YSBAI #2: Tips for Group Fitness Instructors

I’m back with YSBAI (You Should Blog About It) #2.  These are topics and/or questions that come from readers. B.K.A. Q&A, but just let me have this please 😉

Before we get started, I wanted to share something with you.  Do you ever watch this show?

The Biggest Loser

I was talking about today’s topic & my sister told me that whenever she watches that show, it never fails that the participants end up teaching some sort of group fitness class.  Well, that makes sense to me.  I’ve always said that if you want to hold yourself accountable to staying fit, then teach a class or two.  Even if it’s volunteer, you shouldn’t fall off the wagon because you always have somewhere to go each week and deliver rockstar performances to your class participants.

The question for today comes from Carli over at Real Into who is training to be a new Pilates instructor.

“What advice do you have for a new instructor?”

Group FIt Instructor Button

If you do take the plunge and jump into teaching group fitness classes, you will probably struggle with nervousness, apprehension, learning choreography or developing it, & mastering techniques.  Last week, I posted an Orientation to Group Fitness as a participant.  Understanding members concerns would be the first step, so please go back and read that if you missed it.

STEP CLASS PHOTO

TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL TRANSITION FROM CLASS PARTICIPANT TO INSTRUCTOR

On Getting Comfortable in Front of the Group

  • PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! Wether you teach choreography or freestyle, you need to practice your routine or transitions in your routines.  Practice in front of a mirror at the same intensity that you would teach.  When you’re ready, grab a few friends to practice in front of.  Practice with the microphone because it will sound and feel different to you.  Practice on the stage with the lights on because it will be hot and it’s a different feel from you being down on the floor taking the class. 

When I first started teaching, I thought of Sasha (Beyonce’s alter ego).  I would try to transition from the quiet, reserved Joi that I am on a daily basis to an award winning performer.  You have to change your mindset.  When you do that, you will treat your practices just like Beyonce/ Sasha treats a dress rehearsal & YOU WILL see the results.

Beyonce-as-Sasha

  • TEAM TEACHING – This is fun and helps you get comfortable in the beginning!
THIS WAS ONE OF THE FIRST CLASSES I EVER TAUGHT & IT WAS ALONG SIDE FELLOW NEW INSTRUCTOR

THIS WAS ONE OF THE FIRST CLASSES I EVER TAUGHT & IT WAS ALONG SIDE FELLOW NEW INSTRUCTOR

  • MUSIC – 80% of the time I’m in the car now, I’m listening to group fitness music.  Get used to the music that you will teach from.  You should be aware of the ups and downs & your voice quality should match the musical transitions.  So, you shouldn’t be yelling COME ON, LET’S GO if it’s a quiet part of the song.  This helps you with getting comfortable because if you lose your train of thought and mess up, you can get back on track with the next count, if you know the music well.

Oops

  • MISTAKES – Speaking of messing up, if you do mess up, don’t apologize and call attention to it. Just keep moving!  They will only note mistakes that you tell them are mistakes.
  • WHAT’S NEXT?  I learned in dance school years ago in preparing for recitals to always as yourself “What’s next?”.  It works, if a track is tricky to you, just keep asking what’s next?

There will always be members who will try to intimidate you by mean mugging you, asking you crazy questions about the routine, telling you how they used to do things, or they may even go as far to roll their eyes or blow their breath in frustration at your presence.

  • You are going to have to own YOUR class and take control tactfully.  Do not be intimidated by them. You are in control and the class will not go on unless you say so, PERIOD.  Prepare your responses for people like that in advance, smile, and keep it moving. 
  • There will also be people in the class who will do whatever they want to do, off beat, different movements, etc.  You will need to do your best not to focus on them  because they may get you off beat.
  • Also, demonstrate the options and encourage members to take them when needed.  Demonstrating options is also your chance to take a breather.  Use them wisely but don’t over do it.
  • Nellie, a fairly new Zumba instructor & blogger will appreciate this one!  The member that is trying to show you up and go like 199% right in front of you, don’t pay her too much attention.  Let her have that and you continue to focus on delivering safe and effective workouts to the entire class.
GURRLLL STOP WITH THAT SHOWING OFF UP IN MY CLASS!

GURRLLL STOP WITH THAT SHOWING OFF UP IN MY CLASS!

On Technique

  • YOU HAVE TO BE FIT YOURSELF TO TEACH! Sorry for the shouting capitals!  There is no way around this one.  You will need to cross train and take other classes, do weights, or run to be in the best shape possible & increase your endurance/strength (whatever is appropriate for your class).
  • Practice in the mirror, with a partner who is familiar with the technique of your class
  • Videotape yourself periodically and critically review your class and technique

On Coaching

  • For the first class, I would write out an entire script for the class as much as possible.   It will make you more comfortable with delivery until you get used to teaching. 
  • VERY IMPORTANT – Please deliver the right information AT THE RIGHT TIME.  It’s nothing worse than an instructor giving you cues when you should already be in the move. If you think you are struggling with this, ask the people you are practicing with.  This is an art that will have people develop loyalty to you for life. Members so appreciate this.
ALWAYS GIVE SAFETY CUES AT THE APPROPRIATE TIMES

ALWAYS GIVE SAFETY CUES AT THE APPROPRIATE TIMES

  • On cueing and motivation, don’t reinvent the wheel.  Watch videos and study other instructors and see what works.  Adapt them to your own personality and members will be inspired. On that note, if you are tired, tell them!  Turn up the intensity, they’ll appreciate knowing you are struggling with them.
I GET LOTS OF TIPS FROM THESE TWO ROLE MODELS

I GET LOTS OF TIPS FROM THESE TWO ROLE MODELS

On Making Sure Your Members Love You (Connecting)

  • Don’t dress in revealing intimidating clothing (your 6-pack abs showing)
  • Try to learn as many names as possible.  You can stand behind the check in counter as they arrive at the gym & scan key cards for assistance with learning if you have trouble remembering
  • On names, if a person cringes when you call their name out in class, don’t do it anymore.  They will let you know if they like it or not.  Usually people in the very front love it and people in the back are hiding out for a reason, but not always, so just test the waters and note the reactions.
  • Teach from your strengths! If you sing, sing! If you are strong, impress them with your heavy weights or whatever.  DO YOU!!!
  • Don’t agree to teach a class at a time slot that there’s  a high chance that you will be regularly late to the class due to work or your children’s activities.  START PROMPTLY every time!
PEOPLE ARE FAIR WEATHER FANS, THEY WILL BE IN YOUR CORNER, UNTIL YOU WASTE THEIR TIME...BE OWN TIME FOLKS!

PEOPLE ARE FAIR WEATHER FANS, THEY WILL BE IN YOUR CORNER, UNTIL YOU WASTE THEIR TIME…

  • Let members get to know you.  During the workout, mention your kids, husband, plans for the weekend, etc.  I’ve connected with so many people simply because I work the overnight shift. So many people are in the same boat and others appreciate the fact that I come to the gym after working all night.
  • Come early and stay late. Invite members to offer you any feedback or to make request.
  • Take your time slot very seriously.  If you are going to have a sub, choose someone that excels at least to your potential.  You should also send them a REMINDER, thank you text the morning of  the day that they are subbing for you so  you won’t have a blooper!

All of these tips should come together to provide a magical experience for members.  You should feel it and they should feel it.  More than likely, when the class is over, the members will clap for you.  That’s an indication of a job well done.  If they don’t, just keep practicing and perfecting your technique and delivery and it will get there.   Come prepared to give your best every workout.  Whatever is happening in your life, leave it in the car when you pull up to the gym.

A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed a new BODY ATTACK instructor on the blog.  She gave her account of training and advice for new instructors. You can read it here. If you have anymore specific questions, comments, or you want more elaboration on a subject, I invite you to leave a comment below.

Yours in Healthy, Active, & Prosperous Lifestyles,

 

Rx Fitness Lady wants to know…

  • What are your group fitness instructor pet peeves?
  • What do you appreciate the most from instructors?
  • If you are an instructor, what additional tips would you add?
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Rx Fitness Lady

Greetings, I'm Joi, a Pharmacist with a passion for fitness & a community leader. I teach BODYCOMBAT, BODYPUMP, Tabata Boot Camp, & serve as a mentor to young girls. My goal is to inspire people to live healthy, active, & prosperous lifestyles through practical blog posts deliveries. You can find me on Facebook and Instagram. You can view more post and subscribe to stay tuned to latest updates at Rx Fitness Lady.

39 thoughts on “YSBAI #2: Tips for Group Fitness Instructors

  1. Ummmm…I won’t be instructing anyone, lol! But I do think your tip, “On Technique” is too funny! I mean really…how embarrassing would it be for you, as the instructor, to start huffing and puffing midway through the class! :-D. Have a good one Joi!
    Michell recently posted…"Doing YOU WELL Wednesday" #8My Profile

    • Michell the people that do this, I don’t think they are embarrassed. They make excuses like “you get up here in front of this light and see how tough it is” or I’ve done 55 things today, I’m so tired” blah, blah, blah….members don’t want to here that. I try to stay on top of my game as best I can so that will never happen. I might miss the choreography, but my intensity is gonna stay on point! Thanks Michell!

      Joi

  2. Yes! I agree with the above commenter, You know that I do so much stuff during the week to get me ready for my Zumba class on Saturdays. I love when my students ask me if I do zumba everyday—no, its the exact opposite! These are such great tips even for me who is still a semi-newbie to the game. You are so right about sharing personal stuff too, when I announced that my son had started walking I (he) got a round of applause LOL!

    If I ever mess up and miss a cue to change steps my go to phrase “keep going!!” as long as they are moving I think that is all that matters.

    I love that little girls face LOL that is me on most days smh.

    WERK those daisy dukes!! owwww!

    and i’m *slightly* obsessed with the biggest loser!
    Nellie recently posted…A Breakfast Fail and a Recovery.My Profile

  3. The stop making excuses was aimed towards me I just know it *sigh* . I am drinking more water though and I can feel a difference so I am moving somewhat to being more healthy. As for biggest loser I stopped watching after the hubs made a comment of me eating Krispy Kreme while watching biggest loser….he said it was just not right….I am not an instructor I think if it was my class everyone would be laughing instead of exercising but you gave some great pointers. I want someone who is passionate about losing weight to teach me.
    Kita recently posted…Pin it WednesdayMy Profile

    • NOOOO KITA! It was for the instructor who always arrives late to class with 50 excuse. I wouldn’t speak to a member that way. Good job on the water. LOL at you and the hubs. Thx for the comment. I try to display passion every time I get in front of the class.

      Joi

  4. Who knew fitness instructors had to endure so much! But they definitely make the difference in your work out. I guess practice and preparation determines performance. I would love to be in one of your classes. Joi (pump, pump, pump it up and pain) sounds like a description of your class 🙂 Great post.
    Hope recently posted…Winning Words Wednesday: Change AheadMy Profile

    • This made me 🙂 ! Thank you Hope. I would love to have you. Maybe one day I’ll get to teach at a blog conference. We would all have so much fun no pain 😉

      Joi

  5. This is a great post, there is so much that goes into being a group fitness instructor, I don’t think I’d have the coordination or knowledge of music for it! It sounds like an incredibly rewarding way to share your passion:)
    Robyn recently posted…Just a Simple Morning RunMy Profile

    • Robyn, that is such an accurate description It’s the most rewarding! I wish it was physically possible to do it full time, I love it just that much.

      Joi

  6. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I loved this post! You didn’t just give me superficial advice….you dug deep. I will so be putting your advice into practice so I can make my classes better. Loved it!!
    Carli recently posted…Pilates: Benefits #YQAMy Profile

    • Carli! So glad you approve my friend! I figured since you had to ask more than once, I better make sure I give you what you want! Enjoy! Growing in teaching is so rewarding. Post a video sometime 🙂

  7. I love that you get in touch with your inner Sasha Fierce before teaching classes! I never realized that there could be rude class participants. I’ve never been in a class where members would question the instructor! Wow! People can be so out of order! I would probably do my best Tamar impression and tell that person to ‘get their life!’ lol!
    Sherelle recently posted…You’re Not Just A Worker Bee: Fluff Your Resume’My Profile

  8. Hi Joi,
    I now have a WHOLE new respect for fitness instructors (and I appreciate your blog because it’s my first glimpse into the “behind the scenes” of training). I had no idea that so much went into instructing – actually I had never thought about it. 😉 It’s almost like being on stage, being an actress or delivering a speech, but having to be yourself at the same time…and not get out of breath! Loved the post, and if I ever take a class, I will certainly NOT roll my eyes at the instructor. {How rude!}

    XOXO,
    Meredith

    P.S. Thanks for leaving such a kind comment on my Happy Anniversary post. Also, since your email shows up as a No-Reply Blogger, when I click on your name, I’m unable to reach you. I need to come back and leave a comment on your blog to say thanks for your comments. I was a NRB too until a few other bloggers let me know, so I googled how to fix it. (I think I went to my settings, edit profile, and checked the box that said show email.) I hope all this makes sense! If I’ve been too confusing, nevermind. LOL! I just want you to know that every time you leave a comment, I am very appreciative even if I can’t email you back directly. {Hugs}
    Meredith recently posted…Humble Beginnings & Happy Anniversary!My Profile

    • YEP Meredith, that’s exactly the mindset you need to be in to perform so that members will be loyal to your time slot.

      Seeing as how you are the second person to tell me that this week, I guess I better fix it. In 3 months, no one has said anything. Thank you.

      Joi

  9. Question for you. The gym I belong to is very clicky with many of the instructors and members having been friends since high school. One of our instructors is going out on maternity leave and her sub is nervous. She told me our class is known to be a tough crowd and the routine – Turbo is new to her. She currently teaches Zumba. She also mentioned when some of these members attend her class they make faces. I know these women and I know they don’t like her class. Most avoid it at all costs. (Actually they don’t like any of the new instructors). I told her they don’t like how she cues which is true. She cues using hand signals instead of giving verbal cues. Apparently, I was the first person to ever tell her this and hurt her feelings. She told me she works so hard. I also told her these women were bags (which they kind of are) and to let me know when she is going to teach her first turbo class and I would be there to cheer her on. Others listening said they would be there to support her too. I can’t believe people complained about her cueing behind her back for two years with no one ever mentioned it to her before. I felt she had a right to know what people think whether they are right or not is a different story, but at least she would know why they are making faces. Do you have any suggestions for instructors subbing for a popular class? Also, should I give her feedback or mind my own business?
    Savvy Working Gal recently posted…The Biggest Money Mistake Women MakeMy Profile

    • Well, there is so much to say about this. First, the “clicks”, we have to shrug that off, it is inevitable. Smile at everyone, and try to join or form one is my advice. She is going to have to take responsibility for the truth that is within this unfortunate scenario. It sounds like there is an issue with her teaching style. I am not sure how she developed it that way but I don’t teach Zumba so I don’t want to overstep my boundaries. That could be how she is suppose to communicate. I know I was trained to incorporate voice, signals, & silence. I am sure she works very hard, but she apparently was not getting feedback on what she needed to be working on. That is the responsibility of her (if she truly wants to be a better instructor) just as it is for any profession. It is also the responsibility of the Group Fitness Manager to place an appropriate sub in a tough class. I particularly don’t care what kind of crowd, because I can bring it with the intensity and correct cueing. To be honest, that is where the clicks get pissed (for lack of a better word). You are right to call them bags, but the fact of the matter is, those bags are usually just extremely fit & they want their workout to be delivered to perfection, meaning initial cues, safety cues, and intensity 100% all the time. These tips were more or less for a new instructor & with her being new to Turbo, she needs to practice, WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE! It wasn’t your responsibility, but I am so glad you did reach out to her. I think with you knowing the history, that you should continue to be that “friend” that I talked about in the post. It wouldn’t hurt to offer to attend a rehearsal with her if your schedules match.

      SN: I wouldn’t sub for a class that is accustomed to seasoned instructors unless you are a natural, which several people are just naturals. Some people have to work at it (ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT), they just need to make sure that is what they are doing if they want to sub again in the future and have the chance to move into a more popular time slot permanently.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Joi

      • Zumba instructors aren’t supposed to use verbal cues – they are trained to teach without a microphone (at least they are in Australia), in order to focus on showing the moves through non verbal cues, so it isn’t her fault AT ALL if she doesn’t use verbal cueing. In saying that, if she wants to teach turbo she would need verbal cueing and either she needs to learn it or the gym needs to pick a sub that has had more experience in that style of teaching. But seriously, not one bit her fault; she is just teaching how she is supposed to for her program.

  10. Thank you so much. You’ve summed up the situation perfectly and are correct. The clicks do not like most of the new instructors because the intensity is not up to their expectations. They are there to get a good workout and feel if they don’t get one they are wasting their time. That is why they make faces and sometimes walk out. You also helped if I need to give future advice. As to the sub issue the Group Fitness Manager usually leaves it up to the instructor to find a sub and in a crunch they allow the wrong instructors teach a class. If a group is expecting a group power class and a zumba instructor shows up they shouldn’t be surprised when half the class walks out. I like the idea of attending a rehearsal. I am going to bring it up the next time I see her. Thanks again.
    Savvy Working Gal recently posted…The Biggest Money Mistake Women MakeMy Profile

    • You’re welcome & I’ve never had a Zumba instructor show up for BODYPUMP (our version of group power). Wow, I’m an instructor & I too would walk out, that would irk the stew out of me!!! Yeah, it’s not all her fault at all! Lot going on at this gym.

      Joi

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