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!