Usually there is enough forewarning of an illness or injury so that a sub can be found for a class. Yet, there are times when life happens and quick decisions have to be made.
A couple weeks ago, during a song that I had taught dozens of times, I landed wrong and rolled my ankle. The pain immediately made me stop dancing as I gave the sign for my class to continue. I had to make a fast judgement call on whether I was going to be able to teach the remainder of the class. Luckily, after putting some weight on it, my ankle seemed okay and I was able to finish the song. After the song finished, I told everyone that I would be doing a low impact version of the moves for the rest of class. It was the first time I had been injured as an instructor and it made me reflect on how to handle such situations.
What if I become injured while teaching?
Sometimes a quick assessment of your injury (like my ankle) will be enough to make a good guess about what needs to be done. However, even with my ankle I questioned whether I should have stopped class. Sometimes, with the adrenaline running, it can be hard to make a good decision and the last thing you want to do is further injure yourself. There is nothing wrong with stopping class if you are injured. Just apologize and let them know what happened. Then tell your manager about the incident. Also, make sure to check with your facility’s rules and procedures regarding injuries.
What if a student becomes injured?
Stop class. Tell all the other participants to take a water break if it is something that you and the student are unsure about. That will give you time to really understand the injury, or find someone who will. If the injury requires more attention, just apologize to the rest of the participants and take care of your injured student.
Furthermore, all group fitness instructors should have their CPR/First Aid/AED certification. Make sure you know where the AED machine is located in your facility and who to tell in case of an emergency. Again, make sure your are familiar with your facility’s rules and procedures regarding student injuries.
What is the best way to avoid student injuries?
Of course accidents happen, however there are ways to help your students become less likely to be injured. Firstly, remember to always start a class with letting your students know to listen to their body. Remind them that it is okay to not do a move and/or to modify it. Then make sure to show modifications of high impact moves and/or proper form of exercises (such as squats).
The number one injury that I see in students, and that I had as a student, is knee pain. This is usually due to improper shoes being worn. Most new students wear running shoes, or shoes that have a lot of tread on the bottom. This causes a problem when there are many pivots, rotations, and hip movements during a dance.
Remind your students to lift up their heels during these steps. Also, suggesting cross trainers (which have less tread), dance shoes, or even dance socks can further help prevent knee injuries.
Should I tough it out when sick?
It depends, with a small head cold you will probably be fine. But remember it is not about you. It is about your students and them getting a fun workout. If you are sick, and can call in a sub, sometimes that is the best option. Your students understand that you are human and need to rest when you are sick. Also, it helps re-enforce the idea of listening to your body. Take a day to rest so that you can get back to your energetic and healthy self!