The old adage goes, “By failing to prepare, prepare to fail.” Your clients only see your finished product — the class they show up for with your curated playlist and thoughtfully-structured workout.

What they don’t know is the amount of prep work it takes you to present that class to them. And you have to fit that work in while often traversing your city to teach at multiple locations or studios. Here are eight tips to help you painlessly put together your classes so you can maximize the downtime you do have.

Batch your prep work

If you’re off on Sundays, this is a great time to sit down and plan for the week — knock it out all at once. It’s more productive to prep for all of your classes at once than to sit down piecemeal and put them together. Plus, you’ll go into the week ahead of the curve so that all you have to do is show up and teach.

Stack your schedule

If you’re a newer instructor, you may have to take whatever classes you can get, but if you’re a more experienced teacher, you might have a little more say over your schedule. It goes without saying that commuting to and from a 6:30 a.m. class and then returning to the same studio later in the day is probably not the best use of your time. Request teaching back-to-back classes if you can to eliminate that second commute and use your time more wisely.

Create a playlist process

You don’t want to create the wheel from scratch with every playlist. Becca Pace, a founding instructor at New York-based Brrrn, has created an intricate system for herself in Spotify to streamline her playlist process. When she’s listening to music in her free time, she’ll start a “station” when she hears a song she likes. She teaches several class formats, with separate playlists for each. She then divides her class into a warm-up, the meat of the class and cooldown, and she’ll put songs into each class portion so that when she sits down with the playlist, she’s not starting from zero.

Keep a repository for yourself 

Just as you shouldn’t be starting from zero putting together your playlists — the same goes for your workouts. Create a file system for yourself of past workouts you can refer to when you’re feeling a creative block. If you can remember after a class, note an exercise or particular portion of the class that worked really well. That way, you can refer back to your all-stars as you assemble your next class.

Use commute time wisely

If you live in a city where you’re often taking public transit, use that time to your advantage, rather than scrolling idly through Instagram. You don’t need to plan your whole class at once — try just planning the warm-up, for example. If your commute involves a car, try listening to an audio class for inspiration or an industry podcast. You might even want to preview your own playlist from start to finish to see if it flows the way you want it to.

Set a timer

If you are easily distracted every time you sit down to catch up on computer work, try using the Pomodoro Method (and putting aside your phone and all social media). Its general principle is working for 25 minutes, taking a five-minute break, rinse, repeat, until you’re done. You can set your own timer on your phone or use one an online timer like Tomato Timer to keep you on track as you eagerly work for that five-minute break. 

Take time for personal growth

One of the most difficult parts of being an instructor is constantly being “on.” It can become draining and lead to burnout if you’re not careful, with each class feeling rote rather than feeling like you’re on top of your game. Take time to attend other instructors’ classes, listen to podcasts or choose continuing education courses in a different discipline to expand your expertise and keep yourself curious. 

Say no

An easy way to get more time in your schedule? Just say no. Just as coming to your classes is an important part of self-care for your clients, your own self-care is just as important as an instructor. You need both mental and physical rest from what can be a demanding job. If there’s something that will drain you rather than energize you, say no — and remember, no is a full sentence. You don’t need to justify your right to take care of yourself. 

From prep work to creating a balanced workload, these tips can help keep fitness instructors at the top of their game.

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