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April 2017 Links I Love for Fitness Professionals

April Links I Love for Fitness Instructors

It’s that time again! Another month has come and gone, along with a lot of great fitness and health articles and studies. For me, April was a blur, between celebrating friends’ birthdays, picking up my wedding dress (5 months to go!) and keeping up at work. I’m really looking forward to May — lots of planned family and friend time, and I’m hoping for good, sunshine-y weather. Before we jump into May, I want to take a second to look back at the top articles in fitness and health, so that other fitness professionals, like yourself, can keep up with the latest trends and happenings.

If your month was anything like mine, it was quite the challenge to stay in the loop on everything that happened in the fitness industry in April. There were a few important studies you’ll want to brush up on and viral articles you’ll want to make sure you read. That way, you can come to your next group exercise class armed with the most up-to-date knowledge to better their experience.

Here’s a look at my favorite fitness and wellness articles from April that fitness professionals should read.

  1. One study found that high-intensity intervals were the best for making our cells regenerate, so on a cellular level, interval training helps us look and feel younger (reported by Inc. magazine). I tried to explain this to my spin class, and as soon as I mentioned “mitochondria” their eyes glazed over. So, if you do share this information in your class, be sure to keep it simple.
  2. The 5 Most Common Excuses Holding You Back by Susie Moore via Greatist. Yes, I’m obsessed with Susie Moore — if you ever catch me reading one of her articles, you will see me nodding along in agreement the whole time, eyes affixed to the screen. She speaks to my soul.
  3. 10 reasons why you should be stretching by Jessica Matthews via ACE Fitness. If you’re already a fitness professional, chances are you already know the benefits of stretching, so this is a great tool to share with your classes to encourage them to stick around and do stretches after exercise.
  4. How to do a bodyweight split squat via New York Times Well blog. I love the angles and color of this post. Great exercise to add to your next group exercise class, too.
  5. 3 Lessons About Mental Toughness You Can Learn From Yoda via Tor Constantino for Entrepreneur magazine. We all know participants show up to your group exercise classes so you can motivate them and get them to work harder than they would on their own. These mental toughness tips are great to try in your next class.
  6. If your talk doesn’t do these three things, don’t give it, via Neil Pasricha for Fast Company. While we all know how important it is to provide participants with a safe, effective workout, it’s also just as important to entertain and educate. We need to think of ourselves as not only lesson planners, but also public speakers and teachers.
  7. 5 must-do exercise to do if you want a stronger core, via Lee Boyce for Muscle & Strength. Crunches are a thing of the past, yet many participants will still show up expecting to do “abs” for the last 10 minutes of class. Here are some great core exercises to try that will get away from crunches and sit-ups.
  8. Why Vanessa Hudgens never wears a shirt to the gym via Haley Goldberg for Self.com. Whether you teach in just a sports bra or not, this is a trend that seems to be getting attention right now.

If you liked this roundup, you may also like the fitness and wellness articles from March and February. You can also check out the group exercise ideas page.

And, let’s connect on Twitter @GroupXMich!

(Image Source: Vanessa Hudgens’ Instagram/Self.com) 

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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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How to Get Your Group X Class Out of a Rut

Michelle holding a Group X resistance band

It happens to all group fitness (or Group X) instructors. You’ve been teaching the same class for so long that you’re feeling uninspired. If each week feels like the same ‘ol thing and you’re ready for a change, here are four ideas for putting some oomph back in your group exercise class.

Change your workout music. 

Modifying your music can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. A quick fix? Buying a new premade CD or iTunes playlist — these work especially great in choreographed Group X classes, like step, where the program centers around a certain beats per minute (BPM).

If you create your own new playlist for each class, this is where you’ll need to get creative. Consider making a themed song list, filled with songs for an upcoming holiday or event. You can also slot in a few songs from a different genre to shake things up. For a supercharged class, throw together all of your favorite songs — the ones that really get you fired up — to give you an added boost that you can pass on to your participants.

Use different Group X equipment.

Most gyms are limited on their equipment offerings. If you’re lucky, there’s enough dumbbells for everyone. Try to focus your lesson plan on a different piece of equipment. You can use gliders, body bars, steps, bands, the BOSU, stability balls and more. If your gym has a limited supply, consider partner exercises. Depending on the equipment, you can have everyone doing the same exercise, with half the class on the floor and the other half on the equipment, switching halfway. Or, you can create a circuit where members do some exercises using one piece of equipment and switch to another exercise using the specialty equipment.

And remember, the walls and floor can also be used as “equipment”. Your class can do wall sits or across the floor lunges. Even a small change like having your class put their feet against the wall during their planks will change things up (and it will also help if their shoes are sliding around).

Go heavier or harder.

If you’re feeling like you’re in a rut, more than likely you’ve been teaching the same, or close to the same, thing for a few weeks now. By now, you can expect your class to have built up a comfort level with your go-to exercises. A good way to “up the ante” is to do the same exercises, but this time use heavier weights, resistance or go faster. Depending on the exercise, find a way to make it slightly more challenging than normal. Here are a few group exercise ideas to try:

  • If your class regularly does push-ups on their knees, ask them to take a stab at doing every third push-up on their toes.
  • If your spin class has mastered a 30 second sprint on a relatively flat road, make the sprint longer or add more resistance.
  • Complete a signature move in double time or half time, like doing bicep curls twice as fast.

Research new choreography or exercises.

If you want some Group X ideas for new moves, there are a ton of great resources online. Check out other fitness professionals or influencers’ YouTube videos, articles or Instagram videos. You can also find tips and routines on the group fitness certification and program websites.

Here are a few of my personal favorites:

  • Greatist.com is a great resource for new exercises and what’s happening in the fitness industry.
  • ACE Fitness’ Certified News is a great resource for group exercise instructors. I especially loved this article sharing tips for increasing confidence as a group x or group fitness instructor.
  • Chris Freytag’s Get Healthy U exercise library allows you to filter by muscle group, equipment and type of workout to show you exercise ideas that fit the bill.
  • I follow DeliciouslyFitNHealthy on Instagram and not only does she have great workout ideas, but her videos also feature guest appearances from her adorable kiddos.

We’ve all been in a group fitness rut before. With the above tips, you can kick it up a notch to give your group X class a stellar workout.

For more suggestions for changing up your classes, check out the group exercise ideas and tips page.