Pete McCall by Pete McCall

One of the things I liked about being a club-based personal trainer were all of the resources that were available for helping members start and maintain an exercise program. In my opinion, personal trainers often overlook one of the greatest resources available to them: group fitness classes. If you’re a personal trainer at a health club, do you urge your clients to participate in the club's group fitness program? If you do, way to go—you know the benefits. If you don't, here are some good reasons why you should reconsider.

Over the years I've heard both colleagues and trainers at other clubs tell their clients NOT to take group fitness classes. This confuses me. As a personal trainer, my role is to facilitate fitness success for my clients, and group exercise classes are a tremendous resource to help achieve this goal. At some clubs, there is an additional charge to participate in group fitness classes, but at most major health clubs the majority of classes are included as part of the monthly dues. The three club companies I have worked for have diverse group fitness programs with many class offerings that provide numerous options for trainers and their clients.

I incorporate group exercise into a client's program by taking a copy of the club's group fitness schedule and circling the classes I think my client should try to fit into his or her weekly workout program. Many of my clients are motivated to exercise, but simply didn't know what to do when they come into the club on their own. My approach to fitness is based on functional, multiplanar movement patterns for each client's specific needs, which means some of my clients don’t feel comfortable trying these complicated exercises on their own. Rather than have them sit idly by until our once- or twice-weekly appointments, I recommend and encourage their participation in group fitness classes. My goal is to find any way possible to keep my clients moving and engaged between our training sessions.

Some clients need structure for their cardio training, so I point out the fun indoor cycling instructors they should try or the dance classes they might enjoy. For clients who are athletically inclined, I recommend boxing, kickboxing, sports conditioning or circuit-training classes. If a client indicates a high stress level from work or needs some additional flexibility training, I recommend yoga or stretching classes. When clients are motivated to develop muscular definition or improve strength, I recommend total-body conditioning or weight-training classes.

The point is that I want my clients to be active most days of the week. Some are comfortable and have the motivation to follow the program I develop for them while others need the guidance of an instructor or the motivation of working in a group. Most of my clients find they enjoyed group fitness classes and appreciate the recommendations. And, because other instructors appreciate having people sent to their classes, I’ve often been rewarded with referrals from their group fitness participants who were interested in personal training.

The way I see it, encouraging my clients to be active and use the club on days we don’t work together helped to ensure that they stayed active, which could help them reach their goals in a shorter period of time. It has never occurred to me to be worried that my clients might enjoy the group fitness classes more than our training sessions. Whether it is one of my personal-training sessions or a friend's group fitness class, I want clients to enjoy the exercise experience, which helps them develop long-term adherence to regular activity.

If you have been recommending group fitness for your clients, you know the benefits, so please keep it up. If you haven't considered using your club's group exercise program to augment the programs you develop for your client, it’s worth your time to get to know a couple of the instructors at your club and start encouraging your clients to participate in the classes. If your client has fun and enjoys the experience, you are in a great position to gain new referrals because they'll be talking up your services to the other participants in the class.

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