What it Takes to be an Elite Group Fitness Instructor

On the first day of the group fitness instructor’s class I took at InfoFit in Vancouver in June 2019, my instructor said, “There are many mediocre instructors, but the elite instructors are the ones who are very busy and well sought after.” 

Teaching fitness is a lot of fun, you get paid to work out, but if you want to be the best, then you have to put the work into it. He then posed the following question to us: “You have to decide: do you want to be a mediocre instructor, or do you want to be an elite instructor?”

Even though I haven’t been teaching fitness classes since the COVID lockdowns began, I still keep this in the back of my mind because, at some point in the future, I’d like to get back into teaching fitness classes.

So, what differentiates an elite group fitness class instructor from a mediocre one? An elite group fitness class instructor does the following:

1.   She makes every participant feel welcome, regardless of that person’s fitness level.

2.  Creates an environment that is positive, inclusive, and promotes team-spirit. Instructors who set realistic, relevant goals for all participants and encourages them to work towards achieving those goals as a group, enhances participant adherence as well as enjoyment.

3.  Provides progressions and regressions of every exercise to accommodate participants of all fitness levels and encourages them to listen to their bodies.

4.  Puts participants first and isn’t simply getting paid to do his or her own work outs.

5.  Offers corrective feedback whenever necessary, but does so without singling out a participant and always follows up with a word of encouragement.

6.  Is well prepared, on time (or, if possible, at least a half an hour early for set-up), and enthusiastic.

7.  Doesn’t gossip about other instructors, leaves all personal problems outside of the classroom, and doesn’t choose favourites.

8.  Dresses appropriately and never wears clothing that is too revealing (like those short-shorts or low-cut sports bras), too baggy, or dirty.

9.  Uses music that is motivating and appropriate for the type of fitness class being taught, but not jacked up to a level where the instructor has to yell in order to be heard.

10. Checks all equipment that’s being used and removes any equipment that may be defective.

11. Always has a back-up plan just in case things go wrong. For example: the power goes out during or before class, the sound system doesn’t work, or it rains on the scheduled day of an outdoor boot camp.

Teaching fitness classes can be a heck of a lot of fun, but with it comes much preparation and experience.

So, in answer to my instructor’s question: ‘Do you want to be a mediocre instructor or an elite instructor?’ I most definitely want to be an elite group fitness class instructor. That’s because I’m passionate about health and fitness, but also because I firmly believe that everyone has a right to participate in a fitness program of their choice and feel like they belong. 

I want to motivate and inspire others to enjoy physical activity (both inside and outside of the gym) and perceive their fitness goals as a lifelong journey of maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle as opposed to just simply getting a toned and leaner body. I also want people to see exercise as means to learn new skills, forge new friendships, alleviate stress, and to just have fun.

An individual’s personal satisfaction and level of enjoyment with my future exercise programs will be well worth the effort I put into it.

 

Online Workouts Versus the Gym: Pros and Cons

Nowadays there are so many types of exercise programs that are designed to meet every person’s need and lifestyle. With the continual advancement of technology, you don’t have to frequent the gym: You can work out from the comfort of your own home in your spare time. Both options can be rewarding and will enable you to achieve your fitness goals if you stick with one or both options and are consistent. Though, like with anything, there are pros and cons to both.

The Gym

Pros

–  Most gyms offer a variety of fitness classes, like Yoga, Zumba, Kickboxing, HIIT boot camps, and others which gives you more to choose from if you don’t want to run on the treadmill or lift weights.

– You meet other people at a gym, which opens up doors of opportunity to forging new friendships.

– You have a chance to train with an instructor or personal trainer who will offer encouragement and help ensure that you perform every exercise safely and effectively with the right posture and technique.

Cons

– Gym memberships are often expensive and so they are only worth it if you are firmly committed to a program more than once or twice a week.

– Fitness classes or allotted discount hours at a gym may not fit your schedule if you have young children or are a busy working professional.

– Weight machines and treadmills can get boring after a while, especially if you have no workout buddy.

Online Workouts

Pros

– There are a wide variety of online programs and apps that you can subscribe to or download onto your tablet or phone.

– Online workout programs are more affordable than a regular gym membership. Some fitness pros even streamline a variety of their workouts on YouTube for no cost.

– You can work out anytime and anywhere, an ideal option if you’re a stay-at-home mom or if you live in a remote area where there are no gyms nearby.

– You have the opportunity to connect with personal trainers and other fitness enthusiasts around the world.

Cons

– It can be hard to motivate yourself to tune in and work out, especially if you’re by yourself or feeling exhausted after a long day at work.

– We all know that technology is finicky. It doesn’t always work when we want it to work. The WiFi where you live may not work properly or not at all for whatever reason. You can get yourself moving and do all the exercises without access to your program, but it’s even better when you’re doing it while watching an instructor over a streamlined video.

– Working out at home can be lonely.

– There is no instructor present to give you feedback on your posture and biomechanics. You can watch the instructor demonstrate each exercise, but you’re ultimately teaching yourself how to do each exercise. To perform a set of exercises with proper form and technique can take longer to achieve when you’re attempting to perfect it via an online workout program than it would if you were doing that same workout program at a local gym.

When it comes to exercise — as with anything — we all have our preferences. Keep in mind that your pros may be someone else’s cons. Bottom line: Do whatever workout you enjoy doing and that best suits your lifestyle whether it’s at home or at a gym.

Outdoor Boot Camps: 7 Tips to Consider for Success and Enjoyment

Now that it’s Spring, I’m sure you are looking forward to taking your fitness classes outdoors for the warm months.

Outdoor boot camps can be a blast because they allow your participants the opportunity to burn it outdoors one to three times per week throughout the summer months. While it’s fun to work out in the sun, there are seven things to consider and take into account before and during your outdoor boot camp to ensure it runs smoothly, is fun, safe, and enjoyable for everyone.

Location is key

Public parks are optimal for outdoor boot camps because they are situated in flat-lying areas. That said, you can’t just set up your equipment and start teaching in any park. Most, if not all parks are managed by a governing body and so group fitness class instructors are required to have a permit in order to teach fitness classes.

Once you have chosen a park for your boot camp class, check your city’s parks and recreation website and see how you can apply for and obtain a permit.

Set a schedule

Determine a schedule for your class. Mornings and evenings are ideal times for an outdoor boot camp class, especially during the summer months as the air is cooler and neither you nor your participants run the risk of getting a heat-related illness. Also, early mornings and evenings are best for most people as those times generally don’t interfere with their work schedule.

Another thing to keep in mind: The park’s schedule. Parks are popular places for festivities, weddings, and sporting events throughout the summer months. Know when those events take place and plan your boot camp accordingly.

Equipment you will use 

As you plan your outdoor boot camp program, know which type of equipment you will need.  That all depends on which type of classes you will be teaching. If you’re a start-up business owner who isn’t contracted by or affiliated with any gym, you may want to consider starting out by creating a program that involves a variety of bodyweight exercises or with minimal equipment (dumbbells, sandbags, resistant bands, resistant tubes, etc…) where you can partner off participants. It all depends on your budget.

If you plan on using a variety of equipment for your outdoor boot camp, be sure to shop around for the best deals but make sure that the equipment you purchase is in tip top condition, especially if you are buying it online. Avoid using any equipment that is homemade or worn out as the likelihood of those being damaged and causing injury is highly likely.

Footwear

Make sure that you have the proper footwear for your program, even though you will be demonstrating all exercises, but not actually doing them. Also, make recommendations for proper footwear and other attire to your participants.

Keep your eye on the weather

Check the weather forecast and air quality daily. Don’t hold classes outdoors on days where there is high air pollution or where there is a high pollen count.

Unfortunately, outdoor boot camps can be unpredictable as they are dependent on the weather.  Not every day of the summer will be hot and dry, so it’s important to have a back-up plan, a gym or other facility where you can hold your classes in case the weather doesn’t cooperate. Don’t proceed with your boot camp class outdoors during or immediately after a rainfall as both you and your participants run the risk of getting injured.

Inspect the area

Arrive at least a half an hour before each class and check the park for animal feces, garbage, glass, any other unwanted materials and remove any and all if found (with latex gloves of course, so don’t forget to bring them just in case).

If the ground in the area of park where you plan to hold classes is uneven or is full of patchy grass and small, loose stones, relocate your class to another area of the park.

Beware of insects

Another thing to be mindful of, especially during the summer months, is insects. In any case, always bring with you a first aid kit and insect repellent, or instruct your participants to bring insect repellent. 

If you discover a wasp nest or anthill nearby, cordon off that area with cones or another marker if you have one and tell all of your participants to keep away from there. Even better, set up your boot camp in another area of the park.

Yes, it’s work to plan, prepare, and organize an outdoor boot camp and it takes a lot of effort to make it a success, especially when taking into account all of the above mentioned. Though, hard work, combined with a positive attitude and effort to create an environment that is safe and fun for everyone will maximize everyone’s level of enjoyment and also your success as a fitness instructor.

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