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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.