How to please group fitness participants

Can you make everyone happy?

Recently I received an email from an aqua instructor asking ‘Are you able to share ideas with me on how I can keep everyone happy in a class? The participants are of different ages, have different abilities and fitness levels and injuries and I am finding it a little hard to keep everyone happy’.

My response was that I don’t know how to make everyone happy. If I surveyed my clients, I am sure that most would have feedback about how the class could be better, and it would all conflict. Some would like it harder, some would like it easier, some would like more suspension, others would like none at all. I don’t know of any instructor that has successfully kept everyone happy. It is impossible to try to suit the needs of each individual in a group setting.

Coincidently, this instructor had asked for notes for my The Chocolate Box DVD and found her answer in the summary that I had written so many years ago.

Develop an acceptance of change

See if you can make your aqua time slot a ‘Chocolate Box’ full of favourite and sweet surprises. Not everyone will love every chocolate, but will be happy to eat them anyway. Try different class concepts regularly, so that your loyal cliental do not develop a mind set of what should be delivered each week. Make them familiar with trying new ideas, so that they develop an acceptance of change.

There it was… the answer that had alluded me in that moment, but had wisdom to know a few years ago. The initial concept of The Chocolate Box had come from being inspired by the movie Forest Gump and in a scene, Forest says to a lady sitting on the same park bench, ‘My momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’ That quote has stayed with me throughout my career and personal life. The exciting thing about chocolate boxes, is that you don’t know what to expect as you choose one. Sometimes that they amazing, other times they are ok, but you are happy to eat them anyway. I figured that if I could focus on this with my classes, I could detach myself from any personal interpretations from feedback offered by well-meaning members. Having gone down that rabbit hole a few times, fulfilling individual expectations is impossible. You make a change that they have requested, to then get more feedback that it wasn’t what they wanted. Back and forth until you feel that you are losing your mind and motivation to teach the class.

Now moving forward, I am really happy that this quote was brought to my attention and my focus will again shift to appreciating each ‘chocolate surprise’ that my day brings.