It’s about the experience you create
Teaching a group fitness class can be an incredibly empowering and gratifying experience. It can also be challenging, daunting and downright terrifying. There’s always a little voice telling you that you don’t know enough to teach a class or that people will judge your every move while they watch you. Teaching a class is like going on stage—you must get out of your head, get over yourself and go for it! But even though teaching a group fitness class is scary, it can be the most fun you’ve ever had.
The most important thing to know about teaching a group fitness class is that the participants don’t care about you or how much experience you have. It doesn’t matter how many degrees you have hanging on the wall either. They want to enjoy the class and feel successful doing it, and they are there because they want to improve their health and fitness. A successful class is about helping participants get what they came for.
Here are some tips on preparing yourself and keeping cool when standing up in front of a room full of strangers.
Before You Teach Class – PREPARE
Make a list of exercises you’re going to do in the class. This will help keep you on track during your time in front of the room and impress your students with your knowledge and creativity. Knowing what exercise is coming up next in your workout and how it is meant to progress through the class will give you a sense of confidence. This also helps them feel safe when they come to your class.
A good rule of thumb is to plan what you will say and make notes to refer back to them if necessary. Make a list of things you’ll say during your class. Everyone loves hearing about themselves, so why not take advantage of that? Depending on the class type, you may want to say something different when introducing an exercise or station. For example, if you’re teaching an arm toning circuit, you might ask people what they did over the weekend (and then call out their activities) or tell them how many calories they burned during their workout last week. Nothing is worse than forgetting what comes next because you haven’t prepared.
Plan your playlist to have a good mix of upbeat songs that will motivate people through their workout and slower songs that help people wind down after an intense exercise session and move into the stretch.
Practise, practise, practise!
This is one of the most critical tricks to boosting your fitness teaching confidence. If you want to be good at something, then practice makes perfect! The more you teach and practise teaching, the more confident you will become in yourself as an instructor.
As you develop your style of teaching, keep these tips in mind:
Practice your demo a few times.
Nothing is worse than seeing an instructor who doesn’t know how to demonstrate the moves correctly. Even if you are a great dancer or athlete, you’ve got to understand what the movements look like when they are done correctly. If you’re leading a high-energy cardio or dance class, practice your moves at home (or in front of a mirror at the gym, if it’s allowed). This may seem silly, but it helps you get comfortable with your teaching. And it enables you to look like an expert when demonstrating the moves in class.
Practice your transitions between moves. Learning how to move quickly from one exercise to another is essential. Transitions are important. They keep the pace going, and they provide structure to the class. For example, if you have music playing, don’t just play one track after another — build up towards a peak with crescendos and then bring it down again before moving on to the next song.
Practice saying everything in front of a mirror over and over until it feels like ‘you’ saying things. It’s so easy to get caught up in the actual movement that we ignore what we’re saying. And if we don’t have our audience’s attention, then the whole class is lost!
The Power Pose
Some instructors are natural performers who love the limelight. Others are more hesitant and prefer a less public role. No matter your comfort level, power posing is a great tool to help you feel more confident before going onstage.
Amy Cuddy is a social psychologist at Harvard Business School who has researched how body language affects performance. In one experiment conducted with two groups of people — one high-power group and one low-power group — Cuddy explains people who sit in “expansive” postures (e.g., sitting tall or standing with their arms and legs spread open) not only feel more powerful than those who sit in “contractive” postures (e.g., cross-legged or hunched over), they also perform better on cognitive tests and physical tasks.
Power posing may seem unnecessary, even silly, but it has been proven that doing something as simple as this in the moments before you are about to do something stressful will help you perform better. It’s called “power posing” because it boosts testosterone and lowers cortisol, giving you more confidence and reducing fear. So what should these poses look like? Each instructor is different, so there isn’t an exact right or wrong way to stand. It’s all about what feels natural to you. One suggestion is standing with your feet at least slightly wider than your hips. Your arms can be out to the side, above your head or with your hands on your hips.
Stay true to yourself – You got this!
Hopefully, you’ve picked up a few things from this guide to make your group fitness class go off without a hitch. If you have the passion and aptitude for teaching others about your chosen activity, you can be a great teacher. And when your friends see how much better they’re getting, because of you, in no time, they’ll all be following–and inviting–you to lead the class. Stay true to yourself and enjoy teaching group fitness—you should love it!