5 Signs you Could be a stronger Instructor


… and how to build that group fitness strength

    From Fitness Trainer May/June

Have you ever been to a bad group fitness class and walked out of there almost a little angry because of the bad group fitness instructor? I sure have. Even though I’ve been teaching group fitness classes for a long time and know the right way to lead a workout, I don’t expect perfection from every class that I attend. Not at all. I love variety in teaching styles, and I love learning from different types of people in all sorts of settings. Yet there are certainly a few things that rub me the wrong way in a class.

That’s why today, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you—the 5 signs you could be a stronger group fitness instructor … and the movements needed to gain that strength.


From Zero Introduction to a Welcoming Warm Up

People are about to follow your voice, moves and lead for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, so they at least deserve to have a hello. While you may know most of the participants and they may have signed up for class by seeing your name, it’s still a good idea to:

  • Say hi! And share your name.
  • Give a brief overview of what’s about to happen in the workout (or at least the focus of the day).
  • Thank the group for showing up. I hate it when an instructor just opens up with the first move. It’s not right. Set the scene. Be a host. Show some manners.

From “Out-of-the-Gym” Tude to Studio Sincerity

Do not. I repeat, do not let your participants or members know if you’re having a bad day. Your job is to motivate, inspire and lead them. While you can certainly be a real person and chat about your life before or after class, there is a fine line between being “real” and being a downer. If you’re an instructor, it’s your job to be professional and deliver a great workout, whether you have a headache or a to-do list a mile long. Show up. Be present. Be positive.

From Auto-Pilot Instruction to Tightened and Reviewed Cues

While I’m all for creating a community and interacting with your regulars as though you’re old friends, as an effective instructor, you’ve got to give some compulsory cues and teach every class as though there is someone a little bit new in the room.

It’s the right way to do it. Because a lot of times, people enjoy the reminders of basic set-up. And sometimes people may not speak up and let you know that they’re new, so you have to make sure you’re creating a safe environment for them within the larger group. Not to mention, if your routines are exactly the same from week-to-week and people don’t need coaching, you need to seriously evaluate your programming. Variety is key.

From Chat, Chat, Chat to Reading the Room

There is something very powerful about purposeful silence. And we all need to practice that in life, both inside the group fitness studio and out.

Sometimes group fitness instructors feel like they need to narrate every second of every class, but a lot of times, just closing your mouth and letting the music and exercise take place is a better choice. Work the silence! It’s a lot harder to pause and read the room than it is to talk over it. Trust me. Experience means shutting up when it’s needed.

From Singling Out Scenes to Self Demos

I recently attended a class where an instructor asked everyone to look as she corrected a shy participant in the middle of the room. That poor person was mortified, and I’m fairly certain they will never return to that awful studio.

While it’s okay to use a model participant to show an option or the right way to do something, you should never call out people for doing something wrong in front of others. It’s not nice. Not nice at all. Think about how you would feel if you showed up to do something out of your comfort zone and were made the example in class. Not good. Not welcoming. Not what group fitness is about.

I’ve experienced a little bit of all of these things while attending tons of classes over the years in big corporate gyms, private studios and even during outdoor bootcamps. While at times I’ve still had a good workout from a bad instructor, there’s little to no chance that I’ll be a repeat customer in that particular time-slot. Life’s too short to take classes from bad group fitness instructors. Right?

Ashley Pitt

Is a San Francisco based personal trainer, group fitness instructor, writer and editor, who worked much of her professional life in corporate communications, public relations and copywriting before landing where she is today. She teaches several Les Mills group fitness classes a week around the San Francisco Bay Area, including Les Mills BODYPUMP, BODYATTACK and CXWORX, as well as barre-style classes, including Bootybarre. Pitt’s fitness musings can be found at A Lady Goes West a healthy lifestyle blog about living a balanced and happy life.