What Your Fitness Instructor Wishes You Knew

I certainly can’t speak for all instructors, but I love what I do. When I’m having a bad day, getting in front of a group of enthusiastic exercisers, encouraging them and helping them to better themselves instantly alleviates any stress I’m experiencing outside the studio. I love exercise and interacting with and inspiring people, so this path is a solid choice for me.

Plus, I definitely give it my all when I’m wearing a whistle!

I’d love for all participants in my classes to have a feeling of comfort and familiarity, allowing an encouraging experience for all. I make it my top priority every class to remove that deer-in-the-headlights look from the faces of all my first-timers as they enter the studio. I suspect there are tons of thoughts running through their minds while they wait for class to begin, but the same goes for instructors, too. 

When I’m teaching my classes, here’s what I’m thinking (and what I hope you’ll all remember!):

Everyone was once a first-timer

I know it’s tough to visualize, but everyone at one point or another had their first class, too. If you picture that, it will make all the rest seem easier. You may encounter movements or techniques that are completely new to you, and it’s our job to show you those. I’m always wondering if I’m giving you what you need to perform your best. We’ll be with you until we feel comfortable that you can perform the movement safely on your own. If you’re unsure if you’re doing a movement incorrectly, ask us to watch you do it, and we’ll correct you if need be. And speaking of…

We correct for safety, not to harass

You have to trust us here. We are trained on proper form and can easily provide minor cues to place your body in the safest of positions while exercising. Whether it’s a compromising position for your lower back or a dangerous angle for your knees, we will tell you until the change has been made. It is not to annoy, distract, or give you a hard time. We know you put a lot of faith in us to provide a workout free of danger and injury, and part of that is letting you know when you’re doing something that is potentially harmful. And if you have a pre-existing condition, or area that needs to be treated differently…

Let us know if you need to modify

For any movement we program in class, a substitution can be made to avoid an injury, if you let us know (bonus points if you let us know before class so we don’t have to interrupt your workout!). I always tell people that we are not playing in the Super Bowl and there is no glory in working through a painful injury to complete the workout.

The only way an injury will heal is to let your body rest. Let your body do its thing! It’s best to wait until an injured area feels 100 percent, wait at least one more week, then ease your way back into normal movements. Resting is so important, and the phrase “no pain, no gain” is not referring to working through injuries.  We want everyone to be comfortable and do only the movements they are able to do at the time. That brings us to…

It’s totally acceptable to go at your own pace

We make suggestions on weights, reps, sets, speed and time, among other things, but these are all merely suggestions. You’re allowed to go lighter, heavier, remove part of the movement, or do another movement altogether. This is your class, your workout, and most importantly, your body. You know what’s best for you. If we know your abilities, though, don’t think we’re going to let you dog it! And you shouldn’t let others dog it either, so…

Help us cheer others on

We’d love your help! While it’s our job to bring energy and support and gently pushing all participants to be their very best and give it their all, it’s extra encouraging to have everyone in the class also pushing for you! The accountability that comes with teamwork within a class is without a doubt more motivating than anything an instructor can shout at someone. While we do enjoy the help from all of our class participants…

We crave attention

No, not like the center of attention, but your attention when we’re demonstrating movements or explaining the class format. Talking while we give instructions makes us feel like the abused substitute biology teacher in high school and detracts from the experience for the others in class.

While the coach should be scanning the room, correcting and encouraging, their time must be spent re-explaining to the person who chose to chat about Snapchat while they should have been listening. We don’t ask for much quiet time during a class, but when we do, please respect our wishes and know that we have nothing but the best intentions when we politely suggest you pipe down!

Nothing makes me happier than hearing from a newcomer that they felt comfortable, rather than intimidated, when finishing one of my classes. A certain level of comfort is required before a person is willing to give it their all in class without a fear of messing up or falling short. Fostering a welcoming environment is high on my priority list every time I coach, and keeping these useful nuggets in mind when attending a class can make the experience more enjoyable for everyone.

Brian is a co-founder of Throwback Fitness, New York city-based fitness experienced focused on fun! While slaving away in their finance careers, Brian and his partner Ryan created a way to incorporate playground games into fitness classes, offering a full-body workout while encouraging engagement and interaction with others. Brian currently focuses his own training on high intensity bodyweight circuits and yoga. His favorite exercises are burpees and double unders.