 at 12:54 am

      whoooooaaaaa! LOVE

      • Sara on April 5, 2012 at 1:00 am

        Now go try it and see if you become a machine. I never exercise for more than 30 minutes, which doesn’t really require any special carb control. 😀

        • Racheal @ Running with Racheal on April 5, 2012 at 5:01 am

          Thanks Sara – I am copying that now!

          I usually make some Amazeballs and eat two before a long run. One of the ways I get through it is knowing that there are two more at the end. Hehehe.

          However, after looking at those recommendations, that may not be the best choice. Back to the drawing board. 🙂

  4. Laura @ She Eats Well on April 5, 2012 at 12:45 am

    Totally agree about the wearing something new to a race. Or even eating something new before. Alls I gotta say is CHAFING. Not fun. That’s why you practice these habits before 🙂

  5. Averie @ Averie Cooks on April 5, 2012 at 1:27 am

    I love the first pic of you two…you look so happy and great together and totally in love 🙂

  6. Ajay on April 5, 2012 at 1:31 am

    I was team teaching a body balance class with a very highly regarded instructor and decided to wear new pants. Middle of sun salutations, I looked in the mirror only to see a catch of flesh. Ooops.

  7. Bonnie @ Pastepants on April 5, 2012 at 5:43 am

    My pre work out fuel of choice is usually a banana 🙂

  8. Kris @ www.kris-lawrence.com on April 5, 2012 at 6:57 am

    I would honestly run any distance race rather than teach a class. I would be terrified to do that! I admire group fitness instructors. Great job getting back at it! Pre-workout I ALWAYS have coffee, then also water, honey on toast, or a nutrition bar.

  9. Ilana on April 5, 2012 at 7:07 am

    I bought a cute lulu tanktop which for some reason had detatchable straps, and wore it to my first day teaching at a new studio. I was demoing a very simple exercise when i felt SNAP and then I was doing a Janet Jackson nip slip. Luckily they didnt notice but I did have to ask one of the students to hook me back up…

    I love this list, I often feel this way myself. It’s a race that doesn’t end. Naps are so important to me now,when I can get them

  10. Linz @ Itz Linz on April 5, 2012 at 7:46 am

    my favorite pre-race meal is oatmeal with a banana and pb! easy on the belly, gives me enough fuel to last the race, and keeps me full!

  11. Julie on April 5, 2012 at 7:53 am

    I also learned the “dressing fail” for a big race the hard way. We have a “Triple Crown” of racing in Louisville, KY that is a 5K, 10K, and 10 miler. Then the Mini/Marathon. It was hot all spring the first year I starting running races, and then BAM, on mini day it was like 37 degrees in the morning. I overdressed and was miserable the entire time. Now I always pull a really nasty button up flannel that is old from my fiance’s closet and wear it then toss it once I am warmed up. You would think he would run out after the amount of times I have done this, but he is a hoarder and has like every shirt he has worn since he was 12 in there. Some scientists definitely lack in the fashion department, it has been a 5 year battle redoing his wardrobe to look less like a homeless man and more like a doctor!

  12. Morgan on April 5, 2012 at 8:54 am

    Hahahah that white zumba pants comment cracked me up! I’ve had an incident where I wore leggings that were too streched out in the waist to run and I spent the whole 8 miles yanking up my pants…I guess the prob was more wearing something to old!

  13. Allison on April 5, 2012 at 9:12 am

    spot on Gina! good post. Definitely don’t wear something new! just sounds like a bad idea.. ha

  14. Kelly @ Laughter, Strength, and Food on April 5, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Great post! I remember, when I first became an instructor, my biggest fear wasn’t messing up in front of the class or not knowing what to say….it was that the sound system would malfunction or my iPod wouldn’t play! It made me so nervous that I wouldn’t know how to fix it and just have a room full of people standing there staring at me.

    Thankfully, I haven’t had any major malfunctions…but ‘knock on wood’ because I hvae to teach tonight! 😉

  15. SweatyGirl on April 5, 2012 at 9:19 am

    I definitely prefer to work out on an empty stomach. (not hungry, but not having just eaten something)
    I feel and perform much much better that way!

    I totally agree with you on the music, that is my #1 thing as well! Without music, there is no workout!

  16. Meg on April 5, 2012 at 9:35 am

    I almost spit my water out when you said I’m talking to you white zumba pants LOL lets just say I had a similar experience! lol love this post!

  17. Rachel on April 5, 2012 at 10:03 am

    I eat oatmeal before every long run and every race. I know many people can’t, because of-ahem-digestive issues, but I love it. I mix in some protein powder and am good to go! I also think I’m the only runner (and maybe woman?!) in the world who doesn’t like nut butter.. so there goes that option!

  18. Anna @ The Guiltless Life on April 5, 2012 at 10:52 am

    My first race was also a 5K for the Cure in college haha. And I remember – I ran it on my own; my boyfriend dropped me at the site where I picked up my package and then walked to the start line – and I just couldn’t BELIEVE the amount of people. I’m from a very small island so at this point I hadn’t even been to a concert before, and that’s why I’m fairly sure that was the largest crowd I had ever seen. Talk about exhilarating, yes! You can run so much further with that kind of atmosphere!

  19. JennP on April 5, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Haha. I just had a total flashback to my first 10K. I ran it with my cousin while visiting family up in Northern Ontario (I live in Florida). I drank 2 glasses of wine the night before, was wearing brand new shoes since my luggage had gotten lost, then the morning of the race, the temp dropped to 40 degrees and rainy – in June! The race was also this ridiculous figure 8 shape that required you to cross the finish line – except going the opposite direction – halfway through. I finished with a smile on my face, but it was torture and my lungs were burning from the cold, dry air!

    I’ve become a slightly smarter road racer since then 😉

  20. Amy@healthyhungryhappy.com on April 5, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    i definitely agree on the energy of others makes a HUGE difference. when there arent spectators (or many) at a race…its kinda rough hah. its SO much better and helps so much when there are though…great energy!!

  21. lisa on April 5, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Great post! I just started teaching indoor spinning. Music was one of my main motivations to become a teacher … the current teachers just didn’t do it for me – it was so easy to lose focus. After teaching a couple classes I realized, it’s not just the music but the positive energy you put in and get back. Any tips on how you organize your playlists??

  22. Alyssa @ Don't Look Down on April 5, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Second the advice to not wear anything new. Before my first half marathon last year I bought a new sleeveless performance tank at Target the night before since the weather was going to be much hotter than what I was used to training in (90+ degrees in early June). Definitely didn’t work out in my favor as it was a v-neck with a seam in the center and that seam rubbed a huge patch of skin from my chest off. It was burning because sweat kept running into it. And I had a disgusting scab there for a long time after that and there is a still a faint scar.

  23. Virginia on April 5, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    I LOVE that you love Motown! It’s always been my favorite music (I’m a Detroiter) and I especially love shaking my booty to it for some exercise. Always puts a smile on my face 🙂

    • Fitnessista on April 6, 2012 at 12:05 am

      it’s so fun for exercise!! LOVE it 🙂

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