Have you ever been to a bad group fitness class and walked out of there almost a little angry? I sure have.
Even though I’ve been teaching group fitness classes for a long time and know the right way to lead a workout, I don’t expect perfection from every class that I attend. Not at all. I love variety in teaching styles, and I love learning from different types of people in all sorts of settings. Yet there are certainly a few things that rub me the wrong way in a class.
That’s why today, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you — the signs of a bad group fitness instructor.
A bad group fitness instructor does the following …
- Puts on the music and begins the class with zero introduction. People are about to follow your voice, moves and lead for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, so they at least deserve to have a hello. While you may know most of the participants and they may have signed up for class by seeing your name, it’s still a good idea to say hi, give your name, a brief overview of what’s about to happen in the workout (or at least the focus of the day) and a thanks to the group for showing up. I hate it when an instructor just opens up with the first move. It’s not right. Set the scene. Be a host. Show some manners.
- Lets his/her “out-of-the-gym” mood and life show on his/her face. Do not. I repeat, do not let your participants or members know if you’re having a bad day. Your job is to motivate, inspire and lead them. While you can certainly be a real person and chat about your life before or after class, there is a fine line between being “real” and being a downer. If you’re an instructor, it’s your job to be professional and deliver a great workout, whether you have a headache or a to-do list a mile long. Show up. Be present. Be positive.
- Teaches each class as though everyone is a regular. While I’m all for creating a community and interacting with your regulars as though you’re old friends, as an effective instructor, you’ve got to give some compulsory cues and teach every class as though there is someone a little bit new in the room. It’s the right way to do it. Because a lot of times, people enjoy the reminders of basic set-up. And sometimes people may not speak up and let you know that they’re new, so you have to make sure you’re creating a safe environment for them within the larger group. Not to mention, if your routines are exactly the same from week-to-week and people don’t need coaching, you need to seriously evaluate your programming. Variety is key.
- Doesn’t shut up. There is something very powerful about purposeful silence. And we all need to practice that in life, both inside the group fitness studio and out. Sometimes group fitness instructors feel like they need to narrate every second of every class, but a lot of times, just closing your mouth and letting the music and exercise take place is a better choice. Work the silence! It’s a lot harder to pause and read the room than it is to talk over it. Trust me. Experience means shutting up when it’s needed.
- Corrects participants by making a scene or singling someone out. I recently attended a class where an instructor asked everyone to look as she corrected a shy participant in the middle of the room. That poor person was mortified, and I’m fairly certain they will never return to that awful studio. While it’s okay to use a model participant to show an option or the right way to do something, you should never call out people for doing something wrong in front of others. It’s not nice. Not nice at all. Think about how you would feel if you showed up to do something out of your comfort zone and were made the example in class. Not good. Not welcoming. Not what group fitness is about.
A few other things that bug me? When an instructor teaches the whole class in the same yelling voice. There is such a thing as “layers of coaching” and using a conversational voice vs. a motivational one, and I really despise the monotone instruction. Also, playing the music way too soft or way too loud (but really, can it ever be too loud?) can be hard to take. Finally, staring in the mirror at his/her reflection during class rather than looking at participants is also quite irksome. I mean, get over yourself. It’s about them, not about you. Just take your selfie after class and get on with your day.
I’ve experienced a little bit of all of these things while attending tons of classes over the years in big corporate gyms, private studios and even during outdoor bootcamps. While at times I’ve still had a good workout from a bad instructor, there’s little to no chance that I’ll be a repeat customer in that particular time-slot. Life’s too short to take classes from poor instructors. Right?
Enjoyed this post? Don’t miss out on some of my other group fitness tips …
- Top 10 ways to grow your group fitness classes
- 13 ways to teach a good group fitness class
- Why group fitness classes are good for you
- How to get better results from taking group fitness classes
Questions of the day
What’s something that you hate to see in a group fitness class?
What’s one quality that you love to see from your group fitness instructor?