Shannon Fable by Shannon Fable

Group fitnessIt’s no secret that group fitness instructors (GFIs) are a rare breed. Not only do we LOVE sweating it out every day but, as you learned in Part 1 of this series, we’re also very self-motivated, positive, effective and problem-solving team players. In Part 2, here are 5 equally important characteristics that an amazing GFI must have.

6. Curious

To be a truly effective group fitness instructor (Trait #5), you must develop curiosity. Your job is to develop a deep understanding of both teaching methodologies and interpersonal communication. First, you must be as resourceful as possible when learning about your craft. Continue to educate yourself long after the certification is over and not just to get enough credits to renew. Your education should focus on more than simply collecting new pieces of paper every time a new, trendy certification comes along. Dig deep into subjects that pique your interest. Work with other GFIs, personal trainers, continuing education specialists, nutritionists and more. While not everything you learn will always fall within your scope of practice to dispense, the more knowledgeable you are about all that is happening around you in the wellness world, the better you can serve your participants. Never grow tired of learning, growing, seeking feedback and otherwise trying to improve your teaching.

With regards to being curious with people, keep in mind everyone who walks in the studio door (and even those who don’t) has a story. The more you seek to understand members who stand in every corner of the room (not just the front row), the better your classes will be. Approach every person you can, before and after class, and try to learn why they’re there, why today, why now, why this class … and what do they WANT from the experience. Then, try your best to help them achieve whatever it is that makes up their unique reality.

7. Inclusive

Everyone needs to get a win—no matter how small—in our classes. Yes, it’s important to correct form and help make exercise safe for folks. But we also must build in opportunities to increase participants’ confidence at every turn, rather than simply offer a laundry list of “cues.” Remember, not everyone stood in that classroom and dreamed one day of putting on the mic. In fact, many folks are terrified, worried about being singled out and nervous about looking silly (picture the cafeteria scene from Mean Girls). The more you can include those who aren’t doing all the up-leveling, the ones who are new, the ones who are unsure, the better!

8. Empathetic

To make #7 a reality, sometimes we have to get back to a beginner’s frame of mind. It can be a challenge to continue taking once you’ve become a GFI, but you must. And, you must take classes (or engage in activities) in areas where you are NOT the expert. In other words, do something once a day that scares you. OK, so maybe it won’t be every day, but every once in awhile, go to a class where you have no idea if you can do it. Then you can bask in the glory of the conscious incompetence… try it on for size and think about how MOST people feel in your classes! I promise it will change the way you teach the next time you step on stage.

9. Inspiring

The most we can ever expect from our teaching is to be INSPIRING. Notice I didn’t say ADMIRING. There’s a difference. Inspiration evokes something in someone else—it turns the participant on from the inside out. If you do your job right, people should feel more successful when they walk out of your class than when they walked in. They should want to take other classes (not just YOURS), they should want to be active, they should want to be nicer and they should want to come back. This doesn’t come from YOU having the best form, you sweating the most, you doing the highest kicks or working out the hardest—it comes from amazing cueing that feels personal and empowering. You should be able to evoke the same emotion in a majority of your participants, whether or not you have on your spandex. You shouldn’t have to be a physical representation to get your point across if you’re doing it the right way.

10. Genuine

Last, but not least, the greatest gift we can give our participants (and non-participants) is to be REAL.  We are abnormal, for the most part, in that we like to sweat, we like to be uncomfortable and we live to work out (or at least we pretend to). Most people are fearful of not meeting our expectations or being “in shape” enough to take our classes. Be mindful of how you present yourself, both inside and outside of the classroom (this includes social media). People are watching and yes, it’s true, it could be motivating to see your athletic pursuits and your amazing clean-eating recipes. But secretly many people just want to know that occasionally you skip a workout, take the modification, eat some chocolate and forget to wash your face before you go to bed! Let’s let folks get a glimpse behind the scenes every once in awhile, and who knows…we might actually be able to help the very people who need us!