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Best Practices for New Group Fitness Instructors

Best Practices for New Group Fitness Instructors

November 27, 2019
Author: Stefanie Gordon

Teaching your first group fitness class as a new instructor can be a terrifying experience. Commanding the attention of a room filled with strangers and instructing a class is no small feat. If you’re going to begin, or have just begun teaching fitness, you might feel a little lost. See below for some best practices that can help you get off to a successful start.

Imagine the Fitness Class You’d Like to Take Yourself: Imagine the group fitness class that you’d love to take. Does it make you feel peaceful? Energized? How does the workout flow? How physically challenging is it? Is the fitness instructor doing the whole class with the students, instructing it verbally, or a combination of the two? Make a list of the qualities you envision your ideal workout class and fitness teacher having.

Observe Other Fitness Instructors You Look Up To, But Develop Your Own Style: Watching YouTube videos of fitness instructors that you respect and admire is a good start to have a voice to emulate, but make sure you make your fitness training persona your own. Finding a style that works for you will take time. If you’re not naturally a super high-energy instructor, faking it for your group class will come off as disingenuous. Instead of trying to be a carbon copy of another fitness teacher, see which parts of their style will suit you, and which you can discard. Maybe you can’t see yourself enthusiastically bouncing around the studio like your favorite boot camp instructor, but you love how they smile throughout HIIT class and project their voice.

Safety First, flow second: Client safety always, always comes first. Never teach a move or workout flow that could potentially cause an injury, even if you think it would be really exciting to try in a group fitness setting. Also-never teach anything that you haven’t yet practiced yourself. In other words, if you want to try dumbbell sumo squats, lead yourself through a set with the weight you intend to suggest to the class. There’s nothing more embarrassing than teaching a move you’ve imagined in your head or seen on Instagram and having it completely fail IRL. Speaking of safety, make sure that you’re covered with insurance so you can continue your fitness career!

Plan, Plan, Plan: When you’re starting out, it can be helpful to plan your group class out completely. At first, thinking of filling a full 50-minute cardio class can appear daunting, but it’s much more manageable if you think of it in parts. Let’s say you’re teaching a cardio/weight training class; one way to plan it out could be as a 10-minute warmup, 30 minute HIIT class, and 10 minute cooldown. Within those 30 minutes of class, you could break it down into six interval rounds of five minutes each. Breaking it down like this will help make the time much less intimidating to fill, and also help you stay on track during the fitness class (aka if you think you’re done with the warm-up portion after one minute, you need to stick to your schedule a little more).

But Expect the Unexpected: The caveat to all this is that even if you’ve planned out your workout class to a T, you need to be prepared for the unexpected. If you come into class ready to instruct a super tough class, but some of the fitness students are older or out of shape, you’ll need to quickly reconfigure. If you’re having the class do crunches and one of your attendees is a woman in her third-trimester, you’ll need to think of a modification on the spot. Don’t get too attached to the fitness class you’ve imagined in your head.

Seek Progress Instead of Perfection: Don’t beat yourself up if your playlist didn’t perfectly sync to your class flow or someone came up to you after class and told you it wasn’t hard enough. Listen and be open to constructive criticism, but don’t let it deter you from continuing to teach. The perfect class probably doesn’t exist, so don’t hold yourself to that standard. Focus on making progress and celebrating your growth as a teacher.

About Stefanie Gordon

Stefanie Gordon is a STOTT PILATES Level 2 certified instructor and PMA-CPT. She completed a mentorship in Pilates for Runners and Prenatal Pilates with the Kane School in NYC, and is a Pre/Postnatal Pilates Specialist and Diastasis Recti Recovery Specialist with The Center for Women's Fitness. Stefanie is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist, and is additionally trained in CoreAlign levels 1, 2, & 3. When she isn't teaching fitness, she can be found writing or spending time with her husband, daughter, and husky. .