Being A Group Fitness Instructor: If Only You Knew

It has been almost four years since I became a certified group fitness instructor. My class of choice? Les Mills BODYPUMP. I started taking BP in college and eventually, after a push from a good friend and eventually my mentor, became certified.

In those four years I have taught (and continue to teach) at various gyms where I have met countless members who have become ‘regulars’ and made life-long friendships with some of my fellow group fitness instructors. I also recently earned my certification to teach freestyle classes so I could teach a wider range of classes.

95% of the time I love teaching just as much, if not more, as I did the first time I taught four years ago. Most members understand that teaching BP, or group fitness in general, is something I and most instructors do because we truly enjoy it. Because let me tell you, it definitely isn’t paying the bills. This brings me to the other 5%. There are times that I get those ‘I know you just messed up’ looks from members while teaching that makes me think ‘if only you knew’.

I picked the brains of a few of my fellow group fitness instructors across various gyms who teach a huge variety of classes and asked them to tell me what they would love members to know when it comes to being a GFI.

If only you knew…

We are human.

We have bad days. We have difficult weeks. We get sick and injured. Sometimes we teach multiple classes in a row or even on the same day. Sometimes we just have a lot on our mind from our daily non-group-fitness life — like a sick child at home or a crying child at the in-gym kid’s room, a death in our family, a deadline at work, or grocery shopping and piles of laundry that needs to be done. All of this leads to a full brain and the possibility that we forget a few moves in a track. It happens.

But despite all of that, we promise to show up to our classes giving it our all, even if that ‘all’ is the last inch of our rope and we are barely hanging on. We will still show up and try to hit every count and remember each track flawlessly. But if we don’t, please don’t yell at us, roll your eyes, or even worse, do your own thing. Trust me, we hate when we mess up and are likely already killing ourselves internally because of it.

So the next time you take a class and your instructor shows their human side by doing the incorrect move please remember that while we strive to be perfect, we might mess up every once in a while. Go up to them after class and let them know you had an awesome workout and even though they may have done the wrong move, you still burned calories!

Because at the end of the day, we are human, just like you.

When we ask for feedback, we really want it!

During the cooldown of my classes I always say “questions, comments, concerns, feedback? You can talk to me after class.” Most instructors do. Want to know how many times we get any of the above? Hardly ever. But we wish we did.

Feedback will only make us as instructors better. And while we love positive feedback, even if it is just you coming up to say you had a great workout and loved our set list for that day, we also love constructive feedback. We can only improve on things if you tell us. It is extremely helpful to gain insight from you as a member of your class experience. I have never met one GFI who doesn’t want to provide the best experience possible for their members and feedback will help us do that.

We really do want song requests!

Requests help us in many ways. Group Fitness Instructors typically build new playlists every one to two weeks if it is not during a time when we are required to teach a certain release. Sometimes we get tired of doing our favorites because let’s be honest, I am not going to put a track/song I don’t enjoy into my playlist. If we don’t get requests then it is up to us to put all the music together and hope you like what we show up with.

Not only will requests allow you to enjoy the class more because it will be filled with music that motivates you, but it also allows us to get a better feel for the moves and tracks you like. You will find that us group fitness instructor’s have this uncanny ability to remember almost every track we have ever learned. So even if you only know some of the moves or a few lyrics, tell us. We will probably shock you and be able to tell you what muscle group it works, which release it is from and the name of the song. And if we have that track in our library of songs, we will learn it for you and you will see it in the next class.

My point here is this: if you simply want a track with tricep presses or lots of bottom half pulses in squats or lunges, or just a certain song, request it. You don’t have to know the song name or release. Requests make our job so much more fun!

We truly care about your enjoyment in the class.

We want you to show up to class with your tank full and leave with your tank on empty, all while getting in a few laughs along the way. We want our classes to be something you enjoy coming to. Teaching to a class that doesn’t interact with you makes you feel like you are the worst teacher on earth. Your “woos”, grunts, cheers and responses throughout the class help us know that you are enjoying yourself, and we truly want that every time we stand in front of you to teach.

We worry about being stood up.

At one of the gyms where I teach people line up outside the group fitness room twenty minutes before class starts. At another one of the gyms where I teach people don’t start filing in until five minutes before class starts. This is so nerve racking to me because I worry no one is coming because I seriously don’t want to be stood up. Being stood up could mean so many different things but the one we always assume is that you hate our class and that is why you aren’t there. So if you like a teacher, show them by showing up to their class week after week. Showing up early to talk to us before class starts is even better. We love connecting with you outside of class!

It is multi-tasking at its finest!

There are so many things that go on in our brains while teaching. Listening for the four and/or eight count beats in the music and cueing at the exact appropriate time to keep everyone in sync is tricky. Add in correcting any poor form we see and explaining how to keep that good form all while squatting 40lbs and ensuring our own form is perfect for six minutes straight, things get a little bit more hectic upstairs in our head (see point one, we’re human, too). It is literally multi-tasking at its finest.

We don’t do it for the money.

This one should be self-explanatory.

Teaching group fitness definitely is not paying the bills. Especially when you take into account the amount of money we pay to attend initial trainings and purchase each quarterly release, remaining CPR certified, wear and tear on our vehicles, clothes, shoes, etc. And no, the gym usually doesn’t reimburse us for any of that.

Then we have all the extra time we spend outside of class learning releases and keeping old ones fresh in our mind.

So why do we do it?

We do it because we love it. The love we have for teaching trumps everything that I listed above, 100 times over.

We truly enjoy what we teach and we love who we teach it to. We love seeing members coming week after week, hitting their fitness goals and changing their bodies for the better. There is nothing that makes us happier than seeing you succeed at your goals and allowing us to be part of that journey.

‘Thanks’ goes a long way.

A simple ‘Thanks’ or ‘Great Class’ means the world to a group fitness instructor. You don’t need to bring little gifts or send us love notes. But thank your group fitness instructor every now and again after class. Not only will it show that you enjoyed their class it will also let them know that they are appreciated.

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