11 tips for being a great fitness instructor

Whether you are new to the fitness instructor industry or are a veteran, you are likely to have a deep passion for fitness, health, and wellbeing. You enjoy working out and you don’t have any problems with eating healthily. But that may not be the case for everyone – and it may not be the case for many of your fitness students.

A lot of people may feel that exercising is something they simply have to do. They may have gained weight over the years and are now feeling a little unhealthy. And this is where great fitness instructors can help.

Being a fitness instructor involves much more than just enjoying a workout and learning how to eat well. It is also about being able to inspire, motivate, and lead others. To become a workout instructor you will be required to first enrol in and complete a group fitness certification.

Whether you have already completed your group fitness certification or are still working towards it, let’s take a deep dive into 11 effective fitness class ideas for instructors that you may introduce to your fitness instructor sessions to add even more value to your fitness students.

1. Make safety priority number one

If you want to be a good fitness trainer you may consider making safety your top responsibility. As a group fitness instructor it is up to you to ensure that everyone participating in your classes stays safe. This includes avoiding collisions with other people during running drills and people accidentally hitting each other with exercise equipment.

To keep your clients safe and out of harm’s way, it’s important to ensure they are exercising according to best practice – which you can show them. Workout injuries can be quite common, and in most instances many of these injuries can be avoided.

When using free weights or performing other resistance exercises, it is important to pay special attention to group safety. For example bad form can cause back pain, neck pain, and knee pain when doing weighted squats. It’s important that your students avoid getting injured while they are participating in your fitness classes. If injuries become the norm, students likely won’t keep coming back to your classes.

2. Always be over-prepared

Although this point may be somewhat obvious, this is also the foundation for the following nine other strategies. Continuing education and lesson plans are essential fitness group leaders. You will feel more confident in your ability to teach by knowing the why and the how behind the fitness program you create.

It certainly helps to have a plan for how your class will run. Boot camps should have a plan that outlines how the participants will move from one activity to the next. Also, be clear about why you chose these particular exercises. You can also create choreographed exercises for your group fitness classes and then practice the routine with your students.

3. Be prepared for bumps and stay on the right side of the road

It doesn’t matter how well you plan your fitness class or boot camp session, because things don’t always go to plan. Be prepared for potential pitfalls and challenges that may present themselves. It’s easier if you have a plan for dealing with difficult situations before they occur than to worry about what to do in the event that something goes wrong unexpectedly.

If you misplace your music player or its battery goes dead, keep a second music playing device in your fitness bag as a back-up. Also, be prepared to adapt your class fitness plan to your students’ needs. For example, you may need to modify your lesson for pregnant students or participants who are carrying niggling injuries.

4. Develop your leader persona

While you will likely already have your group fitness certification, or are working towards obtaining it, you can also benefit by developing your leadership skills. Focus on your teaching personality, and what makes you a great motivational leader. Then, think about what you uniquely bring to your workouts and then highlight that experience in your classes. How would others describe you as a leader?

This is not about participants describing your classes or boot camp style. When you are in front of your fitness students, do they see you as a supportive fitness mentor, an inspiring and motivating instructor, and a fitness thought leader? Think about the leader persona you project to your students, by considering:

  • how you speak (do you give a lot of technical advice?);
  • how you dress (do you look like a leading fitness professional?);
  • what you teach (what is your flavour of fitness instruction and what is your class format?); and
  • how you act (are you mellow, boisterous or disarmingly humorous).

5. Identify your allies

It can be intimidating for new fitness instructors to face a group that is constantly changing, but this is something that happens with traditional group exercise. Group fitness classes are always full of unfamiliar faces. You never know who you might meet in any given fitness session you hold. Consider your regular students as your friends and support team. They respect you and your fitness teachings, and even if they don’t know it, they provide support to you.

6. Keep things interesting

Remember to keep things fresh in your fitness lessons. While consistency is great, you don’t want to bore your fitness class participants. People may lose interest in your classes if you simply peddle out the same routines week in, week out. It may even get to the point where they cancel their membership and stop using your services.

If you are having trouble coming up with fresh fitness ideas, it may help to do some research to see what other fitness instructors are doing. Part of your research may include looking at what fitness instructors overseas are doing or reading up on emerging techniques in fitness instruction.

Also, you may delight your students by giving each class a different theme. For example, if you teach the same students three days a week you may provide three very different workouts. For example:

  • Day one: Cycling and bodyweight cardio
  • Day two: Weight training and
  • Day three: Kickboxing

Of course, you can design your fitness classes any way you wish to – but remember that mixing it up can keep your students engaged and motivated, which will keep them coming back for more.

To make your students feel special, create unique names for each fitness class based on what type of training each class will cover, who is in the class, and the day of the week the class is held. To instill unity and comradery, include your students in your decision-making process.

7. Spend one on one time with every class member

Group fitness classes offer many benefits, and training with others creates more energy in your fitness classes. This helps your students to push their limits and gives them something to look forward to during their workouts. You want everyone attending your fitness classes to feel valued and important. As such, it’s crucial that you spend some time looking at each of your students multiple times during your class.

Act in a professional manner all the time. Correct your students’ form, give them compliments, and encourage them by giving them one-on-one attention. While some people prefer group fitness classes for the lack of personal attention, it’s important that every student who attends your fitness class feels appreciated.

8. Lead by example

As a group fitness instructor, it goes without saying that your students will look up to you for both motivation and inspiration. Because of this, it’s important that you set the right example and be a good role model. Bear in mind that your fitness class students will be affected by the attitude and energy you bring to every fitness class you teach

If you’ve had a bad day and you bring any lingering negativity to your fitness class, bear in mind that your students are perceptive and will pick up on your mood. This can make it more difficult for them to engage with your fitness routine.

Remember that your students come to your fitness class to feel good about themselves, so it’s important that you project positive vibes throughout their class. Aim to be 100 per cent invested in the class you are leading. Your students come to you for much-needed motivation, inspiration, and instruction, so reward their trust in you by being there for them – even if you’ve had a bad day yourself.

9. Know your audience

Knowing how to read others is one of the most important characteristics that makes a group fitness instructor great at their craft. There may be a particular style of coaching that you prefer. But not everyone will respond to the same strategy.

Some people, for example, like being pushed. They thrive on tough love. Others require a gentler approach. They will give up or quit on themselves if they are treated with tough love. Truly knowing your fitness students can help you to better communicate with them in a general tone that they will engage with and appreciate. Beyond that, you may also commit time and effort to learning how best to communicate individually with your regular students.

10. Always be accessible after classes finish

It’s in your interest to make yourself available to your students after your fitness class finishes. It’s unlikely you will have the time to chat with students before your class begins, but it will be in your interest to still make every effort to be available for your classmates after the session.

Allow students to share their feelings about your class. Ask them questions about nutrition, exercise, and motivation. Forging stronger relationships with your students can increase your credibility and help you to increase the number of students who regularly attend your lessons.

11. Project confidence at all times

The last step in this exercise teacher guide is about projecting confidence to your students. All of the above points offer strategies for demonstrating your confidence as a fitness instructor, putting your students at ease, and making them feel comfortable with their choices – including choosing to pay for and use your fitness instruction classes.

However, it’s worth mentioning again that your success or otherwise as a fitness instructor can be impacted by how confident you are in front of your students. Confidence is infectious, and projecting confidence can increase your chances of growing your fitness business. Your students will certainly notice it.

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This information is general only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It should not be relied upon as advice. As with any insurance, cover will be subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions contained in the policy wording.
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