Monday, April 14, 2014

8 Tips for Group Fitness Instructors

So here's the thing: I teach group fitness, but I don't have a group fitness certification. The way I see it, it's much easier to teach group fitness with a personal trainer certification than it is to train individuals with a group fitness certification. Those of you that have your group fitness certification might disagree, but this approach is working for me right now and I'm rolling with it.

I started training individuals in the Spring of 2010, and I took on my first group fitness class shortly after that. For about a year now, I've been managing the group fitness program at my club. And before I even joined this industry, I attended group fitness classes. So I've got some perspective that might be of use if you're looking for tips for group fitness instructors.

Behold, the following.

1) Don't just show up.
People take group fitness classes for a variety of reasons, the most important of which is often the fact that they simply don't know how to build their own workouts. This means you play a big role in the advancement of their health and fitness goals. Sure, you have those days where standing in front of a class and leading a workout is the very last thing you feel like doing, but you have to do it. It's your job. And people are paying for your expertise. So you have to invest. Every single time. And whatever you do, don't give your students the slightest hint that you're not ready and able to lead them.

2) Keep your lesson plans.
This is a good idea for a number of different reasons. If someone gets hurt and it comes back to haunt you, you'll know exactly what you did that day. If you're not feeling it, or if you don't have time to plan, you can look back and pick a class plan that you know has worked in the past and then all you have to do is show up and teach your heart out. And, finally, if you keep track from class to class, you can advance those that come regularly.

3) Plan your music.
Nothing kills the mood in a fitness class quite like bad music and down time. If you have to stop in the middle of your class to pick a new playlist, then you're not coming to class prepared. Your students don't need to see you fiddle with the sound system when they're ready for their next set of squats. They are there to move, so keep them moving! Furthermore, make sure whatever you're relying on for music is ad-free. Because no one needs to hear an ad for another fitness club when they're in your club. It's not worth the risk.

4) Learn how to balance your personal and professional workouts.
Remember, you are getting paid to lead a class. And while you're not leading the class for your own will benefit from the physical activity done in the class. This can impact your personal workouts, and your personal workouts can impact your professional workouts. If you're not balancing the two, you're not showing up to work in top-notch form. Prioritize your schedule. Take care of yourself so you can help take care of others.

5) Be prepared to offer modifications.
When you lead a class, you are responsible for the people that take it. Depending on your numbers, it can be hard to watch everyone at once, but you absolutely have to try—not everyone that walks through your studio door is on the same fitness level. And you, as the instructor, need to be able to instruct all fitness levels. So as you plan your class, think ahead to potential modifications, just in case you spot the need. And if you don't know what modifications can be offered for a particular exercise, ask your coworkers or simply choose another exercise.

6) If your numbers are low, look within.
There are a variety of reasons that class attendance is low. A lot of which you, as the instructor, cannot control. Like the weather. Or holidays. Maybe even other classes. But you can't point fingers. While it's the easiest solution, the first thing you have to do is look within. Find out what YOU can do better. Ask a coworker or friend to attend one of your classes and welcome their feedback. And then, if things still don't change, talk to your supervisor and come up with a solution.

7) Take other classes.
Find out what your peers are doing. It's called research and, quite simply, it works. Plus, you never know when you'll be called upon to sub. And subbing is most likely part of your job description.

8) Be current.
There is a reason we fitness professionals have to rack up continuing education credits: This industry is always changing! If you've been teaching in the same time slot under the same class name for years, that doesn't mean you don't have room to grow the format. Nowhere is change more important than within the fitness industry, because we all know that plateaus and ruts are a real (often hard to overcome) thing. And we fitness professionals are the go-to sources for overcoming them.

Question: Are you a group fitness instructor? What do you teach, and what tips can you add to the above?


Tamara Grand said...

Interesting. Where I live, group fitness instructors have to be group fitness certified. Even if they have weight training or PT certifications. I have all three and agree with this post!

The biggest mistake I see group fitness instructors making is not having enough options for the various fitness levels in their classes (have PT training helps a lot with this; we know a million versions of each exercise, right? ;) ) And even when they do, always performing the most challenging versions themselves, thereby encouraging all of their participants to do the same.

adailydoseoffit said...

It's so hard to find qualified fitness professionals in my neck of the woods, which is why I've allowed personal trainers to teach certain classes without their Group Fit certification. Most of my classes, however, are led by those with their Group Fit. I need my trainers on the fitness floor :-) Someday I'll add that certification to my list...

GiselleR said...

These are awesome tips! I've been considering running some just-for-fun group workout classes for a group I volunteer with but I don't have a certification and didn't want to mess it up. These look like a great place to start :D

Mandy Nester said...

All of these tips are great...I find myself neglecting my personal workouts sometimes...I teach 3 classes a week and right now, that's enough with the belly. :) However, I make time each week to swim on my own and that really helps. After baby gets here and I recover, I plan to train for a triathlon so I'll have to do some running on my own. That might wait until spring, though. Great tips.

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