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What Not to Wear to Teach Your First Group X Class

What Not to Wear to Your First Group X Class

Teaching your first Group X class can be a nerve-wracking experience. There are plenty of other things to worry about, without having to stress over what to wear during that first class as the fitness instructor. As someone who has been teaching for more than half a decade, I’ve learned a few fitness fashion faux paus the hard way. Most embarrassingly, I’ve had someone come up to me after class to tell me my workout pants were see-through. Rather than let you experience these mortifying moments on your own, I’ve put together the following tips to help you get through your first, and every, group fitness class sans wardrobe malfunctions.

Here’s what you should NOT wear to your first Group X class as the instructor.

Brand-new clothes

It’s always a good idea to wear workout gear at least once before teaching in it. We’ve all had that shirt that ends up being too low or the pants that sag with every squat. It’s best to realize those issues when you don’t have a roomful of people staring at you. Especially for first-time instructors, pick clothes that you know you’ll be comfortable in and won’t have to play with the whole time.

Group X instructor Michelle in workout clothes

Thin or loose pants

You’ll want shorts, capri pants or regular pants that fit well. That means they don’t pull down when you move around. Also, your pants shouldn’t be so thin that they’re see through when you’re doing squats or lower body stretches. I love Victoria’s Secret new sports capris. They’re really thick, and the pair I own haven’t stretched out in the wash after months of use.

Workout Pants for Group X

 

Baggy clothes

Form-fitting clothes are important, so that participants can see your form while you’re demonstrating exercises. Make sure your clothes are decently-tight, so that other folks are able to tell what you’re doing with each activity. Most exercise clothes will fit well, but leave those baggy cotton T-shirts at home. I like Under Armour’s tanks tops because they are tight without the squeeze.

Tank Top for Group X

Spaghetti straps and/or just a sports bra

I’ve heard horror stories of fitness instructors or participants that get a rash or bacterial infection from laying directly on the mats or dirty benches. To prevent that, you’ll want to wear a shirt with sleeves. Of course, this will depend on what class you’re teaching. For example, wearing sleeves won’t make much of a difference during a spin class. If you are set on rocking the sports bra or have a favorite tank top you aren’t ready to part with, make sure you put a clean towel down before you lay on the mat, floor, etc.

I have one short sleeve shirt that’s been in my closet for years, and isn’t sold anymore. The other short sleeve shirts I’ve purchased recently have been disappointing. One that’s on my wish list is the Lululemon Swiftly Tech Short Sleeve.

Workout Shirt for Group X

 

Hair that will interfere with the headset

Finally, make sure your hair will be comfortable when you put the headset on. My go-to options are a medium to high-pony or a French braid. These hairstyles will let the headset rest between your ears and on the very back of your scalp.

Best Hairstyles for Group X

With the above tips, you’ll be able to feel comfortable about your clothes, so you can focus on teaching a stellar class. And, if you look good, you feel good!

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

(Image Source: PopSugar)

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July Links I Love for Fitness Instructors

Fitness Instructors running on a city street

Fitness instructors need to stay up on the latest research and trending news happening each month. We are considered experts in our craft, and keeping up-to-date on trends comes with that responsibility. Plus, we can share new workouts, motivational cues and exercise research with the participants in our group fitness classes in order to keep them engaged, and ultimately coming back for more each week.

While articles crop up every day with new information, workouts and tricks to try, we need to sift through a lot of content to find the ones worth reading, especially in the fitness industry. To save you a bit of time, I’ve gone through and pulled some of my favorite articles from last month.

From advice for Group X participants to a new study about the effectiveness of lifting lighter weights, here are a few interesting articles from July worth the read.

  1. An answer to the age-old question: should you lift lighter or heavier weights? This one’s especially important for Group X classes with limited dumbbell options.
  2. 5 signs that a group fitness class is too difficult. Great information for participants, plus call-outs for fitness instructors to keep in mind during class.
  3. A new formula for determining how long you need to exercise to offset the perils of sitting at your desk all day.
  4. Tips for feeling more energized, broken down between morning, afternoon and evening advice.
  5. A fun plank variation that targets the obliques for fitness instructors to try in their next class.
  6. While women are hopping on the body positivity movement, men are getting left behind. Here’s a deep dive into how that’s hindering the fitness experience for men.
  7. Tony Robbins’ four tips for mental fitness, including ways to prime yourself for the day ahead.

If you enjoyed these articles, you’ll love my roundup of June articles for fitness instructors. Check them out here.

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10 Workout Songs for the End of Summer

The End of Summer Workout Songs

This summer is flying by. Before we know it, we’ll be trading in our long, hot days for school work, falling leaves and crisp, cool mornings. The changing of the seasons is a great time to add some new tunes to mix up your Group X playlist. A few months ago, I shared a few workout songs to try around the Memorial Day holiday. Now, here are ten workout songs that fit an end of summer theme to play in an upcoming group fitness class.

These end-of-summer workout songs includes songs about school and songs about the upcoming Fall season, because those are the two major things we get to look forward to in the near future.

School is Back in Session Songs

“Rock and Roll High School,” The Ramones — fast-paced, upbeat song that’s good for a sprint.

“ABC,” The Jackson 5 — a family fun song with a slower speed but tons of energy.

“Another Brick in the Wall,” Pink Floyd — a steady moderately-paced song that will give your playlist some edge.

“Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” The Police — a nice buildup for a climb or slower song.

“Teacher,” Nick Jonas — fun, upbeat pop song with a moderate beat that’s good for strength training.

Fall-ing in Love with These Workout Songs

“September,” Earth, Wind & Fire — I don’t know a single person that doesn’t love this song. A must for any fall-themed playlist.

“Falling for You,” Student Rick — A fast rock song with a bit of punk that will have you itching for an interval.

“DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love,” Usher feat. Pitbull — a high-energy pop, Top 40’s song that will fit in a bunch of different playlists.

“Free Fallin’,” Tom Petty — A classic slow jam that will have everyone bobbing their heads during cool down.

“Fall For You,” Secondhand Serenade — A great, slow love song that’s a perfect cool down song.

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

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What Can Fitness Instructors Say to Those Scared of Group X Classes?

Group of women talking about their first Group X class

As a Group X instructor, we typically want everyone else to love fitness as much as we do. One of our biggest responsibilities as instructors is to find understanding and patience as each person finds their way on their fitness journey. Not everyone is going to love fitness like we do. Great instructors get that and are able to adapt their mindset to best support each participant’s unique experience.

Last week, we talked about how many people think of the gym like a not-so-fun house. Gyms can be a scary place, especially for people that are new to the fitness industry. How can we as instructors acknowledge these fears while still encouraging new folks to come to your class?

Here are a few ideas to help new participants face their fears and take their first Group X class.

Group X is not the end of the journey — it’s part of the journey.

Sometimes when I tell someone that I teach Group X classes, they’ll respond that they are working to lose weight and once they do, then they can come to my class. They’re treating group exercise classes like a reward that they can only access once they’ve lost weight or gained muscle, etc. However, Group X classes are geared towards helping to make exercise fun and challenging, which might be the reason they’re having such a hard time working out in the first place.

Yes, I get that you won’t be the fittest person in the room, but nobody is going to judge you for being there. The participants in a group exercise class are almost always supportive and encouraging of one another. If not, they usually keep to themselves for some “me” time. Everyone comes to class because they like to be there and they like the workout that the instructor provides. Nobody spends any time making others feel bad.

If you are just starting your fitness journey, take advantage of the modifications that the instructor suggests. The instructor is not just blabbering on because he or she enjoys it. We want to provide a good workout for everyone in the room and if we provide you with options, that’s because we want you to take advantage of them.

Everybody’s too busy looking at themselves to notice you.

The “spotlight effect” is a psychological term that means that people tend to believe they are noticed more than they really are. For example, if you wore two mismatched shoes to work very few people would probably notice (unless you point it out, of course). But, in the meantime, you may be stressing yourself out, worrying that everyone is probably laughing at your shoes.

That same principle is the case in Group X classes. Most people are so busy looking at themselves in the mirror and trying to get their form right, that they don’t even notice what you’re doing. I consider this a good thing, because you can take breaks or use whatever resistance or weights you want and nobody will care.

Of course, the instructor will notice you and will likely come around to say hi, adjust your form and answer any questions. But, that feeling that everyone is going to be silently judging your every move in a Group X class is all just in your head.

We all know plenty of people that have never been to a Group X class, but would like to someday. As instructors, it’s great if we’re able to alleviate some of those fears, when possible. However, even these comments won’t convince everyone to walk into their local gym tomorrow. So, be kind and considerate as folks work through their process. Forcing them into a class they don’t want to take is not going to end well. Rather, let them come join your class on their terms. Maybe you’ll even get a lifelong member out of it.

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

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My Favorite Tweets from the @IDEAfit World Convention

@IDEAfit Group Exercise Class

One of the biggest fitness conventions in the U.S. happened over the weekend. The IDEA Fitness World Convention was in Los Angeles, bringing together fitness experts and enthusiasts from all over the country. I, unfortunately, was not able to make it this year, but that didn’t stop me from keeping up with the #ideaworld hashtag and @IDEAfit Twitter handle for the past few days to see all the fun I missed. Although I couldn’t be there in person, I’d like to think I was there in spirit, getting to experience the event through the eyes of the attendees and presenters on social media.

For my fellow fitness instructors that weren’t able to make the trip, I pulled together some of my favorite tweets and quotes from the @IDEAfit convention to help you feel like you were right there in the action, too.

“You’ve got to get to the point where you’re comfortable in your own skin.” — Randy Hetrick // @ideafit

"You've got to get to the point where you're comfortable in your own skin."

“A bad day for your ego is a great day for your soul.” — Jillian Michaels // @AshliMcKee

"A bad day for your ego is a great day for your soul"

“Forget what hurt you, don’t forget what it taught you.” — Jenna Wolfe // @lizwilsonyoga

"Forget what hurt you, don't forget what it taught you."

Keiser Fitness’ glow stick cycle party. // @ideafit

Glow Stick Cycle Party

“There are two times in life. Now and too late.” — Jenna Wolfe // @apstyle

"There are two times in life. Now and too late"

“People know what to do for wellness, but they don’t do it. People need to know HOW to do it and WHY to do it.” — Dr. Holly Wyatt // @FitnessEditor

"People know what to do for wellness, but they don't do it. People need to know HOW to do it and WHY to do it."

“We have to go out of our way to make healthful choices in this food environment” — Yoni Freedhoff // @LGfit

"We have to go out of our way to make healthful choices in this food environment"

So inspiring! If you’d like to check out more of the action from the Idea World Convention, check out the #IdeaWorld hashtag live feed. And, if you need continuing education credits, there are other fitness conventions coming up around the country that might work with your schedule.

For more fitness industry happenings, check out the group exercise ideas page.

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How Can Fitness Instructors Help Prevent Body Shaming?

Welcoming group fitness class without any body shaming

Body shaming is widespread in the history of the fitness industry — many professionals have earned their fortunes by making people feel bad about their bodies. Last week, 2015 Playmate of the Year Dani Mathers posted an inappropriate and invasive Snapchat shaming the body of another woman changing in the locker room at her gym. As with the rest of the internet, this story got me boiling mad. We are smack dap in the middle of a body positive revolution, and yet, some people are too slow to embrace this new way of thinking.

Especially frustrating for me is that this takes place in a gym – what I consider a safe haven and my personal stomping grounds, but for so many others what feels more like a fun house bursting with distorting mirrors and scary clowns. Folks are finally starting to face their fears and step foot in the gym, in part because of the new wave of body positive mentality. But, Mathers’ Snapchat proves we still have so far to go before everyone can have the same experience I do at a gym.

My fellow group fitness instructors and personal trainers, we are role models at our respective gyms, so it’s our responsibility to create an inclusive environment for everyone that wants to work out.

Here are a few ways we can help create an atmosphere in our classes and on the gym floor that will stifle body shaming and allow everyone to feel welcome.

Don’t use body image as a motivational technique.

Most of us work out for many different reasons, including our desire to achieve a healthy lifestyle, be able to do activities we love, prolong our lives, and look a certain way. While it’s perfectly okay to exercise to achieve a certain look, it doesn’t have to be a motivation that we focus on as leaders.

For example, you can encourage participants in your spin class during a sprint by telling them this effort will make them faster and stronger, instead of talking about how great their butt will look after they’re done.

Don’t talk about food.

Most of the time when I hear a fitness instructor or personal trainer talking about food, it’s associated with being overweight.

For example, I’ve heard someone say, “After this class, you can go eat that burger.” But if you read between the lines, what they’re actually saying is, “After this class, you can go eat that burger and not get fat.” I’ve also heard remarks like, “Let’s burn off all the extra calories from that 4th of July BBQ last weekend.”

Instead of comments like these, let’s allow us all to enjoy our treats and celebrations without linking it to some sacrifice (read: exercise). Ultimately, this just makes us feel guilty and gives us a negative relationship with food and fitness.

Try to work on changing your mindset to think of eating and exercising as a privilege instead. As something that you enjoy doing as two separate, wonderful entities of life. And personally, I just avoid talking about food in my fitness classes entirely, because it’s such a tricky topic to navigate.

Offer modifications that are easy and inconspicuous.

In my experience, participants will take advantage of modifications most often when they’re not able to see themselves in the mirror. For example, once we all lay on our backs to do chest press or supine bridges, nobody can see each other unless they get out of position and look around the room. This is the perfect time for members to make those modifications you suggest without feeling embarrassed.

I look forward to a time where everyone feels comfortable coming to a gym to exercise and body shaming is dead. Until then, fitness instructors and personal trainers will need to be extra conscious of the environment they create and how they are leading participants through safe, effective exercises.

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

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What Do You Do When Someone Complains About A Fellow Fitness Instructor?

Fitness instructor talking to participant

If you’ve been in the fitness industry for a few years, more than likely you’ve been in the uncomfortable situation where someone starts telling you critiques about another fitness instructor. For the most part, participants will keep their comments to themselves, but every once in a while one will come up to you to say negative things about another instructor that puts you in an awkward situation. It’s unprofessional for you to engage in conversation talking trash about your coworkers, but you also don’t want to scold your members for sharing their opinion.

So, how do you respond when a participant complains about another fitness instructor?

First, if the participant tells you that a colleague is teaching something dangerous or unsafe in their class, then you do have a responsibility to act. You can tell the member to notify the Group X director or front desk staff to make sure that it is reported. If you know the instructor, you may want to reach out to them to let them know your concern. Otherwise, you can bring it up with your director, as well.

If that’s not the case, then you get to decide how you’d like to respond. And for the most part, these comments usually have nothing to do with safety and everything to do with the participant’s preferences. When a participant complains to me about another instructor, I’ll respond with something like,

“I’m glad you’re starting to figure out what types of Group X classes you like. That’s the reason we have so many different classes and instructors: so that everyone can find something they like. More than likely you won’t like all of the classes and instructors, and that’s okay. That’s why we offer so many options.”

What I like about this response is that it doesn’t discount their opinion – everyone has a right to prefer certain classes and teaching styles over others. I know I personally have my favorite classes and instructors, so why can’t my participants have the same thing? But, at the same time it doesn’t contribute any negative sentiment about your colleagues.

There are many ways to address this conversation and you have to go with a response that feels authentic to you. It’s a good idea to think about how you would respond to a comment like this, so that you don’t feel flustered if it ever comes up.

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

 

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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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June Links I Love for Fitness Instructors

June Links I Love for Fitness Instructors

Each day, fitness articles pop up sharing new Group X classes, industry research and fresh exercise ideas. As someone who works as a Group X instructor, I read a lot of health and wellness articles, because it’s important to stay on top of the happenings and new research findings. Keeping an eye on the trends allows fitness instructors to personalize their classes based on the latest research or workout ideas, so that they can keep their participants engaged, motivated and safe.

In June, unique fitness classes, like mermaid swim classes and aerial yoga, got some time in the spotlight. And, many publications profiled the world’s oldest bodybuilder who happens to be 80 years old and has no interest in slowing down. Quite a few advice articles caught my eye that helped to remind me what it takes to be a great fitness instructor no matter how long you’ve been teaching. Of course, I always like to look at a few posts sharing creative workouts or fitness motivation that I can introduce in my Group X classes.

While I can’t include every article from last month, here’s a look at some of my favorite fitness, Group X, health and wellness articles from June.

  1. Nine things fitness instructors should not do (with hilarious GIFs).
  2. Tips for new yoga instructors to start teaching on the right foot.
  3. Have you ever heard of mermaid fitness classes you can do in the pool?
  4. A look at why participants turn to yoga.
  5. Creative dumbbell exercises to mix up your group fitness classes.
  6. The world’s oldest bodybuilder is 80 years old.
  7. Seven benefits of doing aerial yoga that make it worth trying at least once.
  8. Eleven reasons to work out that have nothing to do with weight loss.
  9. How to take your fitness routine on the road during a vacation.
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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.