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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.