We’ve all taken classes with fantastic, empowering instructors. One of my favorites is Liz at Uplift Studios in NYC. She’s one of those people who is encouraging, positive, and puts you through a tough, satisfying workout just about every time while still giving you tough love when you need it.
We’ve all also taken classes with not-so-motivational instructors…and those seem to be the ones I never forget.
I’m not an instructor and I have a certification in nothing. (I mean, if a coffee-drinking certification existed I’d totally have it. Someone invent it so I can get all certified and stuff.) I did go through training to teach classes at a sports performance center one summer as an intern, but I’m pretty much just a fitness-obsessed girl who kind of knows some stuff about some things. (WAIT, I just remembered I’m certified in CPR. Counting it.) In light of recent events (AKA a super frustrating class at my gym), I’ve decided to compile a (very opinionated) list of dos and donts for fitness instructors from a serial class attendee after all of these things happened in a class I recently took. Maybe this will help someone somewhere. Maybe not. But I couldn’t not share.
WHEN YOU’RE TEACHING A GROUP FITNESS CLASS:
Don’t assume everyone in the class is at the same level or has the same goal. Speaking to the class collectively like no one has ever worked out before is condescending. Respect that there are different people at different fitness stages with different goals. Also, SHOCKER: Not everyone takes group fitness classes to lose weight. Don’t focus all of your “motivational” tidbits on getting a “bikini body”. I’m pretty sure if I put a bikini on my body, VOILA! Bikini body. Your standards have no bearing on my workout.
Don’t be discouraging. I understand that sometimes people get a little excited and grab heavier weights than necessary, not really knowing what the class entails. WHAT YOU SHOULD SAY: ‘”we’ll be doing a lot of reps, so determine the size of dumbbells you use off of that. I recommend using X pounds. WHAT YOU SHOULD NOT SAY: “ohh I see you’re going shopping for dumbbells! You don’t need all those – this class is hard. You’re not gonna need those 10s. But you can keep them anyway, we’ll see if you use them. If you do use them, you can’t switch weights in the middle of the set!” This actually happened and it did not make me think, “Oh joy! This is going to be an awesome class!”
Create the workout with the class description in mind. This “Barbell Strength” class was described as a resistance training class. Instead, not only did we not use a barbell once, the majority of the class was cardio. I didn’t come for cardio. I get more than enough cardio throughout the week.
I’m also very sensitive about my foot and try to avoid jumping exercises, especially on back-to-back days. To my surprise, this class included a lot of jumping and I was constantly modifying.
Ask about injuries. And discuss individually, not in front of the class. Always. Always. Always.
Don’t touch anyone unless it’s absolutely necessary to fix their form. NOT okay with you creepily grabbing my sides to move me out of the way so you can demonstrate something.
Don’t try to justify yourself by constantly repeating that you’ve “done this for 30 years”. If we like the workout, we like it. You undermining us and telling us you think you’re smarter doesn’t help. And don’t stop an exercise to tell us to find you on Facebook, either.
Come to class with a workout in mind. Amidst my “Barbell Strength” class, the instructor threw in a dance sequence. I AM NOT KIDDING. It was obvious he didn’t have anything else for us to do, so to fill the time, he ran around doing seductive dance moves and encouraged us all to copy him. I’m all for having fun and being silly, but I didn’t come to this class for that awkward situation. Wrong place, wrong time.
Don’t tease someone about their fitness level. In the midst of the dance sequence, I sighed, very frustrated because I wanted a strength workout. This guy gets in my face and says SMILE!! So I say “I’d like more weights please!” (Translation: What the F dude, seriously? Why are we dancing? I’m THISCLOSE to walking out.) He turns around and says, “Okay everyone! Her arms aren’t toned enough so she wants more weights! Pick up your weights!) …Excuse me? Again, ACTUALLY HAPPENED so I gave him the most evil death stare I could muster. Naturally everyone grumbled because now I’m that girl. It’s like I reminded the teacher about the homework he forgot to collect.
And the most important of all:
Know your stuff. Please don’t make things up. Stay educated. People truly listen and look up to you as fitness professionals. Make sure you’re saying the right things. Case in point, the biggest red flag of all: the instructor said that women shouldn’t lift heavy weights because they’ll get bulky. In my opinion, THIS IS THE BIGGEST MYTH IN THE HISTORY OF STRENGTH TRAINING. First of all, do you know how hard it is to get “bulky”? And WTF, maybe I want to get bulky. Who are you to tell me how my body looks best? There’s so much bullshit info floating around the fitness industry and it needs to stop.
What are some of your best fitness class experiences? Shout out an awesome teacher or studio you love!