I have two jobs. I work for two amazing companies, which gives me two amazing support systems of people who have been training me and teaching me to become better and better at what I do. So far I haven’t written anything about either of these but now I want to share more about this part of my life.
I live and work in Japan for JungleGym. This is where I teach kids, basically how to move and have fun doing it. I get to play with kids. Life at the gym is bright and colourful. It’s my second home and magical things with training happen here. I’m a GMB Trainer but also work for GMB Fitness as an Admin Assistant, answering emails. Here everything is online but it’s also a place I love being part of. Neither of these are jobs I thought I would end up doing but I love both, wouldn’t want to be doing anything else and am so grateful to be learning what I am from them.
Recently I’ve been thinking about how teaching children compares with advising and supporting adults. I get a lot of emails from people asking which programme they should choose or where they should take their training next. These are totally valid and important questions. But how do I know? I often respond with a question “what excites you?”. I want to know when they imagine themselves training what do they see? I want to know about their goals. If they say “Rings excite me and a biggest goal is to achieve a muscle up”, then there, they’ve answered their own question. They just need a bit of guidance or sometimes a lot of guidance, and it’s pretty cool if I can help them figure out what they want.
With children things are different. They don’t need so many complicated reasons why. They are never focused on the end point. (Sorry the end point doesn’t exist anyway). They are only aware of what’s happening right now. I worked that one out by seeing how much I can engage them when I teach. Turns out even when you speak a different language it’s not hard. They just want to play, laugh and do cool things that they can’t do at home. I say to them this month we are going to practice rope climb. We are going to do lots and lots of rope climb. Most of them don’t understand my English but they hear the word “rope” and move from sitting cross legged to seiza as they smile with excitement. They don’t need convincing why they should be doing it. With them it’s simple.
Communication with emailing adults can sometimes be difficult, mostly because it’s through a computer. You have to take on board not only what’s been written, but look at what they think they need and then figure out what they actually need. If I’m reading and replying to an email, meeting that persons needs is the most important thing in that moment. But I have to make sure I communicate with them in a way that I know they will understand and respond to positively. Sometimes when I’m reading back over my responses I can’t believe how many words I put into a sentence to explain something. Maybe it’s the English language or maybe I am overdoing it. Either way I want to make sure I am being helpful and clear so I will use many words if I feel I need to.
Communication with children involves simpler language and is a lot more animated and expressive. But in my case even more so because I am speaking English to Japanese kids. Also try learning and correctly pronouncing 60 Japanese names. It’s been challenging. I’ve had to learn how to put sentences together in a way that they can kind of understand and find words that I know they will understand. I communicate physically through body language, and demonstrating what I am asking them to do. They also feed off your energy. You’d be surprised how much of an impact a smile can have. They liked to be chased, they want attention and interaction, even if they don’t speak the same language. It feels like it has taken me forever to figure all of this out and be able to teach in a way where I am 100% comfortable and relaxed but also excited.
Being able to react and adjust things as you go is a skill I’m learning. I have an outline for my classes each week but I know that depending on the number of children, the age of the children, and the actual children in that class, it’s going to have to be done a certain way. Even with a rough idea things can still change and being able to adapt to this was something I struggled with in the beginning. The same applies to training. You can never guarantee you will be able to follow a programme without having to modify it, without getting an injury or without life getting in the way. I know I will get emails from people asking what to do when they are experiencing difficulties and so I have to be able to think about solutions and they can make changes based on their situation. Always be prepared for things to change. It’s how life is.
So my final thoughts. Adults are great at overthinking. Wanting to do everything and if this can’t be simplified then never able to do anything. Children want to do everything so they are always doing something. Anything and everything you do is going to be beneficial in someway when it comes to moving your body. Goals help give more structure to the path you’re taking but they aren’t essential. The biggest outcome we want is not only a strong body but confidence and a strong mind. We teach kids so if they get in a difficult situation they know what to do. They can protect themselves. If that confidence isn’t built up when you are a child, it’s hard to find it as an adult and so we want others to give us the answers. But the ability to do whatever you want is inside everyone, you just have to find it. When it comes to training, start off keeping things simple, there is no need to overwhelm yourself. Think about play and for a second think like a kid. Forget about looking for “the right thing”, “the perfect programme”. Then trust yourself that you are making positive decisions for yourself. And when you really can’t trust yourself or you get lost or stuck, that’s what we are here for. Any trainer, any coach. Just like I am for the emails flooding in. Just like I am for the kids I teach.