Since I started teaching again last December (after taking some time off for the move), I’ve been picking up any class I can get my hands on if it becomes available to sub. Just like school teachers need subs, fitness instructors often request subs, too. The largest gym I work for has several locations around South Orange County, offering hundreds of classes each week. Subbing is a great opportunity for me to show my face, get to know students and try to convince them to come to my regularly scheduled classes. 😉
Yesterday morning I taught a total body strength + cardio class to a group of students I’d never met. There were easily 35 people in the room, and maybe more. After taking a quick scan before even starting the class, I noticed I had a variety of fitness levels in the class. That was no surprise to me.
What was a surprise to me were the comments I received after class. More on that in a minute.
I take my job of offering an option that will work for every student seriously.
Regardless of whether I’m teaching a strength class, a yoga class or some other group exercise format, I need to make sure I provide exercises that are safe and effective for beginners, intermediate-level students and the advanced fitness enthusiast.
To me, that is my job.
And it should also be the job of every fitness instructor.
- It is not my job to come to class and get a workout.
- It is not my job to come to class and present ‘The Jessica Show‘.
- It is not my job to come to class and do the entire workout with my students.
So, anyway, to the point. As class is winding down and I’m leading the cool down or stretch phase, I like to encourage students to find me after class and let me know what they loved or didn’t love so the next time I see them, I can bring a workout that they enjoy.
Many people came up to me after yesterday morning’s class and thanked me for a wonderful workout, but it was three women in particular that stood out. They took the time to thank me for offering options. They must have seen the surprised look on my face, because they started to explain to me that their regular teacher goes so fast and doesn’t provide options for varying fitness levels.
My heart sank a bit. In that class I taught, I probably had ages ranging from 20-75, no exaggeration. I had a pregnant woman, a couple people taking care of joint replacements and some people who hadn’t been exercising regularly. Knowing that they don’t usually get the options to modify exercises if needed, and only get to watch what the instructor does, makes me sad.
What is wrong with fitness instructors these days?
Too often I hear stories like these. Students will tell me that they appreciate my classes because they’re different. They’re different because I take time to explain the exercise, point out common misalignments, talk about the muscles we’re working, walk around the room and correct their form and more.
First of all, you’re welcome. But more importantly, seriously? WTF? That is my job!
If you’re a fitness instructor, please refresh your game, and try a couple of these tips!
- You are not getting paid to come get your own workout in. Please do that on your own time.
- Please teach at an intermediate level more of the time. Of course, you need to show advanced options so your hard core students can be challenged, but chances are, they already know what they need to do to challenge themselves. Instead, I encourage you to take some time and show lesser options for those students who may be new, taking care of injuries or just needing a bit less intensity. They probably have no idea how to modify.
- Stop acting like it’s your performance time. Yes, your students will be amazed and impressed if you can demonstrate scorpion pose like it’s no big deal, but they’ll be even more amazed if you can guide them into the posture that they never thought they’d be able to do! Students pay a lot of money to come to class for instruction. If they wanted to pay for a performance, they would go to a Cirq show.
- Start walking around the room. Leave the stage. Always ask permission first, and if granted, correct peoples alignment if if will enhance the exercise they’re doing.
- If you can’t effectively teach without doing the exercises/poses yourself, you need to practice. And I know it’s hard! Trust me! I’ve been there. Practice makes better, so start to hone in on your verbal cues. What kinds of verbal cues can you give that will allow everybody in the room to “hear” you? Give anatomical cues, what it should feel like cues and also what it should look like. And, don’t take this the wrong way—it’s still imperative that you demonstrate exercises and poses!
- Take classes whenever you can! Get ideas from other instructors. You might hear a phrase or cue that clicked with you. Write it down after class and use it in your own class! The more cues we have, the better! You might try an exercise or pose with a fun flare that you’d never thought of. Make sure you practice it first, then bring it to your students.
- Keep up with your CEUs. The fitness industry is constantly changing. It’s your job to be in the know.
I’m not perfect by any means. I’ve only been teaching for seven years and I’m sure a more-seasoned instructor could give me some pointers, too. And you know what? I want to hear them! I teach fitness because I love helping people live a healthier lifestyle. Whatever I can do to improve my teaching will allow me to better help those I teach. Ya feel me?
I’m not trying to attack anybody in particular. This is just a general PSA for all group fitness instructors. People are trusting us with their bodies everyday! That’s a huge deal. We need to make sure we’re being the best we can be.
Do you have any tips for fitness instructors? What have you loved and found most helpful when you were in class?