On Friday 18th November I posted on Facebook this comment: ‘Virtual Les Mills classes starting at the Melbourne City Baths in one month. Interesting times ahead’. I had no idea the response and feedback that I would receive from the fitness community. Within minutes there were responses coming in thick and fast and I have to say, I was impressed by the comments – all well-articulated, intelligent responses in regards to what instructors and members feelings and thoughts were about the topic.
If you have been in the fitness industry for over 10 years, you will note some considerable changes that have happened in that period of time that now instructors have all accepted. The biggest one for me has been online education. As a presenter, I have enjoyed delivering workshops face to face for several years (25) and now the numbers are getting smaller and smaller with the response from instructors that online training is more convenient. I understand this, but the situation remains the same, I have been replaced by a virtual workshop.
Currently the big issue is group fitness classes and the possibility that instructors maybe replaced by a video. Some comments on Facebook centred around fitness clubs wanting to cut down expenses. That very well may be true, but setting up the virtual workout is not cheap nor is the licence, having said that, instructor wages are one of the biggest expenses for group fitness. Les Mills introduced the fitness industry to the concept of ‘cost per head’, which had not been previously been factored in most group class monthly reports. Now it is one of the key performance indicators that will also determine how many classes are on the schedule. A virtual class would mean that the instructor’s wage would never go up and other expenses like tax, work cover and superannuation for employee instructors would also prove to be a saving.
Another frequent response was on the topic of injury. Participants require supervision otherwise they will get injured. I thought that this was a very interesting discussion as I have known of injuries happening when there has been an instructor present. Not sure which is potentially worse, a participant being injured in front of an instructor or a participant knowing full well that there is no staff present and getting an injury. You could argue that injuries happen, with and without supervision. Also, how unsafe is following a video? Countless people follow YouTube clips and videos at home without supervision, so does the arguement hold any substance?
Ultimately, this will be consumer driven. If members do not like the video option and prefer to go to a ‘Live’ class, then instructors will still be in demand and there are certainly things we can do to make this more appealing:
1. Get to know your clients names. This is something instructors always talk about and I decided to set myself a personal goal this year to know 100% of my clients names. It has completely changed the way I think. Instead of thinking ‘I can’t remember names’, now it is ‘I will remember your name’. I ask for the person’s name on greeting them, and if I don’t remember, I am not embarrassed to ask again. The clients don’t mind at all, they love that you make an effort! Now that is something that a video can’t do! Being able to hi and bye and provide personalised technique correction and praise to individuals.
2. Look after your beginners. Think about the last time you were doing something new. Ok, that might have been a long time ago, but try to remember how uncomfortable it felt to be somewhere where everyone knew what to do and you were watching, copying and learning fast. Overwhelming! Especially with exercise where it is now the new black to look cool while you perform your routine, box jumps and amazing burpees. Beginners are where you can create a loyal fan. No one ever forgets that instructor who made them feel comfortable and welcomed. What does it take? Make a beeline to them when they walk in the door at the beginning of a class and introducing yourself and asking their name. Then use their name while you explain what is involved and what ‘short cuts’ they can take if it is too challenging. Making it ok to slow down and not over challenge themselves. There is no competition in group exercise or between you and your class, so let them know that they can listen to how they feel and back off if necessary. And then finally check in with them either during the class and most importantly at the end of the class. Ask questions about how they felt and if they have any questions? And again… use their name!
3. Make your classes a unique experience every time. You must have heard members complain about an instructor who ‘does the same thing every week’. For pre-choreography, not much from the class workout can change, but you can be different. Do you use the same cues for the same exercises? Do you do the same routine every week? Do you use humour and get the class involved by responding to questions during the workout? There are lots of ways to make it a class that the clients know that they going to have a unique experience. I personally love sharing a story or unexpectedly breaking out in song during a popular track. I love the unexpected, so with experience I have learnt how to let myself be comfortable with being me in front of the class (professionally of course). I like being entertaining and laughing, which is what I attempt to do in every class.
4. This is my final point and it comes from Dr. Suess. I love this quote and have it stuck to my wall in front of my computer at my desk, so that I can see it every day and reflect upon how I have conducted myself recently. ‘Today You are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.’