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The Father’s Day Gift Guide for Group X Instructors

Father's Day Gift Guide for Group X Instructors

I’m sure most Group X dads out there are tired of getting striped ties and coffee mugs for Father’s Day. For those kids looking for what to get their fitness junkie fathers — or for the dads wanting to share a few hints — I put together the below Father’s Day gift guide.

Before we dive in, you’ll want to check out my Mother’s Day gift guide that has some unique ideas for moms and dads, like a massage or a pass to a local fitness convention. If those suggestions don’t do it for you, here are a few more ideas to consider.

A monthly meat subscription service

Carnivore Club logo

Obviously, if your dad is a vegan, vegetarian or has other dietary restrictions, don’t buy him meat. For every other fitness fanatic, yummy protein is always a crowd pleaser. Meat subscription services, like Carnivore Club or Butcher Box, look like a fun gift for protein lovers.

If you have an awesome local butcher, you can also consider picking up some meat and grilling it yourself to make a special meal for your dad.

A monthly snack subscription service

Graze logo

There are also a few snack subscription services out there that look good, like Graze or Mantry. These are a great way to add some variety to your dad’s typical snack routine.

Fitness clothes

Under Armour shirt from Sports Authority

[$27.99, Sports Authority]

It’s always fun to get new exercise clothes. Sports Authority has been having a going out of business sale, with everything up to 30 percent off.

Heart rate monitor (or other fitness gadget)

Heart Rate On a Cartoon EKG

Many gyms and fitness centers have equipment, like spin bikes and treadmills, that pare with select heart rate monitors. Some gyms even have score boards hung up that showcase users’ activities by calculating their effort as a percent of their heart rate max.

Do some digging to see if your father already has a heart rate monitor. If not, call up the gym he works at to ask the manager or front desk staff what heart rate monitors are compatible with their equipment.

Hope this Father’s Day gift guide helps, and wishing all the Group X dads out there a happy Father’s Day!

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

(Image Source:

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How to Regroup in the Middle of Group X Classes

A fitness instructor teaching one of her Group X classes

After spending hours crafting the perfect lesson plan, creating a stellar playlist and practicing your cues, sometimes Group X classes still won’t go your way. Maybe the CD keeps skipping, the microphone screeches every time you walk towards the back of the room, or there’s something slightly off in the choreography (yes, all of these things have happened to me at some point :)). With all eyes on you, it’s hard to find a second to gather yourself, address these challenges and carry on through the rest of the class. So, what can you do when you need to regroup?

First, repeat after me: stuff happens. One small mistake is not going to have participants running for the hills. We’re all human and members will usually be understanding when the occasional issue arises. I personally am quick to get down on myself when I make a mistake during a group fitness class, so I’m going to give us all permission, myself included, to cut ourselves some slack next time we mess up.

When something is going awry, you’ll want to try to alleviate the issue as much as possible for members. Your response will of course depend on the problem, but here are a few ideas to get your class moving while also giving you a second to yourself to regroup and address issues.

For Choreographed Group X Classes: Use a holding pattern

In a dance or step class, a “holding pattern” is a move or set of moves that participants can do over and over again, like step touch or a grapevine. If you mess up the choreography or have an emergency in class, you can instruct members into a holding pattern, so they can keep their heart rates up while you are free to move around the studio.

If you’re not in a choreographed class, you can still do a holding pattern by starting an exercise, instructing members to continue to move while you walk around. Preferably, you’ll want an activity that is balanced on both sides, like squats or alternating lunges.

For Spin Group X Classes: Ask folks to close their eyes

Since everyone in a spin class is strapped in to their bike, they can safely close their eyes for a moment or two without putting themselves at risk. You can ask your participants to match their leg speed to the beat of the music. Then, ask them to close their eyes and continue to match the leg speed. If your bikes have monitors, you can use them to check on their speed at the end.

You likely won’t want to do this immediately after an interval when heart rates are especially high or with a particularly fast pace. But, if things are somewhat calm, you can ask everyone to close their eyes for just a few seconds while you play with your notes, the stereo or whatever it is that’s causing the problem.

For Strength Group X Classes: Cue interval training

Intervals are a great way to get participants working hard without needing you to be at the front of the room to demonstrate. Once you’ve started the class on an interval, you’re free to address any issues. You can also divide the class into partners and ask one partner to keep time for the other, so that their attention is focused on each other instead.

If you’re still able to give participants a good workout, they’ll probably end up forgetting all about the problem before the class is even over. After class, you might want to treat yourself to a nice bubble bath or yummy bowl of ice cream to reward yourself for making it through a challenging class. I know you deserve it.

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

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How to Sub a Group X Class Successfully

Fitness instructor subbing for a Group X class

As a participant, I’ve been to Group X classes where members would walk into the room, take one look at the substitute (sub) and spin 180 degrees right back out the door. Subbing for an exercise class can be scary — many members get irritated when the fitness instructor they’ve been looking forward to seeing all week is a no-show. And when you’re subbing a group fitness class, there’s an extra challenge to providing that stellar experience, since most of the participants aren’t as familiar with your fitness motivation and cueing style.

I’ve had my fair share of subbing mishaps (nothing too traumatic, thankfully), so I was stoked when the spin class I subbed last weekend went really well. It was the kind of class that had an electrifying buzz to it, with everyone in sync, working hard and feeling motivated. After the class, many folks thanked me for teaching, so I knew I wasn’t the only one feeling that spark.

This class got me thinking: what is it about that subbing experience that worked so well?

Here are three tips I pulled from this class to help you provide the best Group X experience when subbing for another fitness instructor.

Acknowledge That You’re a Sub

Sometimes it feels like participants will come into a class that has a sub feeling defensive or judgmental. I’ve found that by acknowledging you’re a sub, it sometimes helps to soften their attitudes a bit.

In the intro for the class, I’ll say:

“Lucy is out today. I know Lucy is awesome, I love taking her class, too. But, I appreciate you being nice to the sub and coming into this class with an open mind, ready to give it your all.”

Usually, that will get at least a few people smiling. I think this helps to remind participants that you’re human, too, and you’re trying your best to make sure everyone gets what they came for.

Keep It Simple

This seems like a no-brainer, but this is something I have trouble implementing sometimes. Some of the intervals I love to do in my weekly spin classes aren’t a good fit when subbing. In your weekly classes, participants are familiar with your style and most of your lesson plans, so adding one or two new, complex drills will be a welcome challenge. But, when you’re a sub, participants are seeing the entire class for the first time, so there’s a lot to learn.

Instead, keep the lesson plan and activities simple, so members can feel successful by the end. Feel free to offer uncomplicated options and progressions to make these drills more challenging for advanced athletes without losing the rest of the pack.

Play Good Group X Music

Subbing is a great opportunity to throw all of your favorite songs into one jam-packed playlist. Oh, your regulars are tired of hearing that new Justin Bieber song every week? When you sub, you can subject the members to every catchy song that you’ve overplayed in your own classes.

The music is also an easy way to win over the participants in the class you’re subbing. Add a bunch of crowd favorites to get them singing along and rocking to the beat.

While all of these tips are helpful when planning your next Group X class as a sub, it’s important to keep in mind that some things are out of your control. There could be low class attendance, angry participants or members that just aren’t a good fit with your teaching style. But with the above tips, you can minimize the risk for a bummer class and provide a good experience for the majority of attendees.

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

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14 Themed Workout Songs for Memorial Day

Fitness instructor listening to workout songs for Memorial Day

While classes during three-day weekends can be hard to navigate due to sometimes near-zero attendance, they’re also the perfect opportunity to mix it up with a playlist full of themed workout songs. My Monday classes were cancelled today, since the gym closed early. So, I planned a themed playlist last week instead that was loosely linked to Memorial Day. I say, “loosely,” because I pulled together a bunch of songs that remind me of Memorial Day for different reasons. Some center on memories/remembrance, others are patriotic and then I sprinkled in a few with a summertime vibe.

It’s important to keep in mind that Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for everyone who has died serving in the American armed forces. So, you’ll want make sure to be sensitive and respectful of the holiday when explaining the theme.

Here’s a look at fourteen workout songs for a Memorial Day playlist.

Memory-themed Workout Songs

“Do You Remember”, Jay Sean — upbeat, Top 40’s-esque song with some sexy Sean Paul and Lil Jon flavor.

“Memory”, by SugarCult — fast-paced song, good for intervals, that your inner teenager will love.

“Remember The Name”, Fort Minor — slow, steady song with pump-you-up motivational lyrics.

“Remember the Time”, Michael Jackson — slow crowd-pleaser with a strong beat.

“Thnks Fr Th Mmrs”, Fall Out Boy — the verses build up into a quick, catchy chorus.

Songs about the USA, Yay!

“Born in the U.S.A.”, Bruce Springsteen — slower, classic song that will have people singing along.

“All-American Girl”, Carrie Underwood — pop/country song with a cutesy storyline.

“Party in the U.S.A.”, Miley Cyrus — the song everyone knows that will undoubtedly get stuck in your head.

“American Idiot”, Green Day — a fast, punk rock anthem good for sprints and intervals.

“American Woman”, Lenny Kravitz — slow and powerful. That, “uhhh,” speaks to my soul, Lenny.

Summertime, and the Songs Are Easy.

“Summer”, Calvin Harris — EDM/house song with a big buildup at the chorus.

“Holiday”, Green Day — moderately-paced, with a heavy beat. Not your average beachy tunes.

“The Boys of Summer”, Don Henley — a solid summer throwback to round out the mix.

“Soak Up The Sun”, Sheryl Crow — A carefree, easy-listening cool down song.

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

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How to Automatically Adjust the Volume of Workout Songs in iTunes

Woman listening to workout songs on her iPhone

While I’m a big fan of premade Group X CDs — they’re convenient, volume controlled and have a consistent BPM (beats per minute) — my participants tend to prefer iPhone playlists, because the workout songs selection is better and the music is less squeaky. However, one of my biggest problems with playing a self-made playlist off iTunes is the song volume fluctuates drastically with each song. So, instead of having the freedom to be anywhere in the room, I have an invisible chain keeping me within arms’ length of the stereo so that I can turn the volume up or down to adjust with each song.

For the longest time I’ve been playing premade CDs in my strength classes. But, recently the CD player in my class wasn’t working, so I had to plug in my iPhone instead. A few participants commented that they loved the music. I was playing all of my jams — like some of Beyonce’s old stuff, like, “Crazy In Love”. But, as each song would come on, I would run over to the stereo to adjust the volume.

After the class was over, one of the members came over to suggest a solution: iTunes’ Sound Check. It automatically adjusts playback volume to the same level. I added it to my iPhone, and while it didn’t completely fix the problem, it made the volume fluctuation between workout songs more tolerable.

For those interested in adding Sound Check to your Apple devices (e.g. iPhone, iPad, iPod, etc.), here’s a step-by-step guide.

1 – Open your iTunes on your computer.

2 – Click the top left corner button and click “Preferences”.

A screenshot of iTunes

3 – Select the “Playback” tab. Then, make sure “Sound Check” is selected.

A screen shot of the Sound Check option on iTunes

4 – Finally, sync your Apple device with your computer, by connecting your product to the computer with the power cord.

5 – Play your workout songs the same way you always do.

We tested my playlist after enabling Sound Check. While there was still some variability between songs, the volume was much better than last class. This is a great solution for instructors during Group X classes, but also for those that like to listen to playlists on a long run or other exercise. That way, you don’t have to yank your earbuds out of your ears when a loud song comes up on shuffle.

Sound Check just might be the technology I needed to finally start using an iPhone playlist of workout songs for my Group X classes.

For fitness instructors looking for more advice, check out the group exercise ideas and tips page.



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How to Make Those Holiday Group Fitness Classes Special

Woman on stability ball in one of her group fitness classes

Most gyms turn into ghost towns on holiday weekends. And while my fellow fitness fanatics are salivating at the idea of having an entire gym to themselves, holiday weekends are a lot harder to navigate as Group X instructors. That’s because group fitness classes are typically smaller and chances are there a lot of new faces that aren’t familiar with your teaching style.

Although participants might be wishing they were somewhere on a beach instead (and let’s face it, you probably are, too), you want to make sure you provide a positive experience for folks that showed up to your Group X class. So, here are a few suggestions to help make those classes on holidays or holiday weekends extra special for participants.

Play themed holiday music, with a twist

Most of us have probably been to group fitness classes that played Halloween or Christmas music. But, who really likes the “Monster Mash” or “Frosty the Snowman”?

Instead, put an extra twist on your themed playlist. Maybe play only holiday music from the 90s or tie in a specific genre. For Memorial Day, play only songs with a memory theme, like “Memory” by Sugarcult or “Remember the Name” by Fort Minor (so good!). You could also do only beachy songs, like “The Boys of Summer” by Don Henley or “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper. Another idea is keep with a holiday theme, playing Madonna’s “Holiday,” or “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO.

Teach everyone’s favorite exercises, choreography, etc.

If you’ve been teaching your Group X class for a while now, chances are you’ll know which activities are members’ favorites. Especially on a holiday weekend where things might feel a bit slower, get the class excited by doing the moves they look forward to. What’s great about this is it’s so easy to do — just plan a jam-packed class full of favorites.

Use equipment other than the dumbbells

When classes are full, instructors often have to stick with dumbbells or other popular equipment with enough to go around. In a smaller class, you’re able to use the equipment in limited supply, like stability balls and the BOSU. And if you’re still short on equipment, consider a circuit or partner drills that have members using the items for a portion of the class.

Do activities that take up more space

When Group X classes are busy, you’re not always able to cue the moves that take up a lot of room, because you don’t want everyone to hit each other. On holidays when you might have extra room, you can teach exercises that take up a lot of space (think: roundhouse kicks or frog jumps).

Don’t be afraid to take an extra few seconds to explain a new move before having participants jump in and try it. Those extra seconds will be worth it, because participants will be more likely to succeed at the new exercise and have fun doing it.

Next time you teach on a holiday or holiday weekend, remember to make it fun for yourself and your participants. Even if your long weekend turned into a staycation, you might as well make the most of it by giving your group fitness classes a stellar experience.

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

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ClassPass Upped its Prices — What Group X Instructors Need to Know

Girl holding yoga mat

As I’m sure you’ve seen, ClassPass upped its prices last week for the second time in a year and people are understandably upset. Even if your studios or gyms don’t participate in ClassPass, this is important for all Group X instructors to know, since you likely have participants (and bosses) that are affected.

Here’s a look at the changes and how this will impact you.

What is ClassPass?

ClassPass is a membership service that gives folks access to Group X classes at multiple boutique studios and traditional gyms in their area.

Here are the locations that currently have ClassPass:

ClassPass locations

ClassPass is great for consumers that like to mix up their routine and try a bunch of different classes at a plethora of studios. There’s a base membership that allows you to take five classes for a set fee. All prices vary by location, but the new costs for the base option range between $65 and $75 a month. In New York, there’s also a core membership that offers 10 classes a month for $135. Finally, you can purchase the unlimited membership for $200 in New York, and $119 in San Francisco. Other locations run in between those prices.

With the base option, prices are often better than drop-in rates at boutique studios. Each class on the base plan will run you $13 and drop-in rates at some studios can cost $20 each. If you opt for the same studio each time, you might want to consider an in-studio rate, since many have comparable options with a 10-class pass, monthly membership, etc.

As a consumer, I love the idea of ClassPass as a complement to my other workouts and classes. I haven’t convinced myself to buy a base membership yet (for days I don’t teach), but I definitely see the draw.

However, as an instructor, I also recognize the challenges that come with offering spots in a class to ClassPass users. Beyond the potential for profit loss, ClassPass also brings inconsistency to classes. Typically, classes have a good mix of regulars and first-timers. You need enough regulars to help create structure in your class and act as role models to the other participants. When you have a good mix of regulars in the class, you’re able to give everyone the attention they need to successfully complete the workout. While there are only a limited number of ClassPass spots available in a given class, it can still impact the ratio of first-timers and regulars.

I teach Group X classes that are offered on ClassPass and so far, it’s been a positive experience. Regulars and first-timers alike have been able to find success, and there haven’t been any disruptions.

I believe ClassPass is just the tip of the iceberg for new fitness business models. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out once the dust settles on the ClassPass price increases. Overall, I think it’s important for Group X instructors to be considerate of both returning members and first-timers. It’s up to us to provide everyone with a positive experience, and a key part of that is recognizing that every participant comes with different expectations and background.

Check out the group exercise ideas page for more tips and tricks based on the latest news and trends.



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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 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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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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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.