Gone are the days of “Jane Fonda” aerobics classes intended simply to get your heart rate up, break a sweat, and sculpt “buns of steel.”
It is a space in which gym-goers, yogis, cyclists, and athletes of all types develop their best selves.
Now, fitness is seen as a means for rejuvenation and recovery from mental strain, physical ailments, and the stresses of everyday life.
What That Means for YOU
As an instructor, you need to be informed and capable of so much more than standard exercise movements and generic cheerleading.
You have to be able to hold space for your participants on a personal level and offer a more in-depth experience – You are in charge of educating your participants.
You get to inspire them to be curious and push themselves on their own once their session is over.
You’re responsible for welcoming them and cultivating a community within your class.
Fitness is Being Known and Heard
Fitness is now more than just fitness – it’s an experience that for some can be almost like going to church.
While you are not a spiritual leader, therapist, or another formally specialized professional, you are certified to uniquely enhance people’s lives and health journeys.
These participants may see you more than they see any other health-related figure.
Did you know that the average person visits their doctor four times a year?
It is your responsibility and, should be your passion to offer incredible coaching, teaching, and atmosphere.
Whether you teach kickboxing, pilates, step aerobics, cardio strength, cycling, or anything else, go all in.
Know Your Method Like a Pro
I have seen instructors fake their way through and the workout and energy in the room suffer.
It’s okay to bring it back to basics and be confident in teaching those — so long as you are committed to teaching it.
Feeling unsure of the material leads to stumbling over words and movements in the workout. In these cases, it comes across to participants like you didn’t prepare.
The worst group fitness class I ever took was Pilates — it was as though the instructor had never even taken Pilates himself.
He wasn’t giving clear cues for the exercises or addressing adjustments that anyone needed to make.
It felt scattered and like our workout wasn’t important at all.
Classes and teaching like that doesn’t accrue repeat participants.
It does lead to empty class times.
Being an amazing instructor and leader means trusting yourself fully so that you can crush in all moments — even when and most importantly when things don’t go exactly “according to your plan.”
The fact of the matter is, things won’t always go according to plan. In those times, knowing your material is the best way to go with the flow and play it off flawlessly.
Most of the time instructors who can present and keep the performance up — the participants won’t even know something happened that wasn’t supposed to or wasn’t originally planned.
Feeling comfortable and confident in your style will mean that you can ad-lib and go with the flow more — based on attendees’ energy and abilities.
Live – Eat — Breathe it!
It doesn’t matter what fitness style you do, just commit to spending a few minutes practicing what you teach.
Practice makes perfect, and knowing something inside-and-out allows you to reflect on what works for you, familiarizing movements and background thoroughly.
The next time you walk into your fitness space to share your fitness method, go in to kill it as an instructor.
The more excited you are about the movement and information you have to share, the more pumped your attendees will be.
This will encourage their effort, ultimately making each workout session more rewarding for them.
Remember having those teachers in school that enjoyed their lessons, and left you feeling excited or interested in a subject? This is the same thing.
Give it Your Own Spin
Spending time in your craft will bring you your awareness, style, and flair that you can bring to your next class.
Participants are drawn to instructors partly because of their unique take on how that individual teaches the movements, and the aspects of fitness participants want to focus on.
Share the exercise style with passion and intention!
Get Nerdy Like Steve Urkel
Be knowledgeable about anatomy, resources, and overall wellness.
You might be the main touchpoint that this person has to health.
Remember to encourage your participants to speak with their healthcare professionals if they come to you looking for healing or questions out of your scope.
Let Healthcare Professionals Handle It
You should meet them with empathy.
However, you MUST be careful about the information that you share with participants.
While you may offer a qualified suggestion based on prior experiences and basic knowledge, the attendee might take it as medical gospel when they really need an expert.
Making a suggestion “diagnosis” could come back to bite you — so be careful of your ego getting in the way.
Your opinion and knowledge is respected, but make sure to follow up with, “I’m not a doctor and I’d really recommend touching base with yours to prevent anything more severe. I want to keep you in class! 🙂 ”
Fitness is more than just fitness.
As instructors, we are branching into the realms of being teachers, entertainers, resident health guru, and friends.
Albert Einstein once said, “if you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.
Speak with language that is understandable, fun, and relatable for your attendees. You may understand all the jargon and big-words about what you do – but others probably won’t.
Make It Accessible
That doesn’t mean dumb it down completely, find a nice balance.
Attendees come to you to learn after all – Impress them a bit.
Everyone’s Leveling Up
Inform them about the muscles they are using.
Introduce mind to muscle connection, athletic mindset, yogic philosophies, and whatever else might pertain to your class.
You’re guiding your clients beyond just moving—offer your participants valuable insight to help them connect more with the fitness practice and feel more successful in completing the class.
Tap Into Your Strengths Like Tony Robbins
The more you can use your strengths, personality, and story to motivate through the class, the more the participants will connect with you and feel like part of your community, and your reach in the fitness industry will expand.
Use your natural personality and be vulnerable to make your class unique.
I love it when teachers share a personal story about what they are currently learning in their fitness journey.
The instructor taking a modification due to injury or ability makes it okay for the class to choose the variation that’s right for them.
Hook ‘Em with Charm and a Smile
Beyond making the material accessible, it’s crucial to make it fun and leave them wanting to come back next week.
You can share your journey to deepen the experience and give participants permission to be present in the journey, have an off day, mess up, and have fun.
Make a joke — it’s okay to laugh! It’s just fitness, we aren’t saving lives in an emergency situation!
Be real and authentic to attract your crowd – as you work with an individual you will get to know what works for them.
Stay Social, Social media that is.
Technology today means that fitness is no longer confined to a solitary studio or space. The worldwide web allows you to reach a wider audience.
Using sites or other online platforms can give you the edge and help boost your credibility and popularity in-class.
Think outside the box and use what works for you.
The top instructors are gaining online followings via social media and launching live classes on Zoom, Patreon, and Instagram Live.
The potential for becoming a leader in the online fitness instructor space and gaining new income streams is boundless.
Once you have a handle on your time and energy, explore how you can offer more wide-reaching services to current clients and future connections.
Set Yourself and Your Clients Boundaries
As you become more adept and your classes gain attention and become more desired – creating boundaries for your time and energy is vital.
This is next-level self-awareness and self-care.
Know your limits. You can only give from a full cup; lead self-care by example.
Replenish Your Soul and Passion
While you are managing your unique brand and fitness experience and learning more about the space, you need to practice self-care so that you can keep being great.
Find time to rejuvenate your vibrance and excitement.
That might mean taking a rest from it all and letting yourself decompress. It might be refueling by taking someone else’s class – can you say accidental learning experience? Double whammy!
This seemingly invisible habit is impactful for participants.
They will learn from your behavior, first-hand experience, and teaching.
You’re a Star, Honey
Being a fitness instructor is no longer a part-time side gig.
By becoming a better, more self-aware instructor, you increase your potential to impact lives and create a real, thriving career in the area you love.
Start showing up for your participants in a way that excites them to come back and get more involved and knowledgeable about their journey.
Strive to excel in the ever-expanding and competitive fitness industry. Aspire to inspire.
Go Forth and Prosper
I hope that this article has sparked some ideas to test out to improve your instructor skills.
I hope it’s illuminated how being a fitness instructor is so much more impactful a career than ever before.
Know other fitness instructors? Share this article with them!