We all know that teaching a full class is the goal of every fitness instructor. The energy is high, the hype is palpable, and you feed off of these vibrations. By the same token, we all know what it feels like to have an off day as an instructor. Maybe you didn’t get much sleep, maybe you’re dealing with some not-so-fun personal issues - whatever it is, we all have days where it might feel like we just can’t with the class-teaching.
That’s when having a full class comes in handy. Your motivation tank is on empty, and your class fills it for you. Their smiling faces (or their cringing faces, which usually means you’re doing your job, right?), their sweat, their support. It means the world.
Yet, some of us struggle with getting those classes filled. It could be that you drew the short straw with an unpopular class day and time, or maybe you’re a new instructor in a new city. Whatever it is, we all start somewhere. First, you must understand that you’re not alone. Next, you must understand that you can build from this.
Here are five ways we recommend for increasing your class attendance and student engagement:
Social media is the simplest, yet most complex (because, technology) tool that we, as instructors, have at our fingertips. Here’s how to make the most of it:
Post your teaching schedule: Post your teaching schedule on Facebook or Instagram at the beginning of every week. Amp it up by pairing it with a video of a new move, lift or routine you plan to incorporate in class that week. Remind your people and others in your network why they’re doing this, and what you’re up to.
HELLO?! Tag your people: To make sure that your community sees your schedule, tag them in the comments section (versus in the actual post - nobody wants to be flooded with notifications). However, be mindful that tagging people every single day will surely result in a big fat ‘unfollow’ - keep a good balance and you’ll be good to go.
Say cheese! Take group photos: When you have that full class, take a picture after to show off the hard work that your clients put in. We want to recognize our people for their accomplishments and show them off! Who doesn’t love a group photo or boomerang? Post it on social media, tag those featured, and give them a little shoutout.
Learn the names of your students: Alert! This is single-handedly the most important thing to do. If you notice that you have a new person in class, make sure to introduce yourself properly. Remember their name, even if you have to say it in a deep alien voice like Anna Faris did in The House Bunny.
Do they have injuries, or previous injuries?: Always ask if anyone has any injuries before the start of class. You’re the expert and it’s important to let your clients/students know that you are there to offer them modifications and support.
Ask how they’re doing: Take the time to check in with your students. Close your mouth and open up your ears.
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Practice what you preach: Be the example. If you talk the talk, be prepared to walk the walk. Declare your own goals and share them with others, be authentic to yourself, and help inspire others in their journeys. Chances are people are going to get curious about what you’re doing, and they’re going to ask for your help and support setting their own goals. Ask them what they want to accomplish, what they’re looking for, and then help develop a plan with them.
Ask for feedback: This is my favorite thing about instructing and one of the most important things to focus on. When students share feedback with you, welcome it with open arms. They are only trying to provide you with an opportunity to make you a better instructor, and provide themselves with a better class. Ask for it and encourage it. Feedback is how you will improve. Keep in mind that it can sometimes feel scary to the person giving it. No one is trying to hurt your feelings, so make sure you thank them for sharing their observations with you.
Explore the possibilities: Try something new, and then try it again. Be open to all things. With that said if someone asks you to take out your entire lunge series, politely thank them for their recommendation, patiently explain why you won’t be removing all things lunges, and then commit to trying something new.
Have fun! Be yourself!
Take time to curate a playlist: If you don’t have a great playlist, or you continue to play the same song over and over again, chances are I probably won’t be coming back to your class. Ask for song requests/suggestions. Yes, if someone asks to play cotton eye joe, you can say no, and maybe you forgot about that Big Tymers song…
Have fun: Energy is contagious. Be present, and show up. Remember that at the end of the day, your job is to make fitness fun and to keep people coming back for more. Laugh at yourself.
Express yourself: It’s ok to crack a joke now and again. You want your students to feel like class is flying by. Make them laugh, share a story, it will make class go by faster and they’ll notice. I mean if you’re not squeezing your butt during an exercise, no one else will…
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All in all, have fun. Remember that energy is contagious and at the end of the day, what you put in will be what you get back. If you want 100% attendance, participation, and effort, then be prepared to give the same to your students/clients. Remain open to feedback and coaching, and know that you’re only human and will make mistakes, laugh and learn from them. Be consistent and remember that it’s ok to bust a move and express your personality.