Getting my ACE certification to teach group fitness in college was probably one of the best things I could have done. I've learned A LOT in the past three years that I've been teaching, but I know that there is a lot more to learn. If you're a group fitness instructor, a trainer, or even if you're thinking of becoming certified in the near future, here are some things that really helped me get to where I am now and made the whole instructor thing really "click."
Practice, practice, practice. Especially when you're first starting out. When I started teaching cycle classes, I would put on my head phones, head to the gym and get on a cycle bike to run through my entire class. When you nail those cues, it makes for such a strong impact in class! When I put together my playlists, I listen to each song through and literally mouth the cues that I will speak in class. I probably look ridiculous, but hey, it works! Doing this makes it much easier during class, too, and you can really focus on your participants and keep the energy high. I STILL practice a lot. I had to sub a kickboxing class not too long ago and ran through combos for hours before!
2. Take other classes
Take other instructor's classes that are similar to what you teach AND take classes that are way outside of your comfort zone. Some of the cues that I use on a regular basis are taken from yoga classes. I am so not a yogi. It's important to BE the participant so you can see what you like and don't like as one taking the class. It's also important to keep an open mind, as a lot of your participants come from all different backgrounds and fitness levels.
I very often take classes with instructors that I look up to so much. Watching a strong instructor in action is very empowering. I can't tell you how many cues, drills, exercises and songs I've taken away from other instructors that I idolize. It's important to have mentors and peers to look up to! This is one of my favorite ways to grow as an instructor.
3. Ask for feedback
Ask for feedback from other instructors AND your participants. When I first started teaching, I would ask after every class what my participants liked about the workout and what they didn't like. Ask what kind of music your class likes, what their goals are, how they feel after the workout - every little bit of information helps. Once you nail down what your participants like, you will start to see that regular crowd and it WILL make you feel all warm and fuzzy. I've met so many awesome people through teaching. Remember: as an instructor, we show up for our participants - asking for their opinions should be top of mind.
On the flip side, constructive criticism is key. If you're able to teach in front of your supervisor or another instructor or trainer, you'll be amazed at how much you can improve. Professional feedback can never be too valuable.
4. Teach for your participants, not for yourself
I've been to classes where it's clear that the instructor is trying to get in a great workout for his or herself. While this is definitely possible, it's not the best mindset as a group exercise instructor. I'm totally guilty of this sometimes when I can't get my own workout in, but I'll reiterate what I said in the last point - as an instructor, we show up for our participants. It's very rare that I ever do the entire workout with my class (besides teaching to the 32-count in a strength or choreographed class). In spin classes, I get off of the bike almost every song. During my strength and cardio classes, I walk around the room giving high fives when the class is doing high knees. When you focus on instructing for your participants, you'll give them a positive experience. Be the instructor who helps with form. Be the instructor who cheers each participant on one by one. Be the instructor who gives high fives. I'm serious, this one's a biggie! When you show that you care for each one of your participants, they will return. And that's the whole point of being a fitness professional, right? Helping others adopt and sustain a healthy lifestyle.
5. Read, learn & experience as much as you can
Keep on learnin'! There are really great sources out there for new information. I'm certified through ACE, so I regularly head to the website for new articles and information. As the fitness industry grows, we fitness professionals need to grow and adapt with it. Seek out fitness expos, conventions and specialty certifications when you can. Learning and growing will make you an overall well-rounded instructor.
Go get em'!!
XO - Rach
What's one thing that made you a better instructor or trainer?
What's your favorite quality in a group fitness instructor?
What are your favorite group fitness classes to take?