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How to Give Feedback That’s Useful in Your Fitness Class

Fitness instructor learning how to give feedback

Sometimes my fitness class is in the middle of an intense interval, where everyone’s out of breath (including myself), and the only thing I can think to say is, “awesome work.” Sure, I say it with as much enthusiasm as I can muster, but those words usually feel like they simply fall flat. We tend to use the word “awesome” so often that it loses its meaning after a while. And, it comes off as generic and disengaged. So, how do we give feedback to our participants in a way that sets us apart from all the bland jargon that we hear in our everyday lives?

How to Give Feedback Advice #1: Be as specific as possible.

Instead of saying, “good job,” or, “keep it up,” pick out one thing your class is doing particularly well and bring attention to it. You could say, “I love that you are all doing pushups on your toes! You’ve come such a long way, and I’m proud of you for challenging your body.”

Sometimes it may feel like you’re pointing out something obvious, but that’s okay. People love to get compliments, even if they’ve heard it before. “Per usual, you all are giving your maximum effort,” you might say. “I see you sweating, and I appreciate your hard work.”

How to Give Feedback Advice #2: Use unique, quirky language.

We hear the same words over and over again, so I’m sure your class won’t miss words like awesome, good and great.

Instead, spend some time reading fitness, self-help and motivational articles. Circle the words that catch your attention, especially the ones that you rarely use. This could be something like, “impressive effort,” or, “love your gumption.”

When we use rare words it makes our brain work a little bit harder to comprehend and follow along, and so participants will be more focused on you, your class and your workout.

Do you remember going to your favorite instructor’s class each week, and he would deliver the exact same intro day in and day out? As time went on, you started to tune it out and think about your to-do list, because it was all too familiar.

Don’t let your motivational cues and feedback get too familiar. And, don’t be boring.

How to Give Feedback Advice #3: Have some fun with it.

Whenever I feel like I need to liven up my class, I’ll start to share random, bizarre cues and metaphors for feedback. For example, I’ve used the example of being in a toaster and not wanting to touch the sides for fear of getting burned. This one helps participants move on one plane and keep their limbs from flailing. I’ve also compared exercises to chores, like dusting dirty tables.

The really wacky ones usually get a chuckle from participants. If not, I’ll usually razz them a bit to make sure they’re awake, because chances are, if class is getting too familiar, they may have started to zone out.

Above all else, you want to make sure your feedback and communication feels authentic and genuine. If you don’t like cracking jokes, don’t do it. Although some words may feel a little foreign coming out of your mouth, I think it’s okay because that awkwardness will make folks pay attention. Use it to your advantage.

For more communication tips, check out the fitness motivation and cueing page.

And, let’s connect on Twitter @GroupXMich!

 

 

 

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My Favorite Group Fitness Motivational Cues from SCW Mania

Group Fitness Motivational Cues from Mindy Mylrea

Tired, depleted and inspired. That’s how we all want our group fitness participants to feel when they leave our cardio classes. And, that’s how I feel today as I head home from the SCW Mania convention in Burlingame, Calif. this weekend. I spent the last three days in lectures, workouts, surrounded by non-stop energy and enthusiasm. I learned so much, and I encourage you all to consider attending if it comes to a city near you.

One of my favorite parts of the convention is the part of the workshops when presenters would lead us through a sample workout, because you could see them put in action everything they just taught us. On top of that, you get to also experience their group fitness motivational cues firsthand, and think through how you respond to each cue. Does it make you work harder or give more effort? If so, you can consider weaving in some of those cues into your own arsenal.

Here are some of the most memorable group fitness motivational cues from SCW California Mania.

  • “Not because I’m telling you, but because you CAN.” – Jeffrey Scott, Schwinn Cycling, Session: There’s an App for That
  • “Get to the wall of breathless, and just give it a kiss.” – Alex Mclean, Schwinn Cycling, Session: The “HARD” Conversation
  • “If you’re looking for that one person to change your life, look in the mirror.” – Irene Lewis-McCormick, Keynote presentation
  • “I don’t have a PhD, but I arm myself with information and education.” – Jeffrey Scott, Schwinn Cycling, Session: Teaching Tips from TED®
  • “Flexbility is a byproduct of flexibility of your mind and flexibility of your approach” – Manuel Velasquez, PT/Small Group, Session: No Equipment, No Problem
  • “With change, you get change.” – Jeff Howard, HIIT/Group Training, Session: Don’t Step on It
  • “It is now. Create this moment.” – Mindy Mylrea, Session: Tabata Bootcamp Express Workout
  • “If I told you that you have 30 more seconds, would you be happy?” – Doris Thews, Schwinn Cycling, Session: C3 Content, Connection and Charisma

Can’t wait to go back next year! For more tips, check out my fitness motivation and cueing page.

And, let’s connect on Twitter @GroupXMich!

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Stop Using Food as a Fitness Instructor Motivational Cue

Don't use food as a group fitness instructor motivational cue

When participants leave a group exercise class, they should be absolutely glowing. As a fitness instructor with a unique personal style, this may not be your goal exactly, but the effect is still the same: participants should leave feeling like your class was a positive and valuable part of their day. Unfortunately, fitness and body image are such sensitive topics that participants may encounter a group fitness instructor motivational cue that ends up damaging their experience. Have you ever been to a class where the instructor said something that rubbed you the wrong way? I know I have.

This puts a lot of pressure on us as instructors to say the right things at the right time. While we can’t be perfect, we can make sure we’re practicing our motivational cues, talking to fellow instructors and continuing our education in order to provide the best experience for our class.

To start, I’d like to point out one particularly harmful fitness instructor motivational cue that I hear on the regular: food as a reward or punishment.

For example, I’ve witnessed an instructor shuffle on up to the stereo and say, “hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend, now time to work off that extra BBQ!” Or, I’ve heard, “if you do one more plank, you can have an extra glass of wine this weekend.”

Here’s the problem: talking like this in your group fitness classes creates a reward and punishment relationship between food and exercise. If you eat too much, you need to punish yourself with exercise. If you work out, you can reward yourself with food. It makes it seem like we must always be suffering for either food or exercise.

I understand this is complicated. Food and exercise are intertwined, and we’re all familiar with the “calories in, calories out” equation. But, unless you’re a registered dietician, I’d argue that food has no place in your group exercise studio. Instead, I challenge you to up-level your motivational cues. Find ways to inspire your participants that don’t leave them feeling chained to their kitchen table and guilty for what they ate yesterday.

Am I saying you should never eat that extra burger at the BBQ? Absolutely not. If you want to have two burgers, have two burgers! What I am saying is we need to stop feeling guilty for what we are eating. Even more so, we as instructors need to stop making our participants feel guilty for what they are or are not eating.

So what fitness instructor motivational cue can you use instead?

  1. Explain how these exercises are benefitting their bodies.

Exercise is so good for us. It helps us think better, move better and live better. Talk through the healthy advantages of working out.

  1. Make a goal for the class, and work towards it.

It can be as simple as how you feel afterward. You want to feel like you gave it your all, and have nothing left to give by the end. Or, you want to feel refreshed and ready to start your day.

  1. Express gratitude.

Studies show that there are positive benefits to thankfulness. Thank you participants for coming, and also encourage them to be thankful for everything their body can do today. Did ya’ll just do 10 push-ups on your toes, something you couldn’t do five weeks ago? That’s something to take pride in, and be thankful for.

  1. Do the same ‘ol thing you always do, without the food talk.

Some of these motivational cues may not be a fit for your teaching style. All good with me. Just stick with the style participants have come to love, and hold back on the food comments.

I know finding the perfect group fitness instructor motivational cue is incredibly challenging, and it’s okay if we mess up now and again. There are plenty of times where I’ve said something and immediately regretted it, sometimes even before I finished saying it! Oops. But, that’s where self-compassion comes in and we remind ourselves that we’re doing our very best.

For more tips and tricks, you might also like my Top 5 tips for cueing group fitness classes. You can also check out all of my fitness motivation and cueing advice here.

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My Top 5 Tips for Cueing Group Fitness Exercises Effectively

Group X Instructor cueing group fitness exercises

One of the hardest parts of being a fitness instructor is cueing group fitness exercises effectively. Self-doubt always used to creep into my head as I explained technique. Am I talking too much or not enough? Are folks understanding what I’m saying? Are they even listening? It’s a delicate balance to find, and unfortunately, you won’t always get a lot of feedback from participants mid-activity. At first, it’s normal if cueing group fitness exercises sometimes feels like a shot in the dark whether it resonates with participants. But, I promise fitness instructor cues will come more naturally over time, and it’s definitely something you can learn to master.

Here are my tips to help you sound like a pro when cueing group fitness classes.

  1. Practice cueing group fitness exercises. ALL. THE. TIME.

The first time you ever use a cue, it usually comes out awkward and long-winded. Practice saying your cues often, so you can say them quickly and efficiently. You can practice this while you’re doing other stuff — taking a shower or driving in the car. Think about an exercise you want to do in your next class, and go through the cues you’ll use.

I strongly encourage you to practice saying your cues out loud. It makes such a difference to say it instead of think it. If you can, also practice your cues to the music you’re going to use. That way, you’ll get used to how much time you have to get through all the instruction you want.

It may feel silly, but it’ll save you from feeling uncomfortable in front of a class full of participants. Trust me, my boyfriend would walk in on me sitting on the couch with my headphones on saying, “Alright, ladies! Time for another hill!” He teased me about it for weeks, but my class went off without a hitch.

  1. Start from head to toe (or vice versa).

If you’re ever in doubt about what cues to share, think of the body like a checklist. Tick through the cue for each body part starting at the top and working your way down (or vice versa). For example, where should you be looking, at your feet or straight ahead? Is the neck in line with the spine? You can think of a cue to share for just about every body part. Even if some feel obvious, it’s nice to use as a reminder or clarification for the class.

  1. Scan the room, but don’t stare as you cue.

If you’ve ever taken a Group X class, you know that every cue the fitness instructor shares feels like it’s directed specifically at you. It’s mission critical that the instructor is scanning the room and sharing cues based on what participants are doing. Those cues are going to prevent injury and make sure everyone is getting a good workout. But, you don’t want to make anyone feel bad by staring at someone or pointing anyone out for doing the exercise wrong.

  1. Share both positive and negative feedback.

Sometimes we’re so busy sharing cues to correct form that we forget to acknowledge all of the good stuff our participants are doing. Have their push-ups gotten so much better in the past few weeks? Is their plank form on point? Tell them! It feels amazing to hear your Group X instructor tell you that you’re doing something well.

  1. Don’t be afraid of silence.

You don’t need to talk all the time, nor do you need to feel guilty about talking a lot. You’ll find your sweet spot between periods of silence and cueing. Especially in the warm-up and class intros, you can (and should!) talk a lot. The rest is up to you.

As you build your confidence in cueing group fitness exercises, you’ll be able to start having fun with it. Participants will come to your class each week because they like your personality. Start to personalize the cues you use and your style to really make your Group X classes your own.

For more cueing tips, check out the fitness motivation and cueing page.

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3 New Year’s Motivational Cues for Group Fitness

Motivational Cues for Group Fitness

The fitness industry is plagued with a body image problem. Skinny is in, strong is sexy, big is beautiful, any body is a bikini body — it’s enough to make your head spin. With so many conflicting opinions circulating the web, your group fitness participants are likely feeling torn (and confused!) between feeling confident in their current skin and wanting to work to better themselves. This places a lot of responsibility on Group X instructors’ shoulders to use the right motivational cues for group fitness while avoiding phrases that may trigger more confusion and uncertainty.

Yes, it’s quite a challenge! But I know this is one of the reasons you and I are in this business: to inspire and help others find the joy in working out.

When looking for motivational cues for group fitness classes, I like to steer clear of body image conversations. Instead, I look at recent trends and timely events for inspiration. A new year has many people already feeling inspired and reinvigorated about their fitness routine. So, it only makes sense to use motivational cues for group fitness classes that tap into those existing feelings of potential and excitement. Without wasting too much time on your cues, here’s a look at three motivational cues to try in your group fitness classes in the new year.

Motivational Cue #1: Encourage Thankfulness

Studies show that folks who practice gratitude have a more positive outlook on life, exercise more and report fewer physical problems. There’s a wide-range of health factors that improve when you practice gratitude. You can start or end your group fitness class with a moment of thanks. I’d recommend cueing it when participants are still, possibly during an end-of-class plank or child’s pose. You can start by thanking them for coming, then offering them a moment to think about what they’re thankful for. It can go something like,

“Thank you so much for coming today. I’m thankful that you showed up, gave it your all, and that you took time out of your day for yourself. If you’d like, take a moment to remember what you’re thankful for. We sometimes rush through our day, and now’s a great time to stop and collect your thoughts.”

Motivational Cue #2: Tapping into New Year’s Resolutions

In spin class, I love to channel participants’ motivation for their goals in their life. It doesn’t have to be fitness related. Rather, just asking participants to think about a goal or resolution they have, and then give that their attention as they ride. It can sound like,

“I want you to think about a goal you have — it can be fitness related, but doesn’t have to be. Now, coming up we’re going to do a breathless sprint. I want you to picture yourself striving towards your goal. Focus your energy and your effort for this sprint on achieving that one thing.”

Motivational Cue #3: Use the New Year to Show Some Self Compassion

People are really hard on themselves when it comes to their fitness regimens. They miss a workout or indulge during a diet, and can start to feel down. I like to use the new year as an opportunity for a fresh start. It’s a chance for us to forgive ourselves for any time we weren’t perfect, and wipe our slate clean for a new year of hard work, passion and a full life. At the very end of the workout, here’s what I would say,

“It’s a new year, which means we can finally close the chapter that is 2016. As we turn this page, I want you to say goodbye to whatever was holding you back last year. This is our fresh start, our opportunity to do and become whatever we want. So, as we go through this last song, I want you to leave all the bad 2016 juju on the floor, and leave here today feeling lighter and brighter. 2017 is our year, let’s do it!”

People come to group fitness classes for the social motivation. We do have a lot of responsibility to motivate our participants in a safe, supportive environment. The ideas above are a great way to tap into the new year to provide some fresh fitness motivation.

For more motivational cues for group fitness, check out the fitness motivation and cueing page.

 

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3 Fitness Quotes to Motivate Your Group X Class (Part II)

Fitness quotes by Michael Boyle, “Most people give up right before the big break comes—don’t let that person be you.”

Motivation is one of the most fascinating parts of the fitness industry. Muscle movement and exercise physiology has became almost an exact science. Burn more calories than you consume. Increase your weight or your reps, etc. But, there’s so much about psychology that’s still unknown. A lot of it is trial and error — or finding what works for you. So, you may say ten different fitness quotes in your class, but only one will resonate with each participant. Even more interesting is that each participant may latch on to a different fitness motivation.

As fitness instructors, it’s important to mix up the motivational techniques in class to make sure that each person hears or feels the motivation they need to push themselves. I shared three fitness quotes in Monday’s post, and here are three more different quotes to introduce in your fitness classes.

  1. “If you ain’t pissed off for greatness, that just means you’re okay with being mediocre,” said Ray Lewis.

Fitness quotes by Ray Lewis, “If you ain’t pissed off for greatness, that just means you’re okay with being mediocre.”

I personally find it very motivating to acknowledge the status quo and question whether that’s good enough for me. It helps me recognize that I’m comfortable in my current situation and can push myself further than this.

  1. “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway,” said Earl Nightingale.

Fitness quotes by Earl Nightingale, "Never give up on a dream..."

This is a great one, because it helps participants think big. No goal is too big, because we have so much time (long-term) to devote to it. This may not be a great one for busy participants, like working moms or the 6 a.m. participants that squeeze in a 45-minute workout on the way to their day job. If folks don’t have much time, this quote might have them questioning why they’re spending their precious time at the gym.

  1. “Most people give up right before the big break comes — don’t let that person be you,” said Michael Boyle.

Fitness quotes by Michael Boyle, “Most people give up right before the big break comes—don’t let that person be you.”

This one is such a no-brainer for a fitness class. This fits perfectly at the end of an interval or set, when participants are going to want to start falling off.

With these fitness quotes, you’ll have a new arsenal of motivational topics to share with your Group X classes.

For more ideas, check out the fitness motivation and cueing page.

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3 Fitness Quotes to Motivate Your Group X Class (Part I)

Fitness quotes by Einstein, "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

When I ask someone why they go to Group X classes, folks will more often than not tell me fitness classes motivate them to work harder than they would on their own. I’m quick to agree, having wasted hours at the gym by myself. As fitness instructors, it’s important to keep that in mind when planning your classes. It’s not just about the exercises, but also about what you will say to convince participants to work harder. Great instructors will use a mix of motivational techniques, including personal anecdotes, visualization and fitness quotes.

Sometimes tried and true motivational strategies will start to feel stale or overused. If that’s the case, you’ll want to pack away the phrases used too often and replace them with something new.

Here’s a look at three fitness quotes you can introduce to your Group X classes to power them through the next challenge.

  1. “I will sacrifice whatever’s necessary to be the best,” said J.J. Watts.

Fitness quotes by J.J. Watts, “I will sacrifice whatever is necessary to be the best.”

This is one of my favorite quotes, because I like to change my mindset from what do I have to do to achieve the next level to what do I have to sacrifice. Play into this question of how much participants are willing to sacrifice to make a difference in their bodies by equating that uncomfortable feeling of working out with sacrifice.

  1. “The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone who is not a champion,” said Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Fitness quotes by Arnold, “The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion.”

This is a great one to try when you’re teaching a particularly long set of exercises. Especially when you finish a set with an isometric hold or small pulse that leaves little room for distraction. It’s also easy to slot in, because you have to say it right before the end of a set when participants start to drop their weights.

  1. “Insanity: doing something over and over again and expecting different results,” said Albert Einstein.

Fitness quotes by Einstein, "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

This is one of those fitness quotes that’s a bit tricky for me, because I don’t want participants to think they’re doing something wrong by coming to class each week. So, make sure to focus this one on the fact that members have to continue to challenge themselves with their exercises. Doing the drills that challenged them a year ago won’t help them continue to make progress.

These fitness quotes will help to bring fresh motivation to get Group X participants to take their effort level up a notch.

For more ideas, check out the fitness motivation and cueing page.

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How to Provide Group Exercise Cues That Stick with Members

Fitness instructor sharing group exercise cues that stick

As a fitness instructor, are you ever worried that you sound like the teacher from Charlie Brown when you share group exercise cues with your class? While you’re up in front of the members teaching each exercise, do they only hear “wah wah”? It can be tricky to teach the workout using correct information without feeling like you’re spouting off jargon. One way that I’ve been able to keep members engaged is to connect my cues with everyday activities they can relate to in a creative or quirky way.

Here are three of examples of fun, out-of-the-box group exercise cues that are relatable to most members.

“The toaster oven”

Sometimes I’ll use the imagery of an oven to help explain form to participants. For example, we’ll do an abdominal and shoulder exercise where we lay on our backs holding a dumbbell in each hand, with all of our limbs are pulled in tight like a bug on its back. Then, we’ll press our arms and legs away from each other, arms coming up overhead and legs extending out low to the floor. To explain that I want this to be a pressing motion instead of a lower and lift, I’ll say the following,

“Bring your arms and legs in tight like a ball and then push your arms and legs away from each, extending into a shallow V. Pretend you’re in a toaster oven on your back and you don’t want to burn your arms or legs, so keep them low.”

“Dusting tables”

After doing some challenging back work with weights, I’ll sometimes have the class do another set of back without weights just to add a little more oomph to the workout. I’ll ask participants to bend at the hips, so they’re in position to do bent over rows, but I’ll ask them to extend their arms to the sides in the shape of a capital “T”, using just their bodyweight to challenge them. Then, we’ll go through a series of small movements, for example,

“Move your hands so that they’re parallel and facing the floor. From here, I want you to move your hands a few inches forward and a few inches back, like as if you were trying to dust two tables at once. I’m sure if you could be anywhere else right now, it would be cleaning your house.”

“Competing with your best friend”

We all have that one friend, sibling or coworker that bring out our competitive nature. Right before a cardio interval, I’ll tell the class something like this,

“Picture your best friend right beside you, egging you on. You’re going to race them through this interval. Don’t let them beat you!”

These group exercise cues will usually get a few smiles or chuckles in class. Of course, you’ll want to use cues that feel natural to you and your teaching style. But, you’ll want to make sure your cues are engaging and entertaining for participants.

For more tips, check out the fitness motivation and cueing page.

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3 Reasons to Work Out, As Told By Pug Puppies

3 Reasons to Work Out

There are a million different reasons people work out. Many people, myself included, exercise in order to achieve a desired appearance, in addition to a host of other objectives. However, working out just to look a certain way can cause us to have a toxic relationship with exercise and our bodies. So, when I’m teaching Group X classes, I prefer to focus on other motivations that don’t rely on appearance. By tapping into other reasons we work out, fitness instructors can help to provide a positive experience that keeps members coming back.

Here are a few other reasons that people exercise, as told by pug puppies — because puppies make everything better, of course. And, what you might not know about me (yet :)) is that I come from a family of pug lovers. A few years ago, my mom decided to breed her pug Zoey, who gave birth to seven adorable, spirited puppies she eventually sold. Before that, we were able to take a bunch of pictures of the pups, and I’m including some here.

I work out to make friends.

Many people will come to Group X classes for the community. Working out in a group encourages folks to work harder and holds them accountable for their workout. It’s also a great way to meet like-minded people in your area that are also interested in a healthy lifestyle.

I work out to make friends. Picture of pug puppies in a row.

I work out to prevent injury.

This may sound counterintuitive, since over-exercising, improper form or unfortunate mistakes can lead to getting hurt, but exercising can also help prevent injury. By increasing flexibility and strength, members can navigate the daily tasks of life, like gardening and carrying groceries, with ease. For example, a better understanding of squats will help people pick up large, heavy items using their legs instead of putting their back at risk.

I work out to prevent injury. Picture of pug in a cone head.

I work out to sleep well.

Getting a good night’s sleep after a tough workout is one of my favorite things about exercise. I sleep noticeably better after a spin class that kicks my butt.

Stress and the glow from our devices are supposed to inhibit our ability to get a good night sleep. But, a good workout can knock you right out when it’s time for bed.

I work out to sleep well. Pugs sleeping on each other.

These are just three of the many reasons we work out that you can use to motivate your Group X class when the time is right. For more ways to pump up your class, check out the fitness motivation and cueing page.

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Group X Motivational Cue: “Do 8 More Perfect Reps”

Participants working harder after hearing a Group X motivational cue

It’s important for fitness instructors to continue to motivate participants throughout a Group X class. While members’ motivation will likely ebb and flow during the class, instructors need to know how to pump up the room each time the energy falls. Recently, I started seeing significant effort from my spin class when I asked them to go as fast as they can, holding it for as long as they can within the 30 seconds.

Using that Group X motivational cue taught me that people sometimes will underestimate themselves and save energy when they have to keep up an exercise for too long.

Instead of going all out, they’ll hold back a bit to make sure they can last through the allotted timeframe. Once I gave them permission to stop early as long as they turned on those burners at the beginning, the effort level skyrocketed. So, I set out to see how I could build on this idea in my other classes.

In my strength and conditioning classes, I’m a rhythm instructor, which means I’ll cue the class to start an exercise on the beat and then will typically continue cueing without telling participants exactly how many repetitions we’re doing. So while most of them can typically guess when I’ll ask them to stop, there’s a lot of time in the middle where they’re going through the motions without an end in sight.

So, one Group X motivational cue I’ve used recently to help participants boost their effort is to instruct them to do eight more (or another small, specific number) perfectly.

When I say that, members’ ears perk up. They seem to refocus on the exercise and really give it an extra effort, knowing that the end is near, and that I want these last few repetitions to be extra good.

This is a pretty easy motivational cue to give in Group X classes. As you’re nearing the end to just about any exercise, just ask folks to do the last eight to the best of their ability. Then, you can list a few important cues to keep in mind to help them remember what perfect form looks like.

For more ideas on how to fuel the fire for your Group X class, check out the fitness motivation and cueing page.