Is Your Group Fitness Instructor a Teacher?

Participants gather in group fitness classes for various reasons, but all with the common intention to improve themselves. Some may be interested in improving physical features like gaining or losing weight. Others may look forward to the social aspects like having company and support as they workout. Many wish to experience improvement in their mood or mental health. Let’s not exclude the reluctant bunch, who attend to simply follow their physician’s order. Whether you participate to improve the way you look, the way they feel, or because your doctor said so, it’s important to place yourself in the right hands.

Before we delve into the must-have’s of an exceptional instructor, let’s first consider what a group fitness instructor is. Perhaps, an athlete? An athlete can be defined as someone who is proficient in a sport. Anyone who trains and competes in Track and Field, Football, or Rock Climbing (to name a few) is an athlete without question. I believe that an instructor can be an athlete too, but an athlete isn’t necessarily an instructor. To instruct is to give an order or a command. A group fitness instructor may be anyone who leads an exercise class, e.g. Zumba®, Cardio Kickboxing, Spinning®, etc. Most fitness facilities require the instructor to hold a nationally accredited certification in the exercise format they teach.

So should you workout with the group fitness instructor who has 10 certifications – Man, he/she must really know what they’re doing from all of that education – the athlete with the best track record – Wow, their medals and titles speak for themself – or simply choose the one you want to look like – duh?

You can follow an instructor who has the body that you want week after week, month after month, year after year, and never achieve their body because guess what…it’s THEIR body and you have to set goals based on yourself, not others. Instead, first consider which class format you want to try. Maybe you need the stretching and toning that Pilates provides, or need a cardio class to reduce body fat and help lower your blood pressure. (I’ll be sure to go more in depth on how to choose the right exercise class in my next post)! Once you’ve decided on a class format, selecting an instructor should come next.

There are some traits that you should look for in your current or next instructor – and no, it does not include having the smallest waist, roundest buttocks, or biggest biceps! The following are key values that I feel that all instructors should have or include in their class:

  • Introduction: Your instructor should start off each class with a greeting and lay out expectations for the class.
  • Cueing: Your instructor should not only demonstrate an exercise, but also cue the class on proper alignment, foot/hand placement, breathing, tempo, among others.
  • Observation: Your instructor should be attentive by either walking through the class (if appropriate), or establishing eye contact from time to time.
  • Engagement: Your instructor should ask you how you are feeling every so often.
  • Encouragement: Your instructor should say something that motivates you throughout the class.
  • Safety: Your instructor should provide modifications to any exercise when appropriate.
  • Compassion: Your instructor should make you feel comfortable enough to ask questions at the end.
  • Appreciaton: Your instructor should recognize and acknowledge your return to class by the second time you attend.
  • Rapport: Your instructor should make the effort to get to know you once you become a regular attendee.

A teacher is not only someone with several letters trailing their name, who walks into a classroom in dress shoes, carrying a briefcase stocked with a laptop, worksheets, and markers. A teacher is also the person who shows up in canvas shoes, with a duffle bag across their shoulder, equipped with a towel, water bottle, and music player. A teacher thinks about their students before, during, and after class. A teacher is selfless and puts the class above their personal gains. A teacher continuously works towards helping each student leave with some value from every class! Instructing is a job, while teaching is a profession!

Is your Group Fitness Instructor a Teacher?

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