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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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Victoria’s Secret Sport Review: Knockout Tights

For any group fitness instructor who has had to go through the agony of wearing saggy, see-through workout pants, this Victoria’s Secret Sport review is for you. I’ve had my fair share of terrible workout bottoms, and I know I’m not alone. There are so many pants out there that will stretch out after a couple washes, and start to fall at the waist during yoga or strength training.

It’s also mortifying to have your underwear or skin show through the pants because the fabric is too thin. I experienced this first hand a few years ago in one of my 6 a.m. weekday strength classes. One of my participants was courteous enough to tell me after class that when i bent into child’s pose to stretch my pants got really thin —talk about mortifying.

After that experience, I thought my search for the perfect workout pants would never end. But then I stumbled upon Victoria’s Secret Sport, and now I finally have a go-to pair of workout bottoms. The Victoria’s Secret Sport Knockout Tight, Crop or Capri will become a staple in your fitness wardrobe.

Victoria's Secret Sport Review

Victoria’s Secret Sport Review: The Fit

What I love about the workout tight, capri and crop is that they’re high rise, so you can squat and twist without worrying that the pants are going to sag too low. They’re also 23 percent Lycra, and I’ve washed mine a bunch of times and they’re still holding up good.

The one thing to remember when it comes to fit is that these run pretty small. I wear a size small, and they sometimes feel like they are suctioned to my body. When I’m teaching group exercises classes, it’s great because that fit helps to make sure the pants stay up and support me throughout the class. But, they’re not the type of pants you’d wear to lounge around the house or get cozy. Once you shimmy into these bad boys, you’ll feel inspired to work out. They’re those types of pants.

Victoria’s Secret Sport Review: The Material

The fabric is super thick — it feels like a scuba material. The fabric does not show through no matter how you twist and turn. Some of the fabrics do have a sheen to them, which makes it seem like you can see through it, but it really is thick. If you prefer lightweight, breathable fabrics, this may not be for you. I personally love the sturdiness and thickness of the fabric.

Victoria’s Secret Sport Review: The Prints

So far, I’ve gone pretty simple in my pant selection. I have two pairs of tights — one all black and the other black with some pink details. I also have a pair of black crop pants with a rainbow side detail. I did buy my mom a pair of purple capri pants for Christmas that she liked. But, when looking online, they had a lot of fun options to choose from. There are bold prints, more simple ones like the ones I have and then solid colors, as well.

Victoria’s Secret Sport Review: The Price

At full price, the knockout crop, capri and tight options are costly. I just can’t bring myself to shell out $60+ on a pair of workout pants. But, the good news is that these go on sale all the time, since the company is really pushing their new Victoria Sport brand. You’ll definitely want to wait for a sale, and you’ll likely be able to get them for around $30.

If you’ve read this far into my Victoria’s Secret Sport review, it should come as no surprise that I’m a huge fan of these workout bottoms. They give me peace of mind that my clothes will hold up against my workout, so I can focus on giving my members the best fitness class possible.

For more group exercise posts, check out the group exercise ideas and tips page.

And, let’s connect on Twitter @GroupXMich!

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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.

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3 Simple Tricep Workouts for Group X Classes (Part I)

Three Tricep Workouts Part 1

If you’ve ever been to The Cheesecake Factory, you know that people go there for the options (and the bread basket, of course). Why else would you go to a restaurant that has as many pages as a high school textbook? Having a wide selection to choose from is nice, because you know that everyone will be able to find something they like. The same rings true in group fitness (Group X). People appreciate having options and a base line understanding of how to modify or alter exercises, such as tricep workouts.

As group exercise instructors, it’s important to know a few different ways to work the same muscle, plus how to modify that exercise based on needs. That way, you can provide participants with options so they can make their own decisions when they have restrictions to keep in mind.

Triceps are a great example of an exercise that can be done many different ways, depending on preferences. Some folks may have limited range of motion and feel uncomfortable bending at the elbow with their arm overhead. Others may not want to lay on their backs or don’t have the strength to do dips yet.

Here are three different tricep workouts. And, this isn’t an exhaustive list — there are plenty more tricep exercises out there to try, as well.

Skull Crushers

Lie flat on your back and extend your arms right over your shoulders with a dumbbell in each hand. Bend at the elbow, bringing your hands towards your face. Your shoulder joint stays in the same spot the whole time.

Want to modify? You can lift one weight instead of two, holding one side of the dumbbell in each hand. You can also use a bar instead of dumbbells. To up the challenge, bring your legs into a table top position, with your knees right over your hips and legs in a 90 degree angle.

Tricep workouts: skull crushers

Close Grip Press

Lie flat on your back and extend your arms right over your shoulders with a dumbbell in each hand. Lower your arms towards the floor, bringing the weights right over our belly button and making an L-shape with your arms. Keep your elbows tight to your body.

Want to modify? You can use lighter weights, hold one weight instead of two and use a bar instead of dumbbells. Also, you can incorporate lower abs by positioning your straight legs right over your hips, then keeping your legs straight and lowering your ankles towards the floor.

Tricep Workouts: Close Grip Press

Tricep Dips

Place your hands and feet on the floor, with your chest and hips towards the ceiling, like a crab position. With your hips up slightly, bend at the elbow to lower your body towards the floor. As you bend, elbows go straight back toward the wall behind you.

Pro tip: I’ll often see participants moving at the hip and shoulder joint to move their body lower. Instead, tell them to keep everything still except the elbow — that’s the only thing that should be bending.

Want to modify? You can place your hands on risers or a steps to decrease the load. You can also place your feet on risers or a step to increase the difficulty. Also, you can straighten one leg and switch halfway.

Tricep Workouts: Tricep Dips

Check back next week for Part II of the series that will share three more tricep workouts to try.

And if you’d like more workout ideas, check out the workout routines and playlists page.

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The Mother’s Day Gift Guide for Group X Instructors

Mother's Day Gift Guide

For those of you looking for what to get your Group X Instructor supermom for Mother’s Day — or the supermoms that want to give their families a little nudge in the right direction — I’ve put together the following Mother’s Day gift guide.

Quick disclaimer: I am not a mom. But, I have a supermom of my own (who introduced me to group fitness classes) and a community of group fitness instructor mommy friends. On top of that, I consider myself to be a pretty good gift-giver *flips hair*.

So, here’s a look at a few gift ideas for the fabulous, wonderful, superhero Group X instructor mother in your life.

A music subscription or ITunes gift card

Woman listening to music

Figure out how your mom plays and finds music for her group fitness classes. She might use a CD or create her own playlists on ITunes or Spotify.

If she uses CDs, I’m a big fan of 32mixes.com for premade workout playlists. If she uses ITunes, you can pick up an ITunes gift card.

You can also encourage her to try something new. Spotify is another option for Group X instructors to create playlist from a wide music selection. You can purchase a gift card to Spotify, so she can buy a Spotify Premium account and play her music in class without ads.

A new gym bag

Gym Bag for a Mother's Day Gift Guide

[$25; Amazon]

If you want to give your Group X momma something other than clothes, you might consider gifting gym accessories, like a new bag or headphones.

I received a new Adidas gym bag for Christmas and I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on it. After a quick look online, my bag is out of stock, but I’ve included a newer, similar model above.

A ClassPass subscription

Woman holding yoga mat

ClassPass is a subscription service that allows you to take Group X classes at a host of different local studios. There are a few different membership options, starting at $65 a month.

I’ve gone back and forth on whether I should include a ClassPass subscription on this list. On one hand, most instructor mommies don’t have a whole lot of time to attend other classes around town. But on the flip side, if your mom does have some extra time and loves trying new Group X classes, ClassPass is a great way to get your mom’s foot in the door at a bunch of different gyms.

A local massage or pedicure

Woman getting a massage

This one seems like a no-brainer to me. Group X instructors’ bodies are hard at work all the time. Give your mom the gift of relaxation with a local massage or pedicure gift certificate.

Victoria’s Secret sport pants or capris

Workout pants for a Mother's Day gift guide

[$64.50; Victoria’s Secret]

Victoria’s Secret has been having a 50 percent off sale on their workout pants for a limited time in stores. I just bought myself a pair and LOVE them. These pants meet my two main requirements: they’re thick, which means they won’t be see-through, and they have medium and high-rise, so no saggy pants in front of a class full of participants.

A fitness conference registration

A fitness convention master class

Group X instructors and personal trainers typically leave fitness conferences feeling inspired and rejuvenated in their craft. These conferences are all-day events with back-to-back sessions for fitness professionals to check out the latest equipment and fitness trends.

I know many moms have a hard time getting away for the day. Make it easy on momma and buy the ticket for her.

Here are two of the top national fitness conferences. You can also do a Google search for local conferences, meet-ups, etc.

  • IDEA World Convention, Los Angeles, CA, July 13-17, 2016
    • Full convention cost: $399 (sign-up for a 1-month IDEA membership free trial; just be sure to cancel it before they charge you)
    • 1-day cost: $219
  • SCW Mania Conventions, locations across the U.S., dates vary
    • Full convention cost: varies (roughly $250)
    • 1-day cost: varies (roughly $180)

I hope all of the Group X mommas out there have a fabulous Mother’s Day!

For more tips, check out my group exercise ideas page.

 

(Image sources: RateMDsTechCrunchSoma Sati Body Work, and Club Industry)

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Say Goodbye to Burpees or Any Group X Activity That Doesn’t Serve You

Michelle-Doing-a-Burpee-in-Group-X-Class

Burpees are good for you. They’re a great way to work a bunch of different muscles at once and get your heart rate up. But, here’s the rub: they’re not very fun.

What they don’t tell you is that you can still achieve fitness results in your group exercise or fitness class without ever doing them. A burpee is a high intensity interval that engages your legs, chest and core. Instead, your class can do squats, push-ups and an interval, all separately. You’ll achieve similar results without doing the dreaded burpee.

While it may not be burpees, we all have that one activity that we don’t like to do. For me, just the thought of partner workouts makes me break out in hives. Do you have an exercise that you really don’t like? I’m giving you permission right now to never teach it again.

This doesn’t mean that you can take out key elements of a class, like the warm-up or cool down. But, you can tweak your class to fit your style and preferences. If you’re not a fan of a choreographed, dance warm-up, then do jumping jacks, planks and squats to get warm. That’s what’s great about fitness — there’s more than one way to achieve desired results.

Here are a few important questions to ask yourself before you throw away a particular activity.

Is there another way I can achieve the same results?

If you can work the same muscle groups and/or get similar cardiovascular results with a different exercise, there’s no need for you to torture yourself by doing activities you don’t like. For example, seated, upright rows with a band and bent over rows with dumbbells both work the back muscles and are very different from each other.

Is it necessary for the class format?

There are some elements of a Group X class that come with the class format territory. Don’t like choreographed warm-ups? Then you probably shouldn’t be teaching UJAM or Zumba. Members will show up to a new class with expectations based on the class name and description. You’ll want to make sure your lesson plans match what is listed online and on the schedule. So, if the description mentions intervals, you’ll want to include them.

If you don’t feel like your teaching style matches what’s listed on the schedule, ask your manager if you can change the description to better match the class.

Does my class like it?

Last but not least, if your Group X class likes it — and it’s safe — you’ll likely want to add it to your plans, even if it’s not your favorite. If you don’t love the exercise, think of ways to tweak it, so that you can still enjoy the activity. If your class begs for burpees, maybe you can turn them into a competition, include them in a circuit or give folks two interval options (burpees or squat jumps, for example) to choose from. That way, you can find a way to make the exercise your own and still give participants what they want.

It is important to recognize the difference between disliking something because it’s challenging and disliking something for another reason. We all know the feeling of enduring an intense exercise and fighting against the thought of quitting. There are plenty of activities your class may hate at the time, but once it’s over they’re thrilled they stuck it out. This isn’t permission to go easy on your class and get rid of every difficult exercise. This is permission to chuck the group exercise activity you don’t like to do and not feel guilty just because it’s popular or trendy.

For more Group X advice and lessons learned, visit the group exercise ideas and tips page.