What the canals of Amsterdam have to teach us trainers about self-care

Recently I spent some time in Amsterdam with my friend and colleague Gert Junne of the University of Amsterdam and Network University.  As we dialogued for hours about our mutual work, sharing resources and ideas for collaboration we drove through the country side exploring.

The picture above shows the North Sea on the left.  The land on the right is actually lower than the sea.

As much of Amsterdam is below sea level pumps are vital to keeping the land from flooding especially when it rains.  You can see part of a pump station in the picture below.   Without these pumps life would be changed drastically, requiring more boats than bikes to get around.

Which made me think of maintaining equilibrium.

Which made me think of equilibrium for the self- the basics of self-care for trainers.  We as learning and development specialists spend so much time focusing on our participants, pumping out ideas and innovative ways to teach, that we can sometimes forget to take care of ourselves.

When I’m teaching SME’s (subject matter experts) how to design and teach engaging workshops, part of what we cover is how to care for ourselves.  What I’ve noticed is that strategies are highly dependent upon the individual.

Some trainers for example, who are extroverts by nature, will seek out participants at break and lunch.  Others need quiet to regroup, plan and rest.

Here are some recommendations to keep your pumps open and flowing so to speak.

Before a training spend some time figuring out what self-care means to you and plan (and pack) accordingly.

  • Bring an IPod to plug into on break for some soothing tunes.
  • If you’re anticipating a particularly stressful training (perhaps attendees are there not by choice or the environment is highly conflictual) bring a scent that relaxes you (for me it’s lavender).
  • If your break is extended do something active – go for a run, do some stretching etc.
  • Bring a journal to write in.
  • Make sure you’ll have access to food that is good for you during breaks.
  • If you’re doing an international training, take jet lag into account.  I never travel internationally without my Jet Lag TM pills- they make a huge difference in my ability to settle into the local time zone faster.

During a training:

  • Figure out what you’ll do on breaks – do you need some time to yourself to regroup and rest up?  Or do you prefer to spend that time getting energized by touching base with your participants?
  • Experiential education is good not only for increasing retention of training material but also for the trainer.  As your participants are busily engaged in an activity, take a moment and take a breath.

After a training:

  • Figure out what worked and what didn’t.  What can you change up for next time?
  • Create a self-care kit that you can pop in with your training supplies bag each time you do a workshop.  Easy peasy.

Gerd explained how reflections off the water in the many canals in Amsterdam affects the sky light in unusual ways.  This light quality historically drew master painters of old to Amsterdam like bees to honey.  I have a sense that the painters felt comfortable surrounded by such beauty.

Training is a form of art.  Surround yourself with your form of beauty, take care of yourself and you and your participants will be better for it.


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One Response to “What the canals of Amsterdam have to teach us trainers about self-care”

  1. Rock.Paper.Scissors.Blog » Blog Archive » Where’s your rudder? Inspiration for training & development specialists Says:
    November 26th, 2010 at 9:01 am

    […] out the canals of Holland aren’t very deep, which makes having a traditional rudder on the bottom of a boat not work.  […]

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