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‘Woo’ Girls No More: Group X Class Check-in Tips

How are you? In most of the U.S., this question is often answered with a “good” or “fine”. But in many group fitness (Group X) studios scattered across the country, the appropriate response to that question is a variation of the phrase “woo”. I’m here to not only give you permission, but to encourage you, to break-up with the woo in your next Group X class.

Why? Because there are other questions or call to actions that will elicit the response you want.

Ultimately, when you ask a question expecting the woo response, you’re asking Group X class participants if they’re okay and if they’re following along. With the woo, most folks do not respond. If they do respond, it’s typically not in unison, which takes away from the momentum of the class. And to the chagrin of instructors everywhere still wearing leotards, leg warmers and hair scrunchies, the woo is wasted air — it doesn’t provide you with any useful information about your participants.

Lily and Robin talking about woo girls in a Group X class.

Now, before I go any further, some of us are meant to be woo girls. When the instructor asks how everyone’s doing, the whole room responds in perfect unison as if they were extras in a Disney movie. If that’s your style and you like it, then own it! As long as it feels authentic, you can ask your Group X class whatever question feels right, in the moment. But, if you’re still trying to find or evolve your group exercise teaching style, here’s a look at a few ways to check in with participants without demanding the woo.

Thumbs up/head nods

Rather than asking your class to say something, you can ask your class to give a thumbs up or nod their head. For some, this will feel less invasive or embarrassing. When you’re in the back of the class and don’t want any attention on you, it can feel unnerving to woo.

Instead, after you finish providing instruction or just finished a really challenging drill, ask your participants to give you a thumbs up. It can sound like this, “Give me a thumbs up if you understand and you’re ready to own this next interval,” or, “If you feel like you’ve finished your recovery and are ready for the next sprint, give me a thumbs up.” That way, you get the desired feedback from your class and your members still feel comfortable.

If/then statements

This is similar to a thumbs up, but it requires your participants to talk. Instead, of asking an open-ended question (e.g. how are you?) that puts your class on the spot, ask a direction question and feed them the answer. For example, you can say, “If you’re ready to do this next interval, say yes,”  or, “if you understand the next drill and are ready to give it all you’ve got, say ‘let’s go’.”

If/then statements are great, because they don’t require a lot of thinking. All your participants need to do is listen to what you’re saying and then respond. Then, you get what you wanted out of it, which is feedback that they’re still following and/or are ready to go.

Visible scan of the Group X class 

One option for checking in on participants is simply to scan the room. Once you’ve taught a class for a few weeks, you’ll start to get familiar with the participants. Their body language will tell you everything you need to know — how hard they’re working, do they understand, etc.

If you’re getting blank stares when you explain a new drill, don’t be alarmed. That could be how your participants look first thing in the morning or after a long day at work. More than likely, they’re following along just fine and will do a great job on your exercises. Have confident in your lesson plan and teaching abilities — allow participants to enjoy the class without feeling the need to give you feedback throughout. If you still want feedback, you can ask for it after class when everyone’s putting equipment away and packing up.

Ultimately, how you decide to ask for feedback and check in with your class is up to you. Take a chance and try something new in your class next time. Once you find a strategy that feels authentic, your classes will benefit.

For more suggestions on how to communicate with your Group X class, check out the fitness motivation and cueing page.

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Why Do You Want to Become a Group Fitness Instructor?


You might have stumbled upon this post because you’re thinking about becoming a Group X (or group fitness) instructor. First and foremost, welcome! If you choose to take that next step, the path to becoming a group fitness instructor is both rewarding, invigorating and downright challenging.

To be frank, it’s not for everyone. You’ll want to do some research before getting certified to decide if teaching group exercise classes is right for you. I wanted to share a few thoughts on the different reasons people join the fitness industry. Once you figure out your why, you’ll have a better idea if you’re going to find long-term success pursuing your passion for fitness.

Let’s talk about the No. 1 wrong reason for teaching group exercise:

I love to workout. Why not get paid doing it?

I think it’s safe to say you have to love fitness and exercise to become an instructor. But, just because you enjoy working out, doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy teaching. What’s more, you will likely work out less when you teach. That’s because important components of teaching — cueing proper form, motivating your class to work harder and monitoring for safety — cannot be done while you’re doing the workout full out in the front of the room. On top of that, the pay can often be a wash, when you add in the cost for certifications, continuing education, clothes and music.

Typically, folks that try out teaching simply because they want to get paid to work out will end up burning out of the industry pretty quickly.

However, there are many reasons to become a group fitness instructor, including:

  • I love sharing my knowledge of fitness with others.
  • I enjoy finding creative ways to work muscle groups and planning comprehensive workouts.
  • I am passionate about coaching and motivating others to be the best versions of themselves.
  • I am a stickler for exercise safety and proper form. I want to share my knowledge with others, so they can avoid injury and still be working out in another 50+ years.

The list goes on. So, before you take that next step, be sure to drill down to the reason you want to become a group fitness instructor. With the right purpose, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a rock star teacher.

For more insight into teaching fitness classes, check out the group exercise ideas and tips page.

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How to Cue a Group Fitness Class Without Wasting Time

Group Fitness Instructor Cueing an Exercise

When the energy is high in your group fitness (or Group X) class, the last thing you want to do is slow things down to explain the next activity. If members stand around for too long, you’ll risk losing momentum as their effort and attention start to decline.

Instead, you’ll want to find a balance between providing ample Group X instruction and getting the fitness class moving. Here are a few cueing and fitness tips to strike the right balance.

Share basic cues first, start the exercise and feed in more cues as they work.

Most participants have a basic understanding of standard movements, like lunges, squats, bicep curls, etc. For exercises like these, get the class started with a short sentence, like, “grab your dumbbells, because we’re going to do alternate forward lunges”. Once you have the class doing the exercise, then you can provide additional form and safety cues. I’ve found it’s easier to cue form once the class has started, because then you can share tips based on what they’re actually doing (e.g. if members’ lunges are too narrow).

The same technique can be used in a progression exercise. Start the group doing a simple exercise first, continue to cue, then add on progressions once the class has mastered it. For example, you can cue, “grab your dumbbells, because we’re going to do alternate forward lunges and then add on”. The class can quickly start their lunges and then you can cue changes, like going faster, slower, or holding the lunge. Also, you can easily transition to a compound exercise, adding bicep curls or upright rows while the class is still doing the lunge.

While they’re still completing the last exercise, demonstrate the next one.

Especially if you’re ending a sequence with an isometric exercise, you can have your class continue to hold it while you demonstrate the next move. That way, you can physically demonstrate the exercise and verbally explain it, so participants can seamlessly transition to the next move.

For example, while your class is in an isometric squat, you can reveal the next exercise at the front of the group fitness room. From there, participants can go right into the next move. You will have participants that break when you break, but that’s okay. Some people are kinetic learners, and only learn by trying the exercise with you. But, other folks will appreciate that they’re not standing around while you explain what’s coming.

Introduce a series of exercises at the beginning and then do each one back-to-back.

If you’re planning to do a few different exercises in a series, you can demonstrate all of them first and then the group fitness class can do one right after the other when you say “go”. This works great during times when members naturally need a break, like after an interval or another series has ended. Folks will appreciate the rest in between series.

Start the move on your own and then ask the group fitness class to, “Join me when you’re ready.”

There are some exercises that are complicated to explain. Sometimes, it’s easier just to do the move, find the pace you want and ask the class to jump in. That way, everyone is on beat (lookin’ at you, my rhythm teachers!) and everyone has an example to mirror.

Use phrases your class will recognize.

How many of your friends know what an abductor or adductor is? What’s the different between an upright and bent over row? There are certain phrases you’ll have to explain the first few times in class, but once members are familiar with it, you can quickly say the term and go right into the exercise. Be sure to go back and explain those phrases every once in a while as a refresher, especially when you have new participants.

For example, I’ll pick a name for each ab exercise we do (i.e. crunches, scissor kicks, circle, etc.). After we go through the series once in a class, then we can do it a second time much faster. I can just call out a name and they can recall the move.

If you feel like you’re spending too much time explaining exercises and the class is starting to get restless, start testing the group exercise ideas above in your fitness class. It feels great once you’re able to find a balance between instructions and execution. And I know your group fitness members will appreciate it most of all.

For more tips and tricks, check out the fitness motivation and cueing page.

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Group X Spin Class Routines: Triple Threat


As group fitness (or Group X) instructors, we’re always looking for new spin class ideas to keep members excited and motivated. While we all have our go-to playlists and workouts, members do appreciate when we add an exercise or two to mix it up. There are a few easy ways to spice up your spin class routines. You can add a “throwback” song to your playlist, especially a classic that has everyone singing along. You can also try a new exercise that’s not part of your typical toolkit.

Here’s one of my 45-minute spin class routines and playlist that I like to call “triple threat”. You’ll notice I use tabata timer songs for the intervals, which makes it super easy to do 20/10 intervals without losing track of time. There are a lot of different song timers out there. If you decide to give a song timer a try, take some time to listen to the preview before purchasing to make sure the countdown style works for you.

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

“Triple Threat” Spin Class Routine


“Triple Threat” Playlist on Spotify

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Spin Class Ideas: Using Visualization as Fitness Motivation

Group X Instructors Discussing Spin Class Ideas

You might have the perfect spin class ideas or playlist planned, but sometimes you put on your Group X mic, get in front of the class and realize you’ve lost your participants’ attention. That’s especially important in a spin class — you need to provide fitness motivation for your participants or else you’ll lose everyone’s attention and, ultimately, their work effort.

One of my favorite techniques to inspire my Group X class is visualization. Help your participants create mental images in their head to boost their confidence and encourage effort. These images can be anything you want them to be, as long as they’re relevant to your participants and easy to follow. You can also have everyone close their eyes, if you’d like.

Here are three tried-and-true visualization story lines:

The mountain of doom

I kid, I kid. I don’t really call it the mountain of doom, but it sounds cool, right? My participants are usually pretty focused during shorter, quick-paced intervals. But, when it comes to longer intervals or slower leg speeds, they don’t need to focus so much on moving their feet, so their mind starts to wander.

As soon as we start a segment like this, I begin to describe a looming mountain (or hill) in the distance that we’re preparing to climb. It goes something like this:

Picture yourself in a forest at sunset. It’s just you, your bike and nature. You look up ahead and see the sun setting just over the peak of a towering mountain. My friends, we’re going to climb to the top in this next song. Let’s make it to the top before sun sets and it’s too dark to see. What do you need to do to make it?

As soon as the song (or segment) ends, you can move on and never reference the mountain again. Or, you can circle back to the same mountain, by pointing out another peak or sprinting downhill.

The pack of riders

This one is pretty popular in spin classes, since many instructors will try to mimic an outdoor ride. And I think this technique is here to stay, because classes really seem to enjoy this one.

You’ll want to start by describing the scene. Pick the number of riders you’ll be riding with and the landscape. Then, explain the situation. You can use the pack of riders for intervals (working hard to overcome the rider ahead of you) or endurance (trying to keep up with a pack that’s a little too fast for you), among other scenarios.

Here’s a sample of an interval visualization:

You’re on a flat road at the back of a pack of four riders and you want to pass them up one by one. So, we’re going to do an interval for 30 seconds where you go as hard as you can without going breathless — you don’t want them to see you “sweat”. From there, we’ll take a 20 second break and do it again. On the last interval (#4), you can go breathless.

Your special someone

In this situation, you have your participants picture someone else, whether it’s a friend, family member or someone else important to them. Then, you explain that for this next song, we’re riding for that person.

You can do a lot of different things with it. I’ve done an interval drill, where with each interval we thought of a different person that could use our positive energy. You can also use this technique for longer segments with greater resistance.

Here’s an example:

I want you to think of someone else that you want to ride for during this next song. It might be someone that couldn’t make it today or just a friend that really needs some good vibes today. Now, you two are riding on a tandem bike and you’re at the bottom of a hill. You know that in order to make it up this hill you’re going to have to do the work. Help your friend make it up the hill.

These visualization story lines are great ways to mix things up and give your Group X class a little extra fitness motivation. Above all, you have to say what feels genuine and right for you. Take one of the spin class ideas above, add your own flair to it, and give it a try next week. As long as it comes from the heart, your participants will love it.

For more Group X and spin class ideas, check out the fitness motivation and cueing page.

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


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.

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3 Factors to Finding the Right Group X Workout Music


Workout music is an instrumental part of a group exercise (Group X) class — pun intended!

If a group fitness class was a cake, the music would be the frosting. It’s not the most important element of a class, but it can be someone’s favorite part of the whole experience. When picking out your songs, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind in order to create a playlist everyone loves.

Here are three important factors to choosing the right songs for your group exercise class.

Time of day/week for your class

The same playlist won’t work for your 5 a.m. Monday class, 10 a.m. Saturday class and 6 p.m. Thursday class. For example, weekday early morning (say, 6 a.m.) classes tend to be retired or working professionals. And most of them (yourself included) probably just woke up. Steer clear of rap or anything with an unsettling or particularly loud beat.

Your participants

For the most part, you’ll know when your participants like your songs. Sometimes they’ll sway to the beat or start mouthing the words to themselves. When a good song comes on, you can feel the energy in the room as the class starts to push themselves harder.

When you start teaching a class, try different genres of music to see how your class responds. Once you determine what your class likes, you’ll want to create playlists featuring a wide-range of genres and popularity, with an emphasis on their favorites.

If you’ve tried a lot of different genres and still aren’t sure what workout music your class likes, feel free to ask your participants directly. Be specific. You can say something like, “I tried something new by playing, ‘The Boys Are Back in Town,’ did you like that song? Should I play it again?”


At the end of the day, you need to like the workout music you choose. The people in your class will feed off your energy and if you don’t love the song, they’ll notice.

If you play a song and the participants start complaining about your song choice, Schwinn Master Instructor Shannon Fable recommends responding, “Ok, I absolutely love this song, so this one is for me. If you don’t like it, you can just shut your ears for three minutes.” That way, you can still play the songs you like and casually remind the folks in your class that you have to cater to a lot of different tastes, not just theirs.

A great group exercise playlist successfully combines the preferences of you and your participants with the class environment. Once you have a sense of everyone’s music preferences, you’re well on your way to creating the best playlist for your audience.

For more music ideas, visit the workout routines and playlists page.