What Your Group X Instructor Wishes You Knew

A lot has changed since I taught my first class, way back in 2007. It’s amazing how much you can pick up throughout the years – and I don’t mean the three or four other certifications I’ve added to my repertoire. It’s the little tips, ideas and observations you gather along the way – and many of them don’t come from continuing education … they are the lessons you learn from the people who frequent your class week after week.

That said, I absolutely love being a group fitness instructor. It is one of the most rewarding jobs I could ever imagine having. But we instructors definitely have our secrets – things you may not see during class, or know about us. Here are a few of the most common things we wish you knew:

  • There’s a lot of prep work before our time together. I took Pilates classes at least twice a week for four years before I started teaching them. I ran Piloxing choreography for months before I was comfortable enough to show it to anyone other than myself in the mirror. I’m constantly searching for new Spinning music, and I spend time every week crafting, shuffling and reworking my playlists so they have the right flow. I’m constantly researching answers to your questions, looking for more efficient ways to explain or cue an exercise.
  • I’m not always happy/healthy/perky/awake … or whatever you think I am. I am definitely not perfect. I’ve taught Spinning classes on three hours of sleep. I’ve smiled and joked through a class the day my grandfather passed away. I feel fat sometimes. I recently spent six weeks teaching on a stress reaction in my left foot (a precursor to a stress fracture, for those of you who are wondering … and no, I had never heard of it until I saw the x-rays, and yes, I would have cried had my doctor cut me off instead of telling me to cut back on the barefoot training). As the instructor said at my Piloxing certification, we have to give 150% just to get our classes to give 80%. It’s truer than you know.
  • That said … all those eyes can be a little intimidating. Being in front of 15, 25, sometimes 35 or more people is an invitation to be scrutinized. I’m going to miss a cue once in a while. I’m going to say something stupid. I have terrible balance, so I’m probably going to teeter at some point. I may joke about it … but trust me, it’s because I’m beating myself up over it.
  • Leave the phone at home. I vividly remember teaching a Spinning class during which a girl –right in front of me, nonetheless – sat and texted the entire class. First, you’re distracting yourself from what you should be doing (breathing, focusing on form, pushing yourself), and secondly, you’re a distraction to the people around you, as well. Unless you are a doctor on-call, or your wife is about to give birth any second, there is no reason why you can’t turn the technology for one hour. I leave my cell in the car – my gym time is my me (or class) time.
  • Drink up. I carry a 32 oz. water bottle pretty much everywhere. I go through at least three of them when I’m at work, and usually another one (or more) at the gym. By the time you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
  • I don’t want your germs. I’m sure the people around you don’t, either. If you’re sick – and especially if it’s something contagious, like the flu – stay home and recover. Pushing too hard when you’re under the weather will just delay getting you back to 100%.
  • Follow my lead. Why go to a class if you’re just going to do your own thing? Not only is it a distraction to the people who want to be doing what I’m doing, you could actually end up hurting yourself. There’s a reason I give modifications and options – so that every fitness level can get the level of difficulty they’re looking for. You shouldn’t be doing crunches while the rest of us are throwing punches and trying not to trip over you.
  • BREATHE! The more oxygen you have circulating through your body, the easier your exercise will feel. Never, ever hold your breath, because you could pass out – and though I am required to be certified in CPR, but I pray I never have to use it.
  • If you have a question, ask me! I love when people come up to me with questions – it tells me that not only did they like my class, they were paying attention and genuinely want to get stronger. I may not always know the answer, but if I don’t, I’ll look into it – or at least try to steer you in the right direction.

So keep these tips in mind, and keeping sharing your ideas and suggestions with me! Knowing what my classes like, what works for them, and what they don’t like is what keeps them coming back for more – even after I send them  home achy and covered in sweat.

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