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?

Don’t Be That Guy

“I’ve lost 10 pounds, but I can’t lose anymore weight”, “I want to workout, but I have a bad back”, “I lift heavy, but I’m not getting any bigger”, are some typical issues patrons share with me. When I give them some suggestions, all too often, not only do they disregard my advice, they come back to me with the same problem! [Cue eye roll] Don’t be that guy (or girl)!

I understand that talking about your problems can help you cope at times. I’m more than happy to be there for anyone who needs an ear. It can be very comforting knowing that you have someone who you can talk to. After all, sometimes all that you need is a good pep talk to get you back on your feet. However, if you find yourself constantly asking others for help on the same issue, you may be missing something. Is what you seek a resolution to your problem, or to feel like you are doing something about your problem? Take a moment to think about that.

Simply talking about your problem will not solve your problem. You must take action! Start by making small changes to your routine for a greater chance at success, versus making a huge jump that may be overwhelming. While there are many things in this world that are out of our control, what we eat, what time we go to bed, how we spend our free time, how we treat ourselves and others are all within our control.

If you feel that you have been trying your best to make a change and have been unsuccessful, then it’s time to speak up. Just make sure that when you seek help from a trainer, or a trusted fitness professional, that you are prepared to hear something that you have not already thought of. Be ready to do something that you have never done before, to see results that you have never seen before.

You are the only one who is holding yourself back. Stop looking for shortcuts, magical beans, or excuses. Start to put yourself in action, remain confident in your abilities, and always keep an open-mind. You got this!

News for U

Goodbye, Panthers!

Dear FIU Family,

I’ve had great times at Florida International University – Wellness and Recreation Center. I’m so proud of the community of dedicated patrons who have made my PantherFit classes enjoyable and memorable, and my personal clients who I’ve built close relationships with and watched develop. I love you guys and I am profoundly grateful for all of the support over the past three years. It saddens me to leave, however, I must go where greater opportunity lies and right now that is with the University of Miami. I will miss you dearly, Panthers! Please keep in touch ➪ contact. Thanks for everything, FIU!

Image Source: miami.edu

Hello, ‘Canes!

Dear UM Family,

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be teaching Cardio Kickboxing and Total Knockout classes at the University of Miami – Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center, beginning Spring 2019. A big thanks to the Assistant Director of Fitness for this opportunity! I’m looking forward to building new relationships and experiences! View my schedule ➪ group fitness classes and I’ll see you soon!

Cheers to a great year,


Instagram | YouTube | Blog

Skip the Resolution!

If every year you make a resolution that you never fulfill, I challenge you to skip the resolution this year. Yes, that’s right – no New Year’s Resolution! Skip the “I’m going to lose ten pounds”, “I’m going to give up ice cream”, “I’m going to run everyday!” While these resolutions may sound positive, they are hardly ever met. Instead of a resolution, make something that actually works, a plan!

A plan brings your goal to life! Here’s how it works. Your plan should include small steps to get you to where you want to be by the end of January. Once you’ve hit your target, continue to carry it out the rest of the year. Once it becomes a habit, add a new goal to your plan to progress even further. Notice how I used “add” because you will be fulfilling your original goal the whole way through. There are no substitutions in this plan. If you find it hard to reach your goal, scale it down a bit to make it easier to attain before striving for anything else.

Losing 10 lbs in a year is possible! Losing 10 lbs in a month, however, is not likely, nor is it healthy for an average person. If this is your goal, make a nutrition and exercise plan that will help you lose 1 lb a month. By the end of October, you should have reached your goal and you can work on maintaining your weight or lose more, if needed!

Giving up ice cream is apart of a physique athlete’s competition prep, but their clean diet isn’t sustainable year-round. Sure, some people don’t eat ice cream at all, but if you’re used to eating ice cream more than once or twice a week, quitting cold turkey may just leave you making a late night run to Cold Stone when your family is tucked in bed. Instead of giving up something you enjoy, enjoy a smaller amount on occasion. If you did well the first month, next month you may choose to eat even less ice cream. How far you take it is up to you!

If you are not already a runner, telling yourself that you are going to run everyday is setting yourself up for a big let down! Try starting your running regimen with a couple of short runs a week. Set the day and time. Maybe it’s convenient in the morning before work, or after you make dinner. Either way, don’t wait until you feel like running to run. Schedule it. As the runs feel easier, gradually lengthen them. (Key word: gradually). Lastly, begin to add more days of running to your schedule and you’ll be running more frequently than you’ve ever ran before!

Remember you have the whole year! Be realistic and be patient. Got it? Good! Now get to it and make the new year truly happy!

What are some past new year’s resolutions you’ve made and did not fulfill? Share your comment below!

Holiday Fit Tips

You may be thinking…

Christmas is two days away, and you’re either flying out or your family is flying in. There is still a lot that needs to be taken care of and, perhaps, even more that needs to be done afterward. Who has time for fitness now?!

It’s easier to stay fit around the holidays than you may think.

1. Think Smaller

Instead of aiming for an hour workout, make time for a 15-minute circuit or a 10-minute jog and 5 minutes of stretching. While you may feel that it is not worth it, there is a lot that you can do for your body in a short time frame, such as boost your metabolism to help you burn more fat throughout the day. While you may not break a record during Christmas vacation, exercising for a mere 15 minutes each day can help ward off some extra pounds that you’d otherwise be packing.

2. Early Bird Gets the Worm

Get your workout in bright and early, before your family wakes up. A little extra effort to rise earlier than the pack will go a long way. You won’t have anything (or anyone) derailing your exercise plans later on because you would have taken care of it first.

3. Give It a Taste

If you feel any pressure from your family to eat what they’ve made for you that possibly has more calories in it than your total daily allowance, (a) don’t hurt their feelings by refusing the dish, and (b) don’t stuff yourself with fattening meals and treats your entire vacation, either. Instead, have a taste, “Mhhh…that’s so good. I am going to save some for later and really savor it.”

There is no need to wait until the new year to try and make healthy choices; start right now with these three simple tips!

What do you like most about the holidays? Share your comment below!

Adidas Ultraboost Review

I remember doing some online shopping for workout clothes a couple of years ago and came across an advertisement for the New Adidas Ultraboost. The unique curves of the shoe caught my eye as the model in the video demonstrated the “responsive midsole cushioning”. He shifted his weight from one foot to the next and took off in a sprint. Several months later, I recalled the ad as I began to notice gym members with the same attractive shoes. I looked the shoes up on the Adidas website, read up on them, and did this over and over again, until I decided to finally make the online purchase! Was my $180 (plus shipping and tax) purchase worth it?


I love how they look! As I’ve mentioned, the curves of the shoe caught my eye. I bought a black and white pair; the black on black Adidas stripes and white sole goes with pretty much any of my workout outfits.


I’ve been buying men’s sneakers ever since I discovered that they fit wide feet better. The downside to the Adidas Ultraboost is that they are much more narrow than my other Adidas, even though I purchased the same size in men’s. Since it was an online order, my first time trying on the shoes was when they arrived at my home. They did not feel tight at first, but started to feel uncomfortably tight after having them on for a long day. I thought that maybe I needed to “break them in”, but two months later they still squeeze the sides of my feet.


Contrary to their tight fit, the Adidas Ultraboost feel great during a run! I am not a fan of road running. Give me the choice of concrete or turf, and I will choose turf every time! Unfortunately for me, concrete is practically everywhere, making a road run more convenient. To my delight, the Ultraboost made running on the road much more enjoyable! I did not feel the usual pounding as my feet struck the pavement.

The shoes’ grip is also exceptional! I’ve ran a 5K race (Honor Our Veterans 5K) with these shoes in the rain and didn’t experience any slipping or sliding.

I would not recommend these shoes for lifting weights because of the highly cushioned sole, but they are ideal for a comfortable run.

The Adidas Ultraboost look great and perform well, but are too narrow for my feet. I think the purchase would have been totally worth it, had they been wider. Adidas, please make a wider size of these!


Which are your favorite pair of running shoes? Please share below!

Honor Our Veterans 5K

This past Veteran’s Day, I participated in the final race of the Go Run Holiday Race Trilogy 2018. It was one of three holiday races for the year: 4th of July 5K, Labor Day 5K, and Honor Our Veterans 5K. For every race, each competitor received a medal that connects (by magnet) to form one whole medal. Since I missed the first race – oops! – I have two thirds of a medal. I still think that it was a wonderful idea and I was happy to have participated in two of the races!

Aside from receiving really cool medals, I ran because a race gives you something challenging to work towards. Unlike my perception at track meets during my high school days, today, I look at the races I take part in, less a competition against others, and more as a competition against myself. I like to see what my body and mind are capable of. Seeing how much I can improve myself is what drives me.

It’s always nice to sign-up for a race with a friend, that way you can support each other and make it a fun event to look forward to do together.

The weeks of running and conditioning flew by and before I knew it, race day was here!

Waking up on race day was exciting! Despite the rain, I looked forward to the race, knowing that I was about to meet up with other runners to accomplish what we all have been working towards. Rather than feeling intimidated or divided among competitors, I think that we become united as we gather and take comfort in knowing that everyone around you is there for the same reason: to do something positive for their physical and mental health, while supporting a good cause.

As the race began, I weaved through the crowd, stomping around puddles, to find a spot where I could steady my pace. Once I found my position, I slowly started to tune out my surroundings and tune into my breathing and my thoughts. I continued like this until I neared the finish line. This particular race ended on a track, which helped me determine when to kick it up a notch. With 400 meters remaining, I picked up the pace knowing that it was only a matter of one lap until recovery. I sprinted through the finish line, collected my medal and a water bottle, and momentarily indulged in self pity as I panted in discomfort, just before a sense of exhilaration took over and I felt proud of myself for what I just accomplished. This is the point where I know it was all worth it.

Fun Fact: I’ve ran more 5K races in the rain than not.

Why do you run? Share your comment below!

Labor Day 5K

This Labor Day weekend, I participated in a 5K race that I did not feel prepared for. A lot of changes have been happening at once for me. I’ve found it difficult to train for the race on top of teaching, training clients, beginning a new semester, and assuming new job responsibilities. I didn’t let my lack of prep deter me from competing, though. My goal, that was set from last year’s race, was to take a minute off my mile pace, or about 3 minutes off of my total time. I started my training for last year’s race a month out and showed a great amount of improvement came race day. This year, with my lack of training for the past month, I was able to run this year’s 5K in almost the same time as last year’s 5K. I may not be proud of missing my goal this year, but I am proud of the physical condition that I was able to keep myself in from teaching aerobic classes, year-round. While competition and goal-setting is beneficial for growth, there’s nothing wrong with congratulating yourself for maintaining your health and fitness either.

Labor Day 5K 2018 2

How do you prepare for a 5K? (Comment below).

Hit the Spot, Not the Wall

So your summer body didn’t quite come through this year, but you are now motivated to get with the program! You’ve managed to cut out a lot of calories today, as you’ve hardly eaten anything. You’ve signed up for a Cardio Kickboxing class to help you lose the weight you’ve been wanting to all year. Yes, you’ve finally made up your mind to do this, you tell yourself, excitedly. You enter the group fitness class with determination. You get through the warm-up and even managed to break a sweat. You sip on some water and continue following the next exercises. With every combo, you feel your heart pounding harder and your breathing becoming heavier. You begin to wonder how many more kicks does this instructor really expect you to do, and suddenly, you’ve hit the wall!

I’ve had quite a few cases among the years of teaching, where students experience this kind of shut-down, and they’ve all shared one thing in common – they didn’t eat before coming to workout! When your body runs out of glucose during exercise, you not only feel tired, your body simply cannot continue because it is unable to produce anymore energy. You’ve passed the point of fatigue and may feel light-headed, dizzy, naseous, or even see stars!

While fasting plays a large role in fitness today, I am not going to cover the topic in this post for sake of simplicity. Instead, I’d recommend for beginners to either eat a snack an hour before working out, or have a full meal two hours before. Eating less calories in a day may help with weight loss, however, eating more calories when you are most active may help to complete the task at hand. Whether you’re working out, cleaning, or chasing your kids, you need to eat to fuel your body. That doesn’t mean you should gobble down two jelly donuts before hitting the gym because you know you’ll be burning a lot of calories. Choose foods that provide an adequate amount of calories and that are rich in nutrients. Some examples of nutrient-rich foods are salmon, potatoes, nuts, yogurt, and avocados.

Before eating, always consider what you’ll be doing for the next few hours. If you were driving to the corner store on less than a quarter tank of gas, you’d be fine, but you wouldn’t go on a road trip without a full tank of gas, would you? Be sure to fuel your body for the activity ahead, and hit the (hunger) spot, not the wall!

What do you like to eat before a workout?
(Comment below).

Are you in the Right class?

I recall a time in first grade, getting permission to use the restroom, which was located way on the other side of the school! At least it felt that way at the time. Upon my return, I started looking for my seat in the classroom, but something wasn’t right. The room looked a bit odd, the faces unfamiliar, and I couldn’t pinpoint my seat. I started to panic, and before I could figure out what to do, two (slightly) older boys shouted to the top of their lungs, “This is not your classroom!” as they pointed and mocked me, “She’s a first-grader! She’s lost!” Mortified, I burst into tears! If I hadn’t gone to the restroom moments earlier, I believe I would have wet myself too!

As daunting as the memory may be, I’ve since then matured and grown thicker skin, as we all do with time. New surroundings may still be intimidating for some adults, and we all know that just as children can be insensitive, adults can be too.

Let’s say you’re new to group fitness and gathered the courage to sign-up for a class, but you really don’t know what it is you actually signed-up for. You may not feel comfortable enough to ask questions, or are unsure of what to even ask. Maybe the front desk attendants are too busy, the instructor appears callous, the participants pretentious…or maybe you’ve had a so-called traumatic childhood experience like mine that leaves you dreading talking to strangers no matter how friendly they may seem!

Whether you’re thinking about participating in a group fitness class for the first time, or have been going for a while and are unsure of what it is you’ve actually been doing, I’ve laid out some group fitness information below to help steer you in the right direction, without having to fear looking foolish.

First, let’s take a look at the main types of fitness classes:

  • Aerobic
  • Anaerobic
  • Mind-body
Image Source: afaa.com

Examples of aerobic classes:

  • Cardio Kickboxing*
  • Cycling or Spinning®*
  • Step Aerobics
  • Zumba®

Who can benefit from aerobic exercise?

The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week to improve overall cardiovascular health. 30 minutes of aerobic activity a day, five times a week has been found to improve endurance and prevent cardiovascular disease. Cardio, often interchanged with aerobics, stems from the Greek word for heart, “kardia”. This type of exercise can also be effective for fat loss, depending on the amount you do and the amount of calories you consume.

Image Source: afaa.com

Examples of anaerobic classes:

  • Boot Camp
  • Cardio Kickboxing*
  • Cycling or Spinning®*
  • HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

Who can benefit from anaerobic exercise?

Anaerobic exercise can help develop strength, speed, and power. They usually include resistance equipment such as dumbbells, barbells, and bands. In a cycling or Spinning® class, the resistance tool is the bike! While aerobic exercise can assist in fat loss, anaerobic exercise may burn more calories than aerobic exercise after the workout is done, due to its effect on the metabolism.

⁽*⁾ Cardio Kickboxing and Cycling or Spinning® classes generally include both aerobic and anaerobic periods within the duration of the class.

Image Source: afaa.com

Examples of mind-body classes:

  • Yoga
  • Pilates

Who can benefit from mind-body classes?

There are numerous styles to yoga. Not being an expert in the practice, I would not dare attempt to recommend a style to any of you. Instead, I’ll briefly share my experience with two different styles of yoga, and then make my comparison to Pilates.

My first yoga class was Vinyasa. While I did not expect to sweat as much as I did, I was very satisfied with the outcome. I ended the class feeling limber. My tight spots were no longer tight. I felt relaxed both mentally and physically. I continued to return to that class for a long time. I only stopped when I changed gyms.

My experience with another instructor was very different. Although they were instructing the same style of yoga, I did not sweat. As a matter of fact, I think because my body did not receive an adequate warm-up, I ended up injuring my hip in pigeon pose. I’d say that it took about 3-4 weeks to heal.

The other style of yoga that I’ve tried is Budokon. I spent more time in class wondering how the instructor got from here to there than anything else. I can’t even say that I held anyone back because the instructor (who, funny enough, was a co-worker of mine) seemed to set the pace to the most advanced students in the class, leaving me behind with no proper guidance. It was frustrating and nothing like the Vinyasa I enjoyed so much. I never returned.

Pilates was very popular among my fellow Ballet dancers growing up. Similar to Ballet, it can help improve flexibility, balance, and posture. Pilates is based around core exercises that help strengthen and tone the abs, back, and buttocks. Although Pilates is not a spiritual practice, it can bring mind to body awareness through focusing on muscle control and synchronized breathing, much like yoga.

What is your goal?

As you may have already caught on, we could all benefit from each type of exercise: aerobic, anaerobic, and mind-body. Don’t show up to a class just to say you did something at the gym. Instead, discover a style that you enjoy within each exercise category. For instance, if you dislike Zumba®, give Cardio Kickboxing a try. Once you’ve found the classes that you enjoy, decide how to divide your time between them by asking yourself the following:

Has your doctor said that you need to lower your blood pressure? – Make cardio classes priority.

Are you trying to lose fat and become stronger? – Aim for more classes with resistance-based workouts.

Do you want to improve your flexibility? – Sign up for more Pilates and yoga classes.

Before stepping into your next class, remember the following:

  • Always consider your current state and your goals when selecting a class format.
  • Show up early to your first class or not at all! (You may miss important instructions that will significantly alter your class experience).
  • Introduce yourself to the instructor and tell him/her that it is your first time.
  • Keep in mind that we were all once beginners.

Now that you know how to choose the right class, learn how to choose the right instructor from my previous post, Is Your Group Fitness Instructor a Teacher?

What are some of the things you expect in a group fitness class?
(Comment below).