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Here’s Recent Constructive Feedback from One of My Group X Participants

Group Exercise Instructor Implementing Feedback

It’s very rare for me to get feedback in my Group X classes. Usually most participants will leave with a smile and simply say, “thank you”. To tell if they like the class, I wait to see if they show up again, and most do! But, I never get to hear if they like the intervals or a certain song. Once you’ve taught the same group of folks for a while, you can start to recognize participants’ demeanor and get familiar with how they act when they like something, but other than that, specific, useful feedback is far and few between.

So, I was so appreciative when a participant came up to me after class one day to share a suggestion. Here was the feedback:

“Make sure the effort and pace match the beat of the song, especially at the very end of the song.”

I am guilty of listening to songs for just the first 30 seconds or so, and if I like the beat, I’ll add it to the queue. But, there have been numerous times where the song will end in a weird way, either by cutting out early, audience applause or just a slow, drawn out finish. In the past, I’ve told participants to, “go faster than the beat,” but this person explained that it wasn’t enjoyable to do that.

Lucky for me, there is such an easy fix. Now, I make sure to listen to the end of the song — each and every week — as a reminder of how it ends. Sometimes I’ll write notes to myself to point out when I should do the intervals to make sure I’m doing them when the beat is most intense and upbeat.

Something to think about in your classes, as well. If you think your participants don’t notice when you’re slacking off, think again. Also, it’s a good idea to ask for feedback every once in a while, especially if you’re first starting with a new class or have been teaching the same class for a while. And, of course, listen to all of the song at least once right before you teach it — always.

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

And, let’s connect on Twitter @GroupXMich.


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April 2017 Links I Love for Fitness Professionals

April Links I Love for Fitness Instructors

It’s that time again! Another month has come and gone, along with a lot of great fitness and health articles and studies. For me, April was a blur, between celebrating friends’ birthdays, picking up my wedding dress (5 months to go!) and keeping up at work. I’m really looking forward to May — lots of planned family and friend time, and I’m hoping for good, sunshine-y weather. Before we jump into May, I want to take a second to look back at the top articles in fitness and health, so that other fitness professionals, like yourself, can keep up with the latest trends and happenings.

If your month was anything like mine, it was quite the challenge to stay in the loop on everything that happened in the fitness industry in April. There were a few important studies you’ll want to brush up on and viral articles you’ll want to make sure you read. That way, you can come to your next group exercise class armed with the most up-to-date knowledge to better their experience.

Here’s a look at my favorite fitness and wellness articles from April that fitness professionals should read.

  1. One study found that high-intensity intervals were the best for making our cells regenerate, so on a cellular level, interval training helps us look and feel younger (reported by Inc. magazine). I tried to explain this to my spin class, and as soon as I mentioned “mitochondria” their eyes glazed over. So, if you do share this information in your class, be sure to keep it simple.
  2. The 5 Most Common Excuses Holding You Back by Susie Moore via Greatist. Yes, I’m obsessed with Susie Moore — if you ever catch me reading one of her articles, you will see me nodding along in agreement the whole time, eyes affixed to the screen. She speaks to my soul.
  3. 10 reasons why you should be stretching by Jessica Matthews via ACE Fitness. If you’re already a fitness professional, chances are you already know the benefits of stretching, so this is a great tool to share with your classes to encourage them to stick around and do stretches after exercise.
  4. How to do a bodyweight split squat via New York Times Well blog. I love the angles and color of this post. Great exercise to add to your next group exercise class, too.
  5. 3 Lessons About Mental Toughness You Can Learn From Yoda via Tor Constantino for Entrepreneur magazine. We all know participants show up to your group exercise classes so you can motivate them and get them to work harder than they would on their own. These mental toughness tips are great to try in your next class.
  6. If your talk doesn’t do these three things, don’t give it, via Neil Pasricha for Fast Company. While we all know how important it is to provide participants with a safe, effective workout, it’s also just as important to entertain and educate. We need to think of ourselves as not only lesson planners, but also public speakers and teachers.
  7. 5 must-do exercise to do if you want a stronger core, via Lee Boyce for Muscle & Strength. Crunches are a thing of the past, yet many participants will still show up expecting to do “abs” for the last 10 minutes of class. Here are some great core exercises to try that will get away from crunches and sit-ups.
  8. Why Vanessa Hudgens never wears a shirt to the gym via Haley Goldberg for Whether you teach in just a sports bra or not, this is a trend that seems to be getting attention right now.

If you liked this roundup, you may also like the fitness and wellness articles from March and February. You can also check out the group exercise ideas page.

And, let’s connect on Twitter @GroupXMich!

(Image Source: Vanessa Hudgens’ Instagram/ 

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Top Presenters Return for the 2017 SCW Fitness Pro Convention

The California SCW Fitness Pro Convention is around the corner! I was a staff assistant in 2015, but last year the convention didn’t make a stop in San Francisco, so I had to watch from afar. Now, I’m a staff assistant again this year, and can’t wait for some non-stop fitness fun. Although it has been a while, I can still remember most of my favorite sessions of the weekend. And, many of those presenters are coming back to SF for the 2017 convention. As I started planning out my schedule this year, I’ve noted the returning presenters I’d like to check out again this year.

These SCW Fitness presenters have contagious, through-the-roof energy and lots of great ideas to bring back to your fitness classes. If this is your first year at the convention, you’ll want to attend some of the sessions taught by these experts.

Abbie Appel

Abbie Appel

Abbie is an international fitness expert and educator who has written the SCW Barre Certification and updated the SCW Pilates Matwork Certification. She is a Rykä® Ambassador and a Master Trainer and Consultant for Activmotion Bar™, Body Bar® and Schwinn®.

I took one of Abbie’s Barre presentations in 2015, and loved her down-to-earth approach to teaching. Her presentation was genuine and had a bunch of new moves I’d never done before.

Mindy Mylrea

Mindy Mylrea

Mindy is the 2015 PFP Trainer of the Year, 2013 CanFitPro Specialty Presenter of the Year, 2008 Fitness Presenter of the Year, 2004 Can Fit Pro International Presenter of the Year, 1999 International Fitness Instructor of the Year, a National and World Aerobic Champion, and a five star presenter. Mindy is an advisory board member for Oxygen Magazine, an international presenter, author, motivational speaker, video personality, and CEC provider for SCW, ACE and AFAA.

Mindy led the very first presentation I attended back in 2015, and it was such a great way to kick off the weekend. She has so much energy and enthusiasm, plus a one-of-a-kind presentation style. I was inspired by the way she entertained and motivated the participants — something you’ll want to emulate yourself once you take her session.

Jeffrey Scott

Jeffrey Scott

Jeffrey is an International Fitness Presenter, Schwinn® Lead Master Trainer, Reebok Master Trainer and an Area Group Fitness Manager for Equinox Fitness Clubs. With more than 20 years of experience in the Health and Fitness industry, Jeffrey has conducted training workshops in over 15 countries around the world and is recognized as a top fitness educator, instructor and personal trainer who is known for his creative choreography and motivational teaching.

I attended the, “Schwinn Cycling: Rock Stars, Preachers and Party People,” session two years ago with Jeffrey, Doris Thews and Skip Jennings, and it was one of my favorite of the entire weekend. Unfortunately, Skip Jennings won’t be at the convention this year, but I’m thrilled I’ll get to take another session (or two :)) from Jeffrey and Doris.

Doris Thews

Doris Thews

Doris has 30+ years in the fitness industry. She started as a college athlete, worked as a Divisional Director for a large club chain and now owns a fitness consulting business. Doris represents several International fitness brands including her role as Program Director for Indo-Row® and ShockWave, Senior Master Trainer and Global Mentor for Schwinn®, International Development Master Trainer team member for BOSU® and Hedstrom® Fitness, Power Music® Advisory Board Member and Lead RYKA® Fit-Pro Ambassador.

Manuel Velazquez

Manuel Velazquez

Manuel is a proud faculty member for SCW Fitness Education, while being a valued trainer for Hydro-Fit, Bosu, Tabata Bootcamp and Barre Above. He is a WATERinMOTION® National Trainer and a recipient ECA-NYC OBOW All-Around International Presenter of the Year award and has been presenting at fitness conferences worldwide for over two decades. Manuel is a continuing education faculty for SCW, ACE, AFAA, ACSM, AEA, and WATERinMOTION®, and stars in over 50 Fitness Instructor Training Videos.

I was part of the staff assistant team for Manuel, and he was so nice! He has a really unique teaching and fitness style that I can only describes as “flowing”. If you’re looking to mix up your workout routines and add something different, I’d recommend checking out one of Manuel’s sessions.

This is only a partial list – there are many great presenters from 2015 that won’t be back this year, and a bunch of new faces I’m excited to meet. If there are other presenters you’re excited about, please let me know.

To see the complete list of presenters, click here. If you’re interested in attending other fitness conventions this year, check out my 2017 events list.

And, let’s connect on Twitter @GroupXMich!

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Stop Using Food as a Fitness Instructor Motivational Cue

Don't use food as a group fitness instructor motivational cue

When participants leave a group exercise class, they should be absolutely glowing. As a fitness instructor with a unique personal style, this may not be your goal exactly, but the effect is still the same: participants should leave feeling like your class was a positive and valuable part of their day. Unfortunately, fitness and body image are such sensitive topics that participants may encounter a group fitness instructor motivational cue that ends up damaging their experience. Have you ever been to a class where the instructor said something that rubbed you the wrong way? I know I have.

This puts a lot of pressure on us as instructors to say the right things at the right time. While we can’t be perfect, we can make sure we’re practicing our motivational cues, talking to fellow instructors and continuing our education in order to provide the best experience for our class.

To start, I’d like to point out one particularly harmful fitness instructor motivational cue that I hear on the regular: food as a reward or punishment.

For example, I’ve witnessed an instructor shuffle on up to the stereo and say, “hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend, now time to work off that extra BBQ!” Or, I’ve heard, “if you do one more plank, you can have an extra glass of wine this weekend.”

Here’s the problem: talking like this in your group fitness classes creates a reward and punishment relationship between food and exercise. If you eat too much, you need to punish yourself with exercise. If you work out, you can reward yourself with food. It makes it seem like we must always be suffering for either food or exercise.

I understand this is complicated. Food and exercise are intertwined, and we’re all familiar with the “calories in, calories out” equation. But, unless you’re a registered dietician, I’d argue that food has no place in your group exercise studio. Instead, I challenge you to up-level your motivational cues. Find ways to inspire your participants that don’t leave them feeling chained to their kitchen table and guilty for what they ate yesterday.

Am I saying you should never eat that extra burger at the BBQ? Absolutely not. If you want to have two burgers, have two burgers! What I am saying is we need to stop feeling guilty for what we are eating. Even more so, we as instructors need to stop making our participants feel guilty for what they are or are not eating.

So what fitness instructor motivational cue can you use instead?

  1. Explain how these exercises are benefitting their bodies.

Exercise is so good for us. It helps us think better, move better and live better. Talk through the healthy advantages of working out.

  1. Make a goal for the class, and work towards it.

It can be as simple as how you feel afterward. You want to feel like you gave it your all, and have nothing left to give by the end. Or, you want to feel refreshed and ready to start your day.

  1. Express gratitude.

Studies show that there are positive benefits to thankfulness. Thank you participants for coming, and also encourage them to be thankful for everything their body can do today. Did ya’ll just do 10 push-ups on your toes, something you couldn’t do five weeks ago? That’s something to take pride in, and be thankful for.

  1. Do the same ‘ol thing you always do, without the food talk.

Some of these motivational cues may not be a fit for your teaching style. All good with me. Just stick with the style participants have come to love, and hold back on the food comments.

I know finding the perfect group fitness instructor motivational cue is incredibly challenging, and it’s okay if we mess up now and again. There are plenty of times where I’ve said something and immediately regretted it, sometimes even before I finished saying it! Oops. But, that’s where self-compassion comes in and we remind ourselves that we’re doing our very best.

For more tips and tricks, you might also like my Top 5 tips for cueing group fitness classes. You can also check out all of my fitness motivation and cueing advice here.

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Outdoor Fitness Brand Does Good: Patagonia Requests to Buy Your Old Clothes Back

Outdoor Fitness Brand Patagonia Does Good

I always love to hear about a fitness brand making good, conscious decisions on behalf of the customer, and sometimes even the world, without prioritizing profits. According to Fast Company, last week Patagonia announced they will soon offer store credit to customers returning their old Patagonia gear. Then, they’ll clean the item up and repair it so it can be resold on the website.

The fitness brand is looking to start this new program soon:

“In a new take-back program that will launch in April, the company will begin offering store credit for used (but still usable) clothing. At its repair facility in Reno, California—the largest garment repair center in North America—it will wash used clothes with a new waterless technology that helps restore the fabric, and then make any needed repairs. The refurbished garment will be sold on Patagonia’s website.”

When asked if the new program will hurt sales, Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia’s VP of environmental affairs, wasn’t concerned. “We have a model that is attracting enough people, an increasing amount of people, that want to align with our value proposition,” says Ridgeway. “That is a business for us. It really works well.”

Sure, maybe they won’t sell as many new clothes, but I’m confident that many people will continue to purchase from the fitness brand in the future, given their consumer-conscious decision making. In order for this program to work, Patagonia needs to make durable outdoor fitness gear, which it does. The goal is to reduce the amount of jackets someone will need in their lifetime, by keeping the same high-quality jacket for longer. That way, the company ends up making less jackets, which results in a smaller impact on the environment.

Way to go, Patagonia! Check back in on the group exercise ideas and tips page for more fitness brand news.

(Image source: The American Genius

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4 Tips for Finding a Group X Substitute

An empty Group X room

One of the hardest parts about teaching Group X classes is looking for a substitute to cover your class when you need one. Especially if you’re teaching an obscure time slot like 6 a.m., you may have slim pickings to choose from. I’ve been that person texting and emailing everyone on the sub list two months out, and all the way up to the day before, looking for someone to cover my group fitness classes.

Unfortunately, each situation is different, so there isn’t a fool-proof formula to finding a substitute instructor. But, here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way that have helped me find a sub every time I’ve needed one.

  1. Sub for other people

When you sub for other people in their time of need, colleagues are more likely to go out of their way to help you out when you need it. Don’t feel like you need to pick up every sub opportunity that comes up, but try to pick up a class every few months to help out.

Especially look for times to sub for folks that are available to sub your classes. That way, you may be able to have a system in place where you both turn to each other to sub, when needed. If you know Tom has subbed for you in the past or may sub for you in the future, you should definitely be willing to return the favor when he needs help.

  1. Offer trades

Along these same lines, trades are a great option, because you’re able to sub for someone who needs it, and they sub a class you need. I’ve worked out trades for classes months in advance, and they still allow both instructors to benefit.

  1. If the mass email doesn’t work, send personal texts

Most people don’t respond to mass emails, because they assume others will jump in. If nobody responds, you’ll need to send personalized emails to each person that teaches your format, asking them to sub.

When you send these, make note of their responses. If they teach a class at the same time or moved out of state, you’ll want to make sure you don’t bug them again.

  1. Have your Group X director on speed dial

Hopefully you’re lucky enough to teach at a gym with an awesome, available Group X director. If so, they may be willing to cover as a last resort. They’re also usually the ones to authorize cancelling class.

It’s important to have their contact information stored in your phone, in case of an emergency or last-minute request.

We all have our tricks to finding a sub for our Group X class. I had to put these strategies to use recently as I planned for my upcoming trip to Hawaii in October. I was able to trade my classes with a fellow instructor, and it was pretty painless.

For more Group X tips, check out the group exercise ideas 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:

  • 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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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.