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Here’s Recent Constructive Feedback from One of My Group X Participants

Group Exercise Instructor Implementing Feedback

It’s very rare for me to get feedback in my Group X classes. Usually most participants will leave with a smile and simply say, “thank you”. To tell if they like the class, I wait to see if they show up again, and most do! But, I never get to hear if they like the intervals or a certain song. Once you’ve taught the same group of folks for a while, you can start to recognize participants’ demeanor and get familiar with how they act when they like something, but other than that, specific, useful feedback is far and few between.

So, I was so appreciative when a participant came up to me after class one day to share a suggestion. Here was the feedback:

“Make sure the effort and pace match the beat of the song, especially at the very end of the song.”

I am guilty of listening to songs for just the first 30 seconds or so, and if I like the beat, I’ll add it to the queue. But, there have been numerous times where the song will end in a weird way, either by cutting out early, audience applause or just a slow, drawn out finish. In the past, I’ve told participants to, “go faster than the beat,” but this person explained that it wasn’t enjoyable to do that.

Lucky for me, there is such an easy fix. Now, I make sure to listen to the end of the song — each and every week — as a reminder of how it ends. Sometimes I’ll write notes to myself to point out when I should do the intervals to make sure I’m doing them when the beat is most intense and upbeat.

Something to think about in your classes, as well. If you think your participants don’t notice when you’re slacking off, think again. Also, it’s a good idea to ask for feedback every once in a while, especially if you’re first starting with a new class or have been teaching the same class for a while. And, of course, listen to all of the song at least once right before you teach it — always.

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

And, let’s connect on Twitter @GroupXMich.

 

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Gifts for Healthy Moms, 2017 Mother’s Day Edition

Gifts for Healthy Moms: Nike Shoes

There are so many cool trinkets and accessories out there, but when it comes time for Mother’s Day, it can be hard to find gifts for healthy moms. That’s why I put together a list of great gifts for fitness instructors, or any healthy mommas out there. I made a Mother’s Day gift guide last year that had a lot of great gift ideas in it, too. If you’ve never gifted your mom a Spotify gift card, a ClassPass subscription or cute workout pants, definitely check it out.

And, without further ado, here are some more great gifts for healthy moms for this Mother’s Day.

Gifts for Healthy Moms #1: Foam rollers

Gifts for Healthy Moms: Foam Rollers

Foam rollers have become increasingly popular as the industry has been giving greater focus to stretching, recovery and self-care. You can foam roll while you watch TV, and it’s been proven to help increase flexibility and decrease pain.

If you’re interested in purchasing a foam roller as a gift for your mom, check out The Sweet Home’s roundup of best foam rollers.

Gifts for Healthy Moms #2: New Shoes

Gifts for Healthy Moms: Nike Shoes

Especially if your fitness instructor mom wears the same pair of shoes day in and day out, it’s probably time to get her a new pair. There are so many fun pairs of shoes out there right now, like these Nike Free TR 6 AMP.

You might also want to check out the site 6pm.com which has a lot of name brand shoes, accessories and clothes on sale.

Gifts for Healthy Moms #3: Admission to a fitness conference

Gifts for Healthy Moms: Fitness Conference

 

There are so many great fitness conferences and expos coming up this year, and fitness instructors love to attend. If you’re looking at a gift that’s at least $100, check out the upcoming conferences to see if there’s anything in your mom’s area.

Gifts for Healthy Moms #4: Wireless Headphones

Gifts for Healthy Moms: Headphones

For our runner mothers, new, clean headphones are such a luxury, especially ones that will stay in your ears and avoid getting damaged by sweat. Amazon has two high-rated, affordable pairs of wireless headphones here and here.

Gifts for Healthy Moms #5: Yummy tea bags and honey

Gifts for Healthy Moms: DAVIDsTEA

Fitness instructor moms often come home with those sexy raspy voices (yes, I have one, too! :)). When the mic doesn’t work in the group fitness studio, it’s up to the instructor to yell cues for an hour. Help your mom soother her voice and throat by giving her fancy tea bags and honey. After a long day, I love to cuddle up with a cup of tea and honey.

DAVIDsTEA and Yogi tea have always been a big hit with my friends and family.

Gifts for Healthy Moms #6: Lush bath bombs

Gifts for Healthy Moms: Bath bombs

Make your mom’s next bubble bath a luxurious one with Lush bath bombs. They smell so good and really transform the bath experience. Lush even has some cute bath bombs that say “MOM”.

Hope all the fit and healthy moms out there have a fabulous Mother’s Day!

(Image Credit: Her Campus & Aaai-ismafitness

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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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What’s Your Group Exercise Instructor Uniform?

Group Exercise Instructor Uniform

As group exercise instructors, we put a lot of effort into our class presentation, including our motivational cues, voice and gestures. It’s important to note that even things like our appearance has an impact on what participants think of our class. If we come into class disheveled with our hair always in our face or constantly adjusting our clothes, participants are going to have a reaction. So, it is important to put some time and effort into your group exercise instructor uniform (your workout clothes, hair and overall hygiene) to make sure you’re giving the best impression to your clients.

Appearance is a very personal topic, and it is important to let your personality shine through when you’re teaching. Don’t feel like you have to follow the mold of what you think a “typical group exercise instructor” looks like. Participants truly value authenticity above all else. When it comes to what you wear, there are a couple common questions and dress codes I’ve seen group exercise instructors swear by. I wanted to share these with you today, and then you can decide for yourself if it’s a uniform that fits your style.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when picking out your group exercise instructor uniform.

  1. Will I wear colorful clothes?

Bright colors are super popular right now, so it’s understandable that you want to wear bright colors as you teach. I do think it’s surprising that not all instructors wear colors. Some swear by sticking with neutrals, like black and grey. The argument here is that black is considered a professional, serious color. If you’re wearing all black, folks might look to you as a leader of the room. I do wear a lot of colors, but the one thing I admire about folks that only wear black workout clothes is they always look put together. There’s something about a monochromatic or very blended outfit that looks both effortless and stylish.

  1. Should I teach in just a sports bra?

This is a very touchy question: can you teach in just a sports bra? Nowadays, those high-waisted workout pants make it all the easier to teach in a sports bra and look professional. I would look at the dress code of the other instructors before stripping down, because some gyms are pretty modest. Showing a lot of skin might also make participants uncomfortable, so proceed with caution.

And, speaking of sports bras do your best to make sure your girls are supported during your workout. It’s distracting when an instructor has cleavage or starts jumping and moving in an unsupportive sports bra.

  1. How should I do my hair?

Some instructors will always have their hair falling down, and regularly fix their hair in class. Again, it’s distracting and takes away from the professionalism. I recommend securing your hair as best you can so that it stays put and doesn’t require your attention at all in class.

  1. Should I wear brand names?

Your participants are very impressionable, and the clothing choices you make will have an impact on them. I try to limit the brand names (e.g. Nike) that I wear, because I don’t want to use the power I hold to influence my participants’ consumer decisions. Especially in certain geographic areas I’ve taught in, like the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, there are a lot of participants that come in expensive workout clothes (think: Lulu Lemon). I want participants to feel comfortable taking my class without needing expensive gear or equipment. I may wear a nice pair of Lulu’s one day, but always try to balance it with non-descript capri pants on other days, as well.

The group exercise instructor uniform is a very sensitive topic. You want to balance your own desire for self-expression with your responsibilities as a role model to your participants. When in doubt, I usually err on the side of caution. If you are ever uncertain about what to wear, I recommend talking to your group exercise director or a colleague you trust.

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

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Why I have an ACE Group Fitness Certification to Teach Group X Classes

ACE Group Fitness Certification handbook

If you want to become a Group X instructor, you’ve likely started researching different fitness certifications that you can get to teach, including the ACE Group Fitness certification. You may have noticed that all you need is a Group X certification and CPR/AED to technically teach group fitness classes; however, some certifications are more impressive and widely-accepted than others.

If you have a specific gym in mind, you’ll want to make sure you ask the group exercise director that runs their program what fitness certifications they’ll accept. It might also be worth emailing the gyms nearby to see what fitness certifications they require in case you decide down the road you want to teach there. Otherwise, you’ll have to decide for yourself what certification to take.

Here’s why I chose the ACE Group Fitness Certification.

When I was taking UCLA’s Fitness Leadership Program back in 2010, we were encouraged to take the ACE Fitness group exercise certification test, because it was one of the most accepted and respected options for Group X instructors. There were other choices, but this one was strongly encouraged. I didn’t think anything of it at the time and just selected the ACE Fitness test, but I was so glad I did.

Moving up to San Francisco Bay Area after college graduation, I started looking for gyms I could teach at, and every single one accepted the ACE Fitness certification. For reference, I’ve been on the group exercise instructor list at more than five gyms. A year in, one of the gyms I taught at ClubSport even changed its policy and required instructors to have either ACE or AFAA nationally-accredited certification. Many instructors were frustrated that they had to go out and get another certification. If you’re just starting out, you can avoid this scenario by choosing ACE or AFAA in the first place.

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

(Image source: ACE Fitness

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March 2017 Links I Love for Group Fitness Instructors

One of the group fitness instructors leading a class

March was a month to remember, with the SCW Fitness convention in Burlingame and family trips to San Francisco. Once again, it feels like we’re flying right into the next month. I’m pretty excited about April. This next month will kick off the six-month countdown to my wedding in October, and it’s the one-year anniversary of starting this fitness blog with you all, my fellow group fitness instructors!

Before we dive into April, I want to take a minute to share my favorite article links from the past month that group fitness instructors should check out. This is a round-up of the top fitness and health studies, tips, exercises and stories. For anyone that had a busy month, now is your chance to catch up on all the major news happenings in the industry. For example, a recent study was published revealing the benefits of strength training (see bullet 4).

Here are my favorite March 2017 links I love for group fitness instructors.

If you liked this roundup, you’ll also like my “Links I Love” roundup from February and January. You can also check out the group exercise ideas and tips page for more posts.

And, let’s connect on Twitter @GroupXMich.

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How to Best Use Indoor Cycling Bike Consoles

Indoor cycling bike consoles

Late last year, my gym finally got new (to us) indoor cycling bikes with consoles. Even though they’re used bikes, it’s so exciting to have consoles that we can use to measure different aspects of the ride. One participant even commented that indoor cycling rides are more challenging when you have a console to hold you accountable and motivate you. The only bummer I find with most indoor cycling bike consoles, including ours, is that the numbers can vary so drastically from bike to bike, and sometimes even day to day on the same bike. Especially as the indoor cycling bike consoles start to get some wear and tear, they’re easily off calibration, and usually read much different numbers than you would see if you were riding outside.

So, here’s the problem: how do you suggest a range to work within for any of the items displayed on the console (speed, RPM, watts, etc.) when the bikes’ calibration varies so drastically? For example, you might say, “your WATTS should be between 100 and 500,” but what if their WATTS are calculated on a bike console with an inaccurate calibration? Even if the calibration is correct, 100 to 500 is such a huge range to work with as a participant.

My solution? Do the same interval more than once, and use the first interval as a guide to match or surpass in the remaining intervals. That way, it doesn’t really matter if the numbers are inaccurate, because riders will be able to reach their max using measurements they establish instead.

Indoor Cycling with Bike Consoles Ride #1: WATTS

For example, if you want to track WATTS, you can suggest:

“We’re going to do a breathless, sprint interval for 30 seconds. Resistance is just a touch above flat road. During your interval, observe your WATTS to see how high you can get that number. In the next interval, I want you to try to match those WATTS. In the final interval, I want you to try to pass those WATTS.”

That way, participants are pushing to find their very best WATTS they’re able to ride that day, despite any inaccurate indoor cycling bike consoles’ calibrations, and can use that to guide the rest of their ride.

Indoor Cycling with Bike Consoles Ride #2: Distance

Another measure I like to use is distance and time. These two are nice companion measurements, and you can do quite a few exercises with them.

For example, you can track distance over a specified amount of time:

“We’re going to do a breathless, sprint interval for 60 seconds, seeing how far we can go using that distance measurement. Then, on our next interval, we’re going to cut both numbers in half, so half the distance in half the time.”

Creating a guide measurement to follow for the rest of the class helps to avoid the issues we typically find when offering broad ranges for participants to follow. Make sure that you start over each week, asking participants to observe and measure their numbers on the first interval, since they may switch bikes from week to week or their indoor cycling bike consoles may have been altered since. Then, use that metric as a guide to match or beat during other intervals in the class.

For more tips and tricks, check out the group exercise ideas page. You can also find spinning playlists and workouts here.

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What’s Part of the Group Exercise Instructor Job Description?

Woman looking up the group exercise instructor job description

A typical group exercise instructor job description leaves a lot to be desired. Sure, you sort of already know what you’ll be doing if you’ve ever taken a group fitness class before, but what about intangible qualities that are important for Group X instructors to have? And, what about embracing and embodying the unique culture at each gym?

After a few searches, I came up with two group exercise instructor job descriptions that I found particularly helpful in understanding what is expected of you as an instructor, and what the culture is like at the gym. Check out some of my favorite lines from the 24 Hour Fitness and Club Sport job descriptions.

The 24 Hour Fitness Group Exercise Instructor Job Description

What I really liked was that the job postings went on to explain in detail what the responsibilities included, like:

  • Greet all members and orients new participants
  • Instructs class to the ability level of the students participating
  • Encourages new participants and orients them to class
  • Stores all equipment neatly and appropriately

And, the qualifications were useful, as well:

  • Ability to deal with a diversity of individuals
  • Ability to communicate with people of all age groups
  • Ability to effectively demonstrate all skills being taught to participants
  • Must be outgoing, energetic and able to perform in front of an audience

The Club Sport Group Exercise Instructor Job Description

Club Sport also keeps it real in their job description, including the responsibilities:

  • Arrive at least 10 minutes early for class to prepare; stay after class to interact with members
  • Be available to substitute teach whenever possible
  • Strive to maintain and increase your class size
  • Teach to make students feel successful, and educate members on proper exercise techniques
  • Make your students’ safety and enjoyment your number one priority
  • Convey warmth and genuine interest to the students: make eye contact, smile, use students’ names, personalize the workout, even in a large class
  • Operate studio stereo equipment properly, with music at sound levels that are appropriate to class type and intensity, but also safe for students and not disruptive to the adjacent studio (where applicable)
  • Ensure all equipment and props are properly used during class and properly put away / stored after class

And, the qualifications were pretty specific, as well:

  • Properly demonstrate and perform all exercise / dance / stretch movements included in each class routine taught
  • Perform assigned class for duration of class while cuing and coaching without becoming “out of breath” (i.e., maintain a level of cardiovascular fitness that allows this)

If you are looking to start teaching group exercise classes, here’s a pro tip. I would recommend trying to find the email address for the group fitness director, and sharing your resume with them directly. I’ve been most successful in getting on a new class schedule when I’ve either sent an email directly or known someone at the gym already who was able to refer me.

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

(Image Source: The Training EDGE, NASM Magazine)

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2017 U.S. Health and Fitness Expo and Convention Schedule

Group fitness instructor attending a health and fitness expo or convention

If you’re a group fitness instructor in need of some exercise inspiration or new workout ideas, a health and fitness expo or convention is the ultimate way to break out of a rut. After spending the day surrounded by fitness professionals and immersed in wellness conversations, it’s hard not to feel reinvigorated. Even if you don’t need a motivation refresh, a health and fitness expo or convention is a great way to network, learn new moves and get updates on the latest happenings in the fitness industry.

I do have one caveat: they can be expensive! If you only teach one group fitness class a week as a side hobby, it can be hard to justify spending hundreds of dollars on a fitness gathering. There are ways to attend an expo or convention without breaking the bank. Consider activities in your area — if you can commute to and from each day, you’ll save major dough you would otherwise spend on hotels. You can also attend for one day instead of a full weekend.

Some of the major shows have volunteer programs. I was a volunteer at the SCW Fitness convention in 2015 and loved it. Being a volunteer was much more affordable, and it helped me connect with other professionals I would have never talked to otherwise. I liked it so much that I’m going to be a volunteer again at this year’s SCW Fitness convention.

If you’re looking for a health and fitness expo or convention in your area, here’s a list of some of the most popular events this year.

January 2017 Health and Fitness Expo and Convention List

February 2017 Health and Fitness Expo and Convention List

March 2017 Health and Fitness Expo and Convention List

April 2017 Health and Fitness Expo and Convention List

May 2017 Health and Fitness Expo and Convention List

July 2017 Health and Fitness Expo and Convention List

August 2017 Health and Fitness Expo and Convention list

September 2017 Health and Fitness Expo and Convention List

October 2017 Health and Fitness Expo and Convention List

November 2017 Health and Fitness Expo and Convention List

Notably, I didn’t find any major events happening in June or December scheduled so far (as of January 15). This doesn’t include workshops, so check out your local certification websites to see what workshops are going on in your area.

If you want to take your career in group fitness up a notch in 2017, I strongly encourage squeezing a health and fitness expo or convention into your schedule.

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

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17 Great Throwback Spinning Songs for 2017

Group fitness instructor listening to throwback spinning songs for 2017

Spinning songs will make or break your group fitness class. Sure, the exercises, motivational cues, tempo and overall vibe are important, but it’s mission critical to get the music right, or you risk losing return Group X participants. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for some great chart-topping hits in 2017, but in the meantime, it’s always fun to toss in a few throwback spinning songs to get the class jamming.

Whether it’s a popular song from 2016 or one from the 80s, it’s always a good idea to think about your audience when choosing songs. After a few classes under your belt, you’ll know whether they prefer Top 40s, rock, instrumental or one of the many other genres out there. Once you know their faves, you’ll want to continue to offer a mix of songs, with a special emphasis on their preferred genres.

I teach evening weekday spinning classes, mostly to professionals at the end of their workday (our gym is right outside a couple corporate buildings). There’s certainly a mix of interests in the class, leaning towards a love of classic rock and the Top 40 pop music.

Here are their favorite spinning songs that they ask for again and again.

  1. Livin’ on a Prayer, By Bon Jovi — I think this is generally folks’ all-time favorite spinning song!
  2. You Shook Me All Night Long, By AC/DC — this is another major crowd pleaser in my class.
  3. Bad Reputation, By Joan Jett — great for sprint/quick feet songs.
  4. Born to Run, By Bruce Springsteen — this one makes me feel like I’m spinning in a movie.
  5. Come as You Are, By Nirvana — good for a climb with heavy resistance.
  6. Communication Breakdown, By Led Zeppelin — this song is a little over two minutes. It’s great when you need to fit a quickie sprint at the end of the class.
  7. P.Y.T., By Michael Jackson — pretty much any Michael Jackson will do. He gets you in a such a good mood.
  8. Draw The Line, By Aerosmith — this one doesn’t have a whole lot of vocals, so I like to use for my warm-up when I know I’m going to be doing a LOT of talking.
  9. Emotions, By Mariah Carey — I LOVE this song. Not everyone does, but worth a try in your next spinning class.
  10. Heartbreaker, By Pat Benatar — tempo is fast, and lyrics are addicting.
  11. I Like the Way You Move, By Outkast — I’m not sure if this really counts as a “throwback”, but nothing gets you bobbing to the beat quite like Outkast.
  12. Livin’ La Vida Loca, By Ricky Martin — this is the kind of song that will surprise your participants, but with an open mind it’s super fun to use for spinning.
  13. Lose Yourself, By Eminem — another one of those spinning songs on the border of a “throwback”, but I’ve had participants specifically ask for this song before.
  14. Only Wanna Be With You, By Hootie & The Blowfish — The pace for this is moderate, but it’s a fun song if people know it.
  15. Pour Some Sugar on Me, By Def Leppard — I was obsessed with this song last year, so I know I overplayed it in my spinning classes, but I promise it’s so good!
  16. Push It, By Salt-N-Pepa — if you want a change-up from the classic rock, this is a fun throwback for you.
  17. Survivor, By Destiny’s Child — this is a special one because you can tap into the lyrics for motivation.

I’ve heard other instructors suggest Madonna and Whitney Houston, but I haven’t found the perfect spinning song by either of them to get the group fitness studio rocking. If you have other spinning song suggestions, please send them my way!

For more workout song suggestions, check out the workout routines and playlists page.