Friday, October 19, 2007

10 Tips for Group Exercise Instructors....(that they usually don't tell you in training)

So you've taken group exercise classes for years, you've gone through training, and now you're ready to start tackle your first class! But before you do...check out these tips that they probably didn't mention during your certification.

10) Just because your class is quiet, that doesn’t mean that you should be.

We’ve all been there. The music is pumping, your muscles are working, and you are getting a great workout. You ask the class how they feel…and the silence follows. While this is not always the most encouraging moment, DON’T GIVE UP! As a GXI, I know that you are not quiet and shy, but your class might be! Remember that opposites attract, so keep your energy high. Also, they might not be as fit as you are (YET!) They may be feeling the burn, but at a breathless moment of workout and unable to respond. Keep encouraging, and keep motivating them.

9) All GXI’s have GX eyes too.

GX eyes are always open and alert. They are constantly moving and scanning the entire room. You are looking for newcomers, checking for proper form, and doing anything and everything you can to prevent injury and create a great workout. Remember the look past the front row. Don’t ignore a person who has a scowl on their face. You don’t have to personally call a person out who is doing something wrong, but if you say the cue to the entire class, but use your GX eyes to focus on them, most of the time, they will realize they are making the mistake and fix it.

8) Make fun of yourself.

Group exercise can be intimidating for some people – especially when they are new to fitness. Think about it – coming into a room full of people that you don’t know and attempting to blend in among the fitness freaks and fitness royalty (that’s you) in charge. The best way to break the ice is to tell an embarrassing story about yourself (FYI – microphones make an embarrassing story even funnier.) or to admit when you are struggling with an exercise. They are more likely to feel comfortable in your class if they know they have something to mock you for in the event that they mess up.

7) Train yourself to identify “newbies.”

Sure, in training, they tell you to arrive early, get the class set up, and be prepared to meet and greet faces as they come in. Those who are new should come up to you and introduce themselves and tell you it is their first time so you can be sure they have all of the equipment they need to participate in your class. Right. In Athletic Paradise, I’m sure they will. Nine times out of ten, this is not the case. It is your job to seek out people who look like they are new, introduce yourself, and help them. Repeat their name a few times as you are helping them so it will stick in your brain. Talk to them after the class, and get their feedback. New participants are a great way to get an honest opinion of how you are doing as an instructor.

6) The majority of your class would define themselves as competitive.

This is a great way to motivate and challenge your class. You can use competition in various forms in all of your classes! Divide your Cycle class into three sections, and have each section sprint in twenty second intervals over a minute. Get the other two sections to cheer the sprinting section on as they recover. In resistance classes, divide the room in half and add up the total weight lifted for each half. Challenge the losing side to win next week. In a yoga class, see who can hold a pose the longest – the men or the women. The possibilities are endless!

5) Have a class buddy (or two or three!)

As you teach, you will get to know the people who regularly attend your classes. Pull them aside, and ask if they would be willing to help newcomers in class. Most of the time, they will jump at the opportunity, since it makes them feel like an expert and gives them importance. (It also gives them a sense of ownership in your class, and they will continue to come!) As newbies arrive, pair them up with a willing veteran who can answer any one-on-one questions while you are instructing. This is also a great way to get your class participants to make friends and hold each other accountable to exercise!

4) Repeat after me: I am not Superman.

At least, not everyday! Some weeks, you will teach more than others, and you may get sore. Especially if you teach back-to-back days of resistance training, you may have to take one day lighter than the other. This is OKAY! Explain to your class why you are choosing a lighter workout for yourself, move on, and continue to motivate them to work their hardest. Remember – the members are always watching you. Some of them may even have their fitness goals set to look like you and copy your workout as closely as they can. Don’t model over-training for them. It’s just increasing their chance of injury.

3) Expect the unexpected.

In the five years I have been teaching, there have been some interesting moments. I’ve had a diabetic who forgot to eat breakfast almost faint during squats. I’ve had a woman answer her cell phone in Cycle to find out that her daughter had been in a car wreck. The fire alarm has gone off at the gym. I put a CD in on September 12, 2001, and the first song was Outkast’s Bombs over Baghdad. (Whoops!) You can’t always control what happens in your class, but you can control the way you handle it. Memorize this rule: If you put the members’ safety first, you will always make the right decision about what to do. (And on all of the above mentioned situations – I noticed she looked pale and had her sit down before she passed out, the daughter was not injured, the alarm was pulled by a teenager, and I admitted to being a bonehead.)

2) It is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to make your class FULL and FUN.

Don’t get in the habit now of blaming poor timing, bad traffic, “old” equipment, etc. If you are a highly motivating instructor and doing your job to the best of your ability, you can have a full class at 2pm on a Sunday afternoon during football season. (Check out Micki’s Camp24 class at Hulen if you don’t believe me.) Also, you set the tone for your class. The more fun you have, the more fun your class will have. Be energetic, be creative, and be positive!

1) You have the best job in the entire world.

As you stand before your class participants, realize that you are getting paid to do the workout that they are paying to do! They may have been staring at a computer screen all day, chasing little kids around the house, or sitting in a classroom. It is your job to make sure that they get more fit and have fun along the way. Love your job, own it, and be thankful. J