Undercover Creative: Artistry in Fitness

Photo: Jesse DeYoung

Some of you may know that DSM co-founders Courtney and Kara are also fitness instructors who met over five years ago while teaching at the same studio. By now they’re experts in the fitness world, but how they came to fitness and mostly why they’ve stayed in the wellness game is fully based in artistry, creativity and connection.

They’re sharing here about the artistry of fitness to give an illustration of something they talk about all the time: that your “day job” doesn’t have to be soul-sucking but rather a fully integrated, complementary part of your life that can, in fact, serve and energize you. It’s the idea that—gasp, should we say it?—the idea that even your “day job” suddenly becomes a passion unto itself.

This is the first in our blog series Undercover Creative where we’re looking at the mundane, the familiar, the day jobbiest of day jobs to see where creativity is not only hidden but the main undercurrent.

Read into their experience teaching fitness for some insight on how artistry can breathe life into the seemingly tedious and ultimately give way unto one of their ultimate goals. (Keep reading to find out what that goal is.)

Blending Art Into A Job

Your favorite fitness class isn’t your favorite by chance. There’s a lot that goes into that single hour. Your beloved instructor’s moves don’t just pop out of thin air—there’s preparation, thought, intention, and curation beforehand. Then, while they’re teaching and executing their plan, they’re simultaneously interacting with clients and correcting form. I bet you never see that smile drop or notice a slip in his or her sparkling personality as they assert a calm control over the room either. Amiright?

It’s no surprise that a lot of fitness instructors are or were performers—teaching fitness has a lot of elements at play, much like preparing for and executing stage performance.

As dancers, there’s a constant correlation between teaching and performing. Teaching is like stepping on the stage to perform—bringing forward your best self in a vulnerable environment, knowing that all the elements are ready to go. And when that first beat drops, you hope all your preparation pays off.

What the audience or clients don’t see is the rehearsal and development that goes into making the performance. And it’s those rehearsals that tell you if you’re a true artist—are you able to enjoy, even relish in, that pre-show creative process where there are few rewards and usually only hard work? The stage time is really just the cherry on top. Being able to “perform more” (aka teach every day for a living) is part of why fitness can be so satisfying for creatives.

There’s performance in teaching class, but it’s the class prep that keeps a lot of artists in fitness. This is where the mover, choreographer, music lover, anatomy nerd and type-A planner all come together to create with purpose. You can make something that fulfills all facets of yourself. The greater gift is that after the preparation, rehearsal, and play time there’s a product of cohesive movement, and you’re able to give that gift to others. You’re not just performing to a faceless crowd and hoping they know that the elegant leg extension you’ve been perfecting is meant to move them, but rather see what you make, performed in real time, on others. You don’t need them to know that you spent (sometimes) hours making their workout fluid, planning a balanced routine, or setting it to music that will engage the right movement intensity. But, instead, you hope they feel immersed in their experience, challenged in their body and allowed to leave the confines of their stressy little heads.

The Main Goal

It’s because of creating that teaching allows you to connect. You’re in a vulnerable spot as a teacher, but the clients are baring it all too. They reveal strengths, weaknesses, ego, insecurity. You can learn more about your clients engaging with them as they sweat than if you had a lengthy conversation about their goals and failures. Just by empathetically guiding them and aiming some encouragement their way, you can create an extremely personal connection that doesn’t have to fade when the lights go out or the curtain drops.

So yes, when you strip it all away, a class may be just bicep curls and motivational quotes, but when there’s artistry in a class’s creation, thoughtfulness in the preparation of the material, care in the delivery of that material and balance of focus and playfulness with our clients, then we performers (okay, fitness instructors) get what every artist strives for: creative connection.

What parts of your everyday life feed your artistry?

Be a part of our community of creatives. Join the movement.

Kara Griffin