What kind of language do you use as an instructor? The way you speak to your students in class can influence many things: their mood, their energy, their stamina, their self-esteem, and—perhaps most important—their willingness to come back to class. It’s incredibly important, yet we may forget to focus on what we’re saying when we get caught up in all the other things we have to prepare for class.

Everyone has their own approach to encouraging and inspiring language that works with their students and personality. Have you considered yours? We asked a few different studio owners and instructors about what they say to students during class and got insights into how their words reflect their attitude towards exercise and life.

Tough but Personable

Will Jackson, founder and instructor at WRKNYC in Midtown Manhattan, teaches group fitness and bootcamp-style classes that focus on cardio, strength and flexibility. As an instructor, the language he uses can be tough, but encouraging.

He shares, “Other people may suggest not saying certain things and that’s cool. But I don’t coach walking on egg shells. That’s not me, that’s not New York. During my sessions there’s no room for Zen; energy is everything. I demand that everybody brings their A-game because others feed off that and it makes the environment fun.”

Jackson has a collection of mantras he uses throughout class to push students to keep moving and working hard. He will often ask questions and demand a high-energy response to keep students focused and engaged. He motivates clients with phrases like, “We have a lot of work to do in a little time,” and “Slow motion is better than no motion.” If clients need to take a break, he welcomes that, but suggests they jump right back in when ready, adding, “I know you didn’t come here to take it easy! You can rest when it’s over.” He wants clients to be involved in figuring out their motivation, saying: “The objective is to keep moving! What’s the objective?”

Ask questions and demand a high-energy response to keep students focused and engaged.

Jackson also makes it a point to make it personal by calling on students by name when he can. “I attempt to get the names of my students, which adds a certain element when dealing with a group. Without bashing them, I’ll encourage them, acknowledging their effort. It motivates not only the individual being called out but the person next to them.”

Leave Your Comfort Zone

At REV Cycle in Baltimore, Esther Collinetti, co-owner and instructor at the studio, shares that, “Everything we do at REV comes from courage to live with integrity.” As such, Collinetti arms her instructors with this message in order to help them push students to let go and spin beyond their comfort zone through bold language, music, and powerful presence.

Each instructor is asked to develop their own mantra, Collinetti says, adding, “I ask them to find it, learn it, live it. Every REV instructor must know who they are and what their ‘I AM’ is to the world. The power of their voice carries beyond the walls of REV.” For some, this includes encouragement to push through with phrases like, “Find your Everest,” or “Push your neighbor,” or “Hit that wall harder than it hits you!”

Others try to build up their students with positive reinforcement like, “You’re killing it,” and “I’ve got the best athletes in Baltimore.” Some instructors focus on working as a group rather than individuals with sayings like, “Everything we do, we do it together,” “Tell your neighbor we got this,” or something as simple as, “Let’s go!” Ultimately, everything goes back to finding that courage to push past your limits and what you think you can do.

You Get What You Give

Melina DiPaola, owner and instructor at Ride North End in Boston, adjusts her language and tone according to the vibe she gets from her students and what has her feeling inspired that particular day.

“Every class is different, with a different client base, a different vibe, and different needs. You have to be able to read that and act as a result of the energy that you’re being fed. It keeps everything fresh and in the moment.”

DiPaola understands that every student will come to class with something they want to work through, be it physical or emotional. She feels her role is to ease them into the right state of mind to get the most out of their workout and to connect that to the idea that what they give in class is what they will get—and how this also translates outside of the studio.

“I remind them that their time is valuable, and that they are here for themselves so that they can perform at their best in other areas of life, and for others, outside of this room. If you can’t hold yourself to a higher standard in the workout room, how can you expect yourself to crush anything out in the real world, on a larger scale? The workout room is a metaphor for life outside.”

To inspire students to give their all in class, consider the following phrases:

  • You chose to be here, so make the most of it
  • This is your workout, this is your life
  • Give more, get more