Teaching group fitness is just as much an ART as it is a SCIENCE. But when you dial in the science first, it makes finding time to focus on the art much easier! And, when you give time to the art, the likelihood your students will fall in love and come back week after week tend to rise significantly. The best instructors set aside time each week to PLAN their classes. This process doesn’t need to take hours, but in the beginning, it may take a bit more time until you develop a system. Schedule your class design time just like you do any other appointments and workouts. It really doesn’t matter when you do it — just make sure you dedicate time for this extremely important first step! Once you sit down to construct your class, your initial reaction may be to begin dreaming up choreography, exercise options or music for your class. While you may end up with a killer class, all that time spent may be unnecessary and more importantly, your ability to reuse your plans in the future might not be very easy. You must begin by thinking big picture and then dial in the specifics later to produce the best, most safe and effective classes! The following 3-step system will save you time and energy, and deliver amazing classes that are consistent and easily repeatable: Effect First, you must specify the desired outcome. What effect do you want from the workout? For some classes, this may seem like a no brainer. For example, for step and cycling the effect is cardio! But we can get more specific and decide if today will be steady state, intervals or both. With other classes, this is easier to understand. Strength training could be endurance, balance, strength, or a combination of both. Fine-tuning the effect you desire will help your classes feel different and satisfy your urge to constantly change things without leaving you looking for crazy new ideas on every blog, forum, website, or DVD available. By changing the overall feeling — or promise — of the class, you can plug and play familiar items for an all new experience. Equipment Next, it’s time to pull out all the toys (or maybe, you put them all away!). For your strength or cardio classes, think strategically about how you use (or don’t use) equipment. Here are a few great questions to ask yourself as you examine your equipment: What will help you achieve the effect you desire? What will allow a maximum number of participants or provide maximum range of motion? What did you use last week? If your class doesn’t have equipment, move to step #3! Employ Lastly, think about the strategies you could employ with the equipment you’ve decided to use to achieve the desired effect. This will build the shell for your workout and begin the process of selecting exercises or choreography. With strength training, you may decide to do a reverse order workout and start with smaller muscle groups because you’re only going to use hand weights that day and you have limited overload. Or, for step, you could decide to use alternating complex choreography with athletic intervals. The complex choreography can serve as active recovery, then ditch the thinking and bring on the heart pounding with athletic drills! Again, the idea is to think big picture first, which will drive your details later. Once you’ve taken the time to work through these three foundational steps, you can begin slotting in exercises, choreography and music. And, last but not least, you’ll develop your cueing strategy (that’s a completely different blog post topic!). Not only will this system help you create repeatable, safe and effective exercise experiences for any type of class, you’ll find your classes are easier to remember and you can be flexible if something does not seem to be working. First understanding the construct of your class from a physiological perspective will allow you to make instantaneous modifications when necessary and leave everyone feeling successful. Happy planning!