It’s a fact that in order to succeed, fitness instructors need to set themselves apart from the competition. Their job depends on it. Studio owners want to employ instructors that will bring new members in and keep their current clients coming back for more — and if the class you’re teaching has the same baseline routine as the rest of the instructors in the space, well, that’s not going to cut it.

So, what’s the key to success when it comes to paving your way in the fitness world? We asked a few accomplished instructors to share their perspective on what it takes to make your class stand out among the rest. Read on for what they had to say about the secrets of highly successful instructors.

They connect with class members

Sure, knowing the names of the people that are taking your class is a great first step in forging that connection. But Emma Belluomo, spin instructor at IMAXShift says that the best instructors take it a step further. “Part of connecting with clients means being accessible to them,” she says. “You don’t want to be the kind of trainer that only exists on the instructor stage or front of the class. Be friendly, stick around the studio after class, and act like a real person. People will like your class better for it!” Also, once you have an established group of members that consistently show up for your class, Belluomo says changing up the routine will go a long way. “Pay attention to who’s taking your class, and switch it up as a result,” she says. “You might think clients don’t notice or care if the programming is the same, but they do! Even a little bit of variety will make your class feel different and keep them coming back — you never want to be predictable.”

They stay present

Although plenty of instructors credit their success to their social media following, Rebecca Weible, founder of Yo Yoga! says knowing when to unplug and connect with class members is key. “Being an instructor can require a lot of self-promotion and in the age of social media, that is easier than ever,” she says. “However, having a high number of followers can simply mean that you’re really good at photo editing and picking out Rumi quotes to use as a caption. Highly successful instructors know that they need to put as much, if not more effort, into their actual teaching as they do into self-promotion. They are present to chat with their students before and after class — not immediately picking up their phone to take a post-class selfie or to post a picture they took in class. Successful instructors embody what they teach and use social media as a way to share something that is organic to them.” 

They focus on their students, not themselves

“New trainers feel compelled to list their qualifications and credentials, thinking they’ll impress their potential clients,” says Dani Singer, certified personal trainer and CEO of Fit2Go. “It’s somewhat counter-intuitive, but the less you talk about yourself with a potential client, the more likely they are to establish a connection with you and be interested in forming a relationship. This is a hard idea for new trainers to accept, because they feel an overwhelming need to overcompensate and sell the client on their own worth. The bottom line is this — the client doesn’t care about a fancy piece of paper or the letters behind your name. The client cares about how you make him or her feel, and whether or not you can solve his or her problem. I’ve been featured on TV and in national magazines, and I still don’t bring up anything about myself to a new client — except how I plan on solving the problem he or she came to me for.”

They invest in their students

Being a fitness instructor is not the kind of job where you can show up, do the bare minimum, collect your pay and head home. Fitness instructor Pam Sherman says that the best instructors look at their role as a longterm commitment to their students rather than a one and done gig that leads them to the next studio. “Invest in your class and make it a community,” she says. “The instructors who just want a paycheck rarely are successful. Building a community takes time, effort and lots of love, and is 100% worth it. Be passionate about exercise and let your students see that it is who you are every single day. Students look up to their instructors as role models — be the best one you can.”

They provide individual attention to students

But not in a way that makes them feel singled out. Jillian Dreusike, founder of Allongée says that making students feel supported helps foster a connection that will keep them coming back. “Giving each and every person in the room moments of dedicated attention — whether they need it to improve form, or you’re just acknowledging one of your regulars rocking it in the corner — shows your students that you are invested in their progress,” she says.