A Personal Trainers Guide to Teaching Classes
Teaching classes are often forced upon gym instructors or PT’s in gyms or encouraged within LTB as a method of lead generation. Both of these completely overlook two very important points:
- Teaching classes require a different skill set to 121 PT.
- The most important people in the class are the attendees. The class is about them and what they want, not you.
The good news is that, like most skill sets, it is one you can develop if you put the effort in.
If you are not familiar with classes, I’d recommend attending them. By trying out different instructors and class formats you’ll learn what you like and don’t like as an attendee, as well as what other attendees like and don’t like. This information will give you a far clearer understanding of how to be an awesome instructor than anything I write, but here are a few pointers.
Plan The Class:
It sounds obvious but knowing what you are going to do will not only give you confidence if you are not used to teaching, it will also help demonstrate you care. Unless you are very experienced at classes, your participants will be able to tell if you are making it up as you go along and, whilst you may think that’s a great skill (and it is one that has its place), it’s not a key skill class attendees or potential clients are looking for.
If you don’t know what kit you will have available either find out or plan for none. If it’s a class format you aren’t familiar with then You tube and Google can come to the rescue for inspiration. Think about timings, allow time for transitions, water breaks, warm up, cool down, getting kit out and putting it away. It’s amazing how the little bits add up. Have a back up plan for if the timing goes awry. A time flexible finisher or an optional track that you’ll use or skip based on timing can help.
Ultimately your aim is for attendees to leave feeling accomplished and like they got what they wanted from the class. That may mean getting a sweat on and a raised heart rate from a HIIT class or a burn in their abs and glutes from a legs bums and tums class. It might be feeling relaxed or more mobile after a Pilates class or like they’ve pushed themselves harder in spin. Think about what the attendees want to get from the class in question and aim to create that feeling.
Show You Want to be There:
In a class setting, you are a showman, you set the energy level, the motivation and the fun.
If you don’t want to be there and let it show, you will sour the whole class experience.
You may have to take a class you participate in, like spin or Zumba. In this case, the majority of people will take their cue on how hard to work from you. If you are only giving it 75% effort, then expect to get only 50% back.
On the occasion that it is a class you instruct like Circuits or Pilates then you set the tone by the background music, your tone of voice and choice of words. A bored timekeeper in the corner doesn’t add positively to anyone’s day. However, you feel about the task at hand, put on a show and make it a positive experience for your participants.
You Need to be Able to Multitask:
The key technical skill for running classes is class management. The ability to be able to scan a room full of moving people, identify and grade any potential issues, and then deal with them all appropriately whilst keeping the main class flowing and on time. You can’t spend ages getting everyone’s technique perfect and you can’t give one individual all your attention.
As you get used to a class you learn the potential sticking points in terms of exercises or attendees. You’ll also get more experienced at addressing the different types of issues. All of these things help speed the process up until it becomes second nature. Until you get to that point class planning is your friend. You can choose movements less likely to cause confusion, preempt potential issues by incorporating learning time – maybe in the warm up, or organise the class so you can give slightly more attention to the trickier elements. Planning allows you to identify potential issues before they occur and avoid them. If you don’t know the class err on the side of caution and have a selection of back up plans in your head for if you need to make changes on the fly. Methods of changing intensity as well as exercise modifications for common issues.
Keep it simple so you can manage the competing demands on your attention.
Show Your Personality
You don’t have to try to be someone completely different. There will be some class formats and styles that suit you better than others. Embrace your strengths and weaknesses and find a style that works for you. Choose music you like, assuming it’s appropriate to the style of class, and don’t be afraid to be yourself, albeit a positive, energetic and smiley version of yourself!
Our classes guide is a great download for helping you set up your classes. The code for this download can be found in the announcement post in the Members only Facebook group here. Not a member yet? You can get access to all our resources on our 2 week free trial.