If you are trying to gain the competitve advantage in your business, seeking out experts in your field from whom you can glean knowledge is a smart place to start. This is true whether you are striving to be the top instructor at your club or you are the CEO of a company. There is no better way to avoid mistakes and set your path to success straighter than by consulting with folks who have already done what you strive to do. I had a chance to speak with one of the most accomplished women in the fitness industry. She has a great deal of insight to share with us about how to get ahead in the world of group fitness.
Carol Scott is an international presenter, President and C.B.O. of ECA World Fitness. She was the creative director of group fitness for the equinox fitness clubs. Carol is ACE Gold certified, and holds a B.S.E. in Physical Education. Carol is a continuing education provider for ACE and was a media spokesperson for ACE. In 2003, Carol was awarded “Program Director of the Year” by IDEA. Carol has appeared in and was a contributing writer for many fitness based publications. She has also been featured on network television including CBS, NBC, and Fox News. Her vision is to use fitness as a means to offer spiritual and emotional upheaval in people’s lives.
Here’s what Carol shared with me:
GFP: You have an impressive resume which can intimidate folks who are just getting started in a fitness field. Can you share with us how you got your start in the fitness industry?
Carol: I was a P.E. major in college and couldn’t get a job when I first got out of college. I subsequently went into the travel business where I gained 20 lbs and lost my fitness level. Sick over my condition, I popped into a local studio and found my passion! “Aerobics” as it was called 20 something years ago! One day the instructor was out sick and they needed an emergency replacement and I volunteered! A true love was born! I immediately became certified and have been teaching and working in the industry ever since!
GFP: What is the story of how ECA came to be?
Carol: There were other fitness conferences but none in the northeast. One company had just gone out of business and my husband and I thought .. Why not one in NYC! There was so much talent in the city and no professional showcase.. So we started one in 1991 with a few other Northeast professionals and lost our life savings.. However, everyone who attended kept asking us when the next one would be … so we kept going! We used to be called East Coast Alliance. Once we were established, people from all over the world started to attend so we kept the ECA letters and became ECA World Fitness Alliance to encompass our broader membership.
GFP: One of the things that I think sets ECA apart from other providers is the fact that you have your own charity wing. Can you give us more information about “One Body One World”?
Carol: OBOW, or One Body One World, is how we give back to the community and the world. We are very serious about our social responsibility. We feel it isn’t jsut the physical fitness of an individual that is important, but also holisitcally healthy they are. The spirituality, the emotional health are just as important. Add to that our place in the community. We are not just individuals, we are a community. OBOW is our charity wing. We donate money, and spread awareness about organizations that are pro-environment, green, sustainable, making a difference for the health of the planet and all of its inhabitants, and organizations that aid children and people in need. We have a very large list of donations, some of which include; conservation international, the World Wildlife Federation, Climate Project , UNICEF, Amnesty International, Habitat for Humanity, Southern Poverty Law, ASPCA, Jane Goodall Institute, Union of Concerned Scientists, Earth Justice, Make a Wish Foundation, Autism Speaks, Terra Pass, PAWS, Farmland Trust, Save Darfur, the ONE campaign, and many others. We feature a column in our ECA News and a place on our web site for information. We donate 5% of our yearly profits and produce events where all the money is donated. We feel it is very important to be socially responsible and OBOW is how we do it.
GFP: What are some of the challenges you face in educating fitness instructors?
There is a great deal of diversity today and many instructors spend most of their time learning new programs without focusing on the “art” and “skill” of teaching. There is also a lack of mentor programs available. Directors are so busy and it has become so costly to bring in talent that can spend the time necessary to mentor and work one on one with instructors to help them solve their individual weaknesses. Conventions can give a nice overview, however, once the instructor goes home, it would be great to have a mentor program there to help them implement the skills they have learned. ECA has started to offer more and more professional skill training sessions at our events, however, I feel instructors don’t always understand the great benefits of these sessions and they tend to take the more “exciting” presentations. They could really benefit from taking some of these bread and butter sessions. I would love it if Directors would take a more active interest in the session selection process and point instructors to the sessions that would aid them in addressing the skills they need to work on individually. I hope in the future more instructors will see the value in these “professional skill development” sessions and chose them when making session selections
GFP: How can we attend an ECA conference and take some “professional skill development” sessions?
Carol: ECA currently produces three conferences a year. Our Miami event is always in the fall, usually the second weekend in November and is called “THRIVE”. Our largest show is our NYC event and it is dedicated to One Body One World so it is in fact called The NYC / OBOW Show. The event is held in the winter usually the last weekend in Feb or the first weekend in March at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square. Our NYC show features talent from all over the world and has a very strong dance program. We just added a third show in the spring, in Boston. It is called Boston / Balance and features programming that offers Balance to the world of fitness and personal training. We hope to add more regional shows including Chicago and Houston, and hopefully San Francisco. We always try and take a world view and a holistic one. Wellness of the individual and the planet are paramount to us and we feature unique programming that calls all of our senses and capabilities into play to help us grow creatively, with imagination, joy and purpose.
GFP: What has been the most rewarding experience for you as an International Presenter and/or as the CEO of ECA?
Carol: Wow! That it is a tough one. I am so very lucky to have experienced so many rewarding experiences. What brings me the most joy is when I hear something I wrote or said has made a profound and positive change for someone. I gave a lecture once and mentioned something I say quite a bit- “go with your passion, the money will come; step away from ‘fear’ and follow what you are passionate about. Eventually if you persist, the money will come and you will make a living doing what you love.” Several months later, an instructor contacted me and told me she followed my advice and adopted a baby! And yes, everything fell into place and worked out and it was her passion to have another child. I guess that was the most remarkable outcome… I also get tremendous pleasure from sharing information and enlightening people. We don’t all get the luxury of researching and gathering information and I love the opportunity to pass on the knowledge and experience I have accumulated.
GFP: What advice do you have for experienced instructors or trainers who want to take their fitness careers to the next level, either as presenters, authors or business owners?
Carol: Once again, it goes back to follow your passion. Don’t be afraid to ask! Ask the presenter or author how they got started or if they can offer any tips. In terms of presenting, experience is key! Begin by being an assistant for existing presenters, see if any will mentor you. Learn and practice your skills. Take lots of other people’s classes, especially the really great instructors. When you are ready, begin offering workshops to instructors that teach in your same facility, then in your community, your region, etc… keep branching out. Work for free to start to gain experience. Stay current with trends and see what niches are open. It is hard to break into presenting if you are offering the same class as a seasoned veteran. Try something new or create a new spin on something old. Be original and different: that’s what stands out. Ask for help, pay a professional to evaluate you and give you pointers for becoming better. Keep trying and don’t give up!
GFP: Any advice for the folks who are just getting started as fitness instructors?
Carol: Almost the same principles apply. Get experience where you can. Take the really great instructor’s classes and see if you can see WHY they are great. Is it their choreography? their personality? how they structure the class? Ask them to mentor you. Have as many people as you can critique you and offer feedback. Film yourself teaching and honestly evaluate your performance. How can you make yourself better? Practice and learn new skills. Attend continuing education to stay current and see what else is out there and how you measure up against the rest of the instructor population. Self evaluate and keep practicing to become better.
My heartfelt thanks to Carol for taking the time to share her insights and experiences with us. To learn more about Carol and ECA World Fitness, check out their website at http://www.ecaworldfitness.com.