Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Teaching Group Fitness

I teach four classes every week—two Circuit Sculpt, two TRX—sometimes more if I'm stepping in for another instructor. I teach them alone, standing in front of what can vary from three to twelve people. I'm a personal trainer by certification, so group fitness did not come naturally. And it was not really an interest of mine. In fact, I avoided it like the plague for the first few months of my tenure at the gym. The very thought of standing in front of a class made me want to throw up.

There's a reason I studied Mass Communication instead of Speech Communication in college—I hate being front and center, which makes absolutely no sense given my history of leading a cheerleading squad in front of many for almost 12 years.

It was a total confidence thing, my avoidance of the group fitness thing. I had none, that is, until I bit the bullet and taught my first class. I found out quickly that it wasn't so bad. It's actually quite fun, and an incredible way to squeeze in your own workout (while getting paid).  But group fitness is still slightly different than personal training. You know, since you're dealing with more than one person. If you've been contemplating teaching a class or two, know that there are certain things you'll need to consider. Here's what I've learned so far:

1) Act confident, even when you aren't. There is a reason you are standing in front of the room, most likely it's because you have the know-how to lead the class. And remember, leaders are followed—they will follow you.

2) Plan ahead. Don't go into your class blind unless you've been teaching it forever and can nail the format every single time. Have a distinct plan and have it written out in front of you. For example, my notes from yesterday's Circuit Sculpt:

3) Progress your students. Teaching the same class with the same challenges over and over and over again promotes boredom of the brain and of the muscles. Never let your students get bored. Or hurt...

4) Scan the room from start to finish. Keep an eye out for improper form, weights that are too heavy and physical signs of exhaustion, dehydration and other forms of distress.

5) Pick awesome music and change it up frequently. But listen up for profane lyrics before you put a song on your playlist. People love to jam when they're working out, but not everyone appreciates harsh language.

6) Encourage water breaks. In fact, call them out. If you tell them to drink it, they will.

7) Get to know your students. If they like you, they'll keep coming back for more...and they may even follow you to your other classes.

8) Make time in each class for stretching. People often forget to stretch and if you assume they'll stretch on their own...well, they probably won't. On the flip, don't forget to warm everyone up, either.

9) Speak to the class as a whole, rather than signaling out someone who is doing something wrong. Even if there is only one person doing that something wrong, it never hurts to reinforce correct form. Or offer modifications. You are, after all, teaching. And taking group fitness isn't just about leading people through a series of movements. It's still a classroom, even if there aren't any desks.

10) Have fun. Bottom line, just have fun. If you screw something up, get lost, forget the way, have a bad playlist. Smile and keep your energy up. Remember, leaders are followed. You set a good mood, your students will be in a good mood.

Question: Do you teach group fitness classes? If so, which formats? If not, what is your favorite group fitness class to take?


Amber @ Hungry4aHealthyLife said...

I've been thinking about trying a TRX class, but I'm terrified of it! That's neat that you teach it!

adailydoseoffit said...

TRX straps only look scary, I promise. It's actually a great workout because you are in total control of your own level of difficulty. It's a matter of foot placement, really. So if a move gets too hard, you simply shift forward or backward in relationship to the anchor point and the difficulty changes to something more appropriate. And it's an awesome core workout because your core is almost always engaged. Try it sometime and let me know what you think! If you like strength training, I bet you'll like TRX...

Amber said...

Good to know....thanks for the info! I'll let you know how it goes when I try it :)

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