Did you ever have that one school teacher that made a horrible class more tolerable? Or that other teacher that made your favorite subject the most dreadful period of each day?
Fitness instructors are no different.
Some instructors make the most painful classes fly by as if they were a minute long, while simultaneously inspiring you to challenge yourself and push through barriers. By the same token, there are other instructors whose classes have you checking your watch every five minutes, counting down the minutes until you’re free to go. The truth hurts, people. You know you’ve been there.
We hate to break it to you, fitness instructors, but you have the power to make or break someone’s group fitness class experience. You’re like a school teacher, except you can blast rap music and make people do burpees.
Whether you’re new to the instructing world or you’re looking to sharpen your skills, these are the qualities, from a class-goers perspective, that make a group fitness instructor great.
Pump up the jams
Music can play an integral role in anyone’s fitness experience. According to a study by Professor Costas Karageorphis of Brunel University, “music can help exercisers to feel more positive even when they are working out at a very high intensity...”
Some prefer to run long distances with no music (no thanks!), while others cannot function through a workout without some pump-up jams. In a group fitness setting, the latter is usually the majority. Music can motivate you and even subconsciously cause you to work harder. If you’ve ever been in a fitness class where the instructors’ music choices go against every preference you have for workout jams, you know how much that can negatively affect your performance.
With all of that said, instructors: make sure your music is hype-up worthy! Spotify is a great place to discover new songs and gather a playlist (feel free to use one of ours!), whether it’s one of the apps pre-made collections or a custom made list.
Modify, modify, modify
Instructors, don't let your students go through a whole class performing everything incorrectly. Making modifications to your class’ exercises shows them that you actually care about their safety and whether or not they’re getting a good workout in. There is something admirable about an instructor who takes the time to walk around the class and correct form. If people aren’t engaging in correct form, they will more than likely not benefit as much from the workout.
Not only does correcting form show the class that you care, but it shows that you know your stuff, which, in turn, makes them feel more comfortable. When an instructor makes an effort to modify, it makes the class feel like they’re in the hands of an expert, and someone that will ensure they’re getting the most out of that hour-long class.
Be sensitive to newcomers
While it’s recommended that you modify form, the way you do so is also imperative. Calling someone out in an embarrassing way will do more harm than good. Not everyone in your class is a fitness expert- the population of your group is likely diverse in fitness levels. For many that have just started their fitness journey, simply getting themselves to a group class where they exercise in front of others is a daunting enough task.
Remember, it's never fun to be chuckled at in the middle of a group fitness environment. Show your class what to do and how to do it before class starts, and if anyone is performing an exercise incorrectly, try to walk around and modify them while moving your mic from your mouth. If the class environment is such that calling out names and modifications is acceptable, simply make sure you aren’t doing so in a joking manner so as to avoid making that person feel foolish.
Build connections and relationships
Begin the class by asking everyone if they did something fun over the weekend. Tell them a fun fact about yourself. Engage them. Make them laugh. Nobody likes a stoic, cold instructor who does nothing but walk around yelling at you. While you may be nervous to teach your class, remember that there are people taking your class who could be just as nervous. Some new students are reluctant to take group fitness classes, so by coming off as relatable, you are calming them down and making them feel comfortable. At the end of the day, we are all humans, and we want to feel a bond to one another.
Another way to make your class feel comfortable and connected is to review their names before class starts. Encouraging your class-goers with a “keep it up!” is great, but what’s better is using their names when doing so. “Keep it up, Stacy!” is much more powerful.
Inspire, motivate, encourage
Provide praise. Show your students that you have a sincere interest in their progress. Do not simply correct their form by telling them what they are doing wrong, but throughout the class point out what they are doing right, tell them to keep it up, to keep going. Motivation is key to the learning process. Your students could have gone to the gym and done their own workout, but they chose to take your class. They want to learn, so encourage them during class and they will be motivated to continue.
It’s amazing what a few words of encouragement can do in a fitness class.