Top 10 ways to grow your group fitness classes

Hello all! So while this one is for those of you who teach group fitness classes or who aspire to teach group fitness classes one day, some of the tips apply to life in general. Read on and enjoy, as I discuss how you can grow your group fitness class numbers.

People attend group fitness classes to be motivated by the energy of others and for the chance to sweat in a community setting. Your role as the group fitness instructor is a big one, with a lot going on outside of leading participants through a safe workout. That means you need to bring the energy and make connections with people. Sounds easy, right?

I’ve been teaching group fitness for more than five years, adding to the number of formats that I teach and going to countless additional instructor trainings. During that time, I’ve taken on large established classes, brand-new struggling classes and some classes in terrible time-slots.

When I lived in Orlando, I taught two weekly 5:45 a.m. Les Mills BODYPUMP classes that started out very small and slowly grew to have more than 20 members, which was a huge win. Today in San Francisco, I teach a Friday evening BODYPUMP class at 5:30 p.m., which was brand new when I took it over a year ago. The first class had about six members, and today we fill up and run out of weights, topping out in the small studio at just over 30 members. It took time to grow these classes, and during that process, I picked up a few tips and tricks on how to do it.

Top 10 ways to grow your group fitness classes via A Lady Goes West

If you’re new to teaching, be sure to check out my post on 13 ways to run a good group fitness class, which I wrote over a year ago, but still rings true today. And once you think you’re teaching a good class, try these ways to help grow your class attendance …

Top 10 ways to grow your group fitness classes

  1. RELATE: Get to know everyone in the class by name and introduce them to each other so they feel a community connection. Tell them to bring their friends and significant others. This will take time. Try writing down people’s names and occupations so you have something to remember them by, and greet them by name every single class.
  2. ASSIST: In an early morning class, be very respectful of time. Start right on time, move quick and end early so your members can get on with their day. You could even offer to put away their equipment so they can rush out and get ready to head off to work. Starting and ending on time also applies to the evenings, but I’ve found people seem to feel more rushed before the workday begins.
  3. PROMOTE: Walk around the gym before your class starts and encourage people to come into the group fitness room to try the class. Explain what will take place and invite them to try at least the first half to see if they’re interested. Maybe no one has ever asked them to go into the group fitness studio before and that’s why they’ve stayed away.
  4. CROSS-RECRUIT: If you teach an early morning class as well as a fuller evening class, encourage people in your evening class to give the morning class a try. They may be willing to wake up extra early for an instructor they like and bring their friends along too.
  5. READ THE CLASS: If you teach an early morning class, be energetic, but don’t be over-the-top or play your music too loud. I’ve found that people who work out in the morning need things toned down just a smidge. If you teach an evening class, read the crowd and go with whatever vibe you are getting from them. It could be different, and you’ll need to modify to meet their needs. People will come back if you give them what they want, and that can be different depending on the class format, time of day and gym location.
  6. MARKETING: Ask for permission at your gym to put up a flyer to promote your class at the front desk or in the locker rooms. If it’s a new class, say so on the flyer. Or if you’re a new instructor in the time-slot, say so on the flyer. Sometimes people don’t even know that classes are taking place, if they aren’t already avid group fitness attendees, and a little marketing can go a long way.
  7. TRY SOCIAL MEDIA: Try and make social media connections with your members. Maybe you can make a Facebook group and invite everyone who regularly attends your classes to join it like “Wednesday Morning Booty Bootcampers” or something along those lines. This gives you a platform to send a quick shout-out and reminder the night before your class every single week. A little extra motivation is sometimes all people need to hit the gym, and your posts may do that.
  8. GET FRONT DESK REFERRALS: Make friends with the front desk person who will be welcoming members before your class and ask him or her to announce that a class will be taking place, inviting members to try it out as they enter the gym. Maybe they just need a little extra nudge to make it to the group fitness studio. You can also do this with the sales people at the gym, so they remember to sell your class as a benefit of membership to new members.
  9. SHOW THANKS: Tell everybody that shows up to your class that you appreciate their time. Thank them for being there in the beginning of class. Make sure you start and end on time, and thank them for coming again at the end of class. If you have the chance after the music ends, run over and hold the door for them as they leave, giving each member a high five as they exit. This really builds rapport and makes them feel like they should come back.
  10. SEEK EXCELLENCE: Yet, the most important thing you can do is teach a safe and effective class. If you’re a true professional, most likely people are going to want to do a workout that you lead, and they’ll be more inclined to bring friends along and follow you to whatever time-slot you may teach in the future.

Oh, and of course, be funny when it’s appropriate, be serious when it’s necessary and always, always, always be true to yourself and your own personality. People can see right through someone who is trying too hard. Believe it or not, they want to get to know you as an instructor, not just as a drill sergeant, so let parts of yourself shine through, even as your main goal is focused on teaching the workout.

Last night, I taught a double-header of classes in a new time-slot. I just took on an additional BODYPUMP class right after my regular BODYATTACK class, so Wednesday nights should be full of a double dose of group fitness fun from here on out. It was great!

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Questions of the day

Instructors out there, do you have any additional tips?

Group fitness attendees out there, what’s the biggest thing you look for in a good instructor?

What makes you go back to class? 

 

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27 Comments

  1. I attend yoga classes twice a week, but have not participating in anything else in a while. I used to go to Spinning quite frequently.
    For me, it comes down to how well I connect with the instructor that makes a difference. Good instructors stand out and make you want to get to their classes. Starting on time, ending on time and being friendly/appreciatve are all important. Also, it is key if an instructor does not stick with checking on their core group of class regulars and makes sure newbies are comfortable and set up for class. Have a great Thursday!

    1. Hi Lauren, I totally agree that watching out for new people is important, and I covered that one in my list of ways to teach a good class. Thanks for sharing my post, and thanks for your feedback. Hope you have a great Thursday. Full of bikini fun! πŸ™‚

  2. Great list! For me, social media is really important because I only teach once a week, so connecting with my regular students on Instagram and Facebook is HUGE. I also have an email list that I use to send schedule updates, coupons, special tutorial videos, etc.

    1. Hi Katy! Yes, that’s definitely the way to stay in touch with your members because you aren’t in front of them as much. And even better that you add in tutorial videos — quite the value-add. At big corporate gyms (which is primarily where I teach) we are a little more limited on the things we can do in outreach of course, and no we can never offer coupons ehehe. By the way, I hope you like this “shareable top 10” list. Took some blog tips from you of course. Hope you stop by A Lady Goes West again soon. Have a great Thursday!

  3. These sound like great tips, Ashley! The most important thing that keeps me coming back to a class is the instructors energy. I like it when they’re motivating without being over-the-top. Sometimes I wonder if some of them are on drugs because they are so intense, lol. But good energy and focus are so important to keep people coming back!

    1. Hi Sarah! So true. People often ask me how I get my energy — and it comes from participants. I don’t drink energy drinks or take any crazy pre-workouts… I just LOVE group fitness and I LOVE motivating people. Hope you can take my class one day.

  4. These are awesome tips, Ashley! I do most of these, but I must admit, I could be a bit better with social media (w/my classes) and with chatting with the front desk people to help me recruit. Some gyms it’s harder to do this than others because there might be more front desk people working–whereas in smaller gyms it’s more tightly knit.

    I especially agree on learning people’s names, remembering what their situations are (kids, married, single, in school, etc.) because connection is key to getting them to come back!

    And AMEN on being true to yourself. <3

    1. Hi Annette! I know — and of course, it’s great to call people out if they’ve been gone for a while and ask them why. Thanks for the feedback. Have a great Thursday! πŸ™‚

  5. I love instructors that really work to get the group excited! They are energetic themselves ( even in the early mornings) and they connect with you! I love feeling like I’m just going to hang out with a friend yet also getting an awesome workout too! Great tips!

    1. Thanks Ruthie! Yes, indeed. It’s all about doing a good job teaching. No one wants to go to a class in which the instructor is super-friendly but doesn’t know what they’re doing. I need to do more yoga at home by the way! πŸ™‚

  6. Excellent tips!! Thanks for sharing this post. πŸ™‚ I definitely see a difference between my early morning pumpers and afternoon/evening pumpers, so the music/energy thing is a good one, among all of the others too.

    Wow – BodyAttack and BodyPump in a row?! Killer!!

    1. Hi Ashley! Thanks. I find it’s much easier to teach BA before BP actually. I’ve done the reverse before and my legs are dead for cardio after all the squats and lunges with heavy weight. But BP seems to be a nice slower change of pace after all the high energy of BA. Come to SF so you can take my classes and enjoy the double with me! πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Katie! Totally agreed on the nice factor of connecting people — that’s what I meant by the fact that these tips apply to everyday life. Thanks for stopping by and providing feedback. Have a great day!

    1. Hi Christa! Thanks. I know what you mean about being in a rush … I was in the same boat for many years of working in the corporate world. It was always a panic to get showered up, eat breakfast and out the door. But somehow it got done.

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