The May Challenge: 25 Habits of Amazing Fitness Instructors

26 04 2013

challengesCame across this post on the uber-cool  How many of these habits do you employ?  (Me? 20/25.)

I have room for improvement on #1 Arrive early (I’d be late for my own wedding), #6 Meeting Your Neighbour,  #8 The Signature Catch-Phrase, #15 Encourage Noise, #21 More Eye Contact, #22 Learning Everyone’s Names. (I keep a note on my iPhone with names and descriptions and facts about regulars in each of my classes, but I still struggle with names for all but the most frequent riders. I’ve seen instructors who ask everyone’s names at the outset of a class and remember THE ENTIRE CLASS after one go.  This week I had a former regular rider who hadn’t been to my class since last summer.  I greeted her when she arrived (Catherine!  Great to see you!  and she beamed when I came over to talk with her after class to find out how she’d been.  Names are so important, I wish I was better with them.)

I don’t do #4 Touch People (partly because I don’t teach off the bike – no room to circulate between bikes at my gym but also because not everyone appreciates touch), #7 Curse (though I have told riders that if they’re thinking “When is this bleeping bleeping drill bleeping over?” that they’re exactly where they should be), or #19 High Fives.  I had a small, all-female class this week and mentioned that I’d been thinking about high fives and they unanimously rejected the idea of sweaty palm contact as gross, which is kind of why I haven’t tried it yet.  Those of you who do high fives – how do they go over in your classes?

Here is the May Challenge: choose one habit you need to work on and really go at it this month.  For me, it is going to be learning more names.  (Help!  Anyone have any good strategies?)  Drop me a comment to let me know which of these habits you employ, which you need to work on, and which you disagree with.  If you’re in for the May Challenge, tell us which habit you’re going to work on and report back at the end of May to let us know how it went.




19 responses

16 09 2013
Darla Jarrett

If your female clients do not like the idea of high fives because of sweaty palms, do what I do, cheers with your water bottles to your neighbours and surrounding fellow riders!

15 10 2013

Darla, I like this idea! Thanks.

13 06 2013

You know, everyone who commented vetoed the ‘sweaty touch’ aspect of things – that came through loud and clear.

I have been feverishly working all month to learn more names and it has gone really well. (Not so well that I can ask 20 people their names and rhyme them all back, but well in a less-than-superhuman way.) Now if I can just get my riders to use the same bike and wear similar clothes each time! I think I’m all good, then they get a hair cut and move to another bike, and it’s back to square one.

I employed four strategies: (1) Ask for at least one name at every class (generally privately, perhaps if someone approaches me or if I want to tell them I noticed how hard they were working or something). (2) Repeat the name once or twice after learning it. (A cliche, but it actually works pretty well.) (3) Find out something else about the person to go with the name – can be job, upcoming vacation, likes/dislikes, just chat for a minute or two – something will pop up (4) Casually put that name (and a physical description plus whatever you learned about the person e.g. ‘Carla, middle right, blonde ponytail, has a bulldog named Cheeseburger’) into the iPhone ASAP after learning it. Review before classes. Repeat.

One mistake I made was not separating the riders by which class at which gym they go to. Now I’ve got several dozen names all mixed up. Was Carla my Tuesday morning or Wednesday night? The other thing that really helps is if Carla comes for a few more weeks before missing a few. I lose faces quickly if I meet someone and don’t meet them again for a month or two.

So, which of the habits did you choose to work on? How’d it go? Any tips for the rest of us?

27 05 2013

I have a habit…not sure it qualifies me asan amazing instructor, but I’ve gotten good feedback about it. Since I have my rides/playlists posted on my blog (, I just print a copy and post it outside the studio before class for anyone that’s interested.

13 06 2013

Love this idea, Steve.

9 05 2013

I’m trying to be a better instructor every time I coach another class, best way I have currently found is ASK for feedback from individual riders, and LISTEN to all the feedback, negative is more important than positive !

In the meantime try these 2 little hills to keep the class working hard !

Hey Boy Hey Girl -The Chemical brothers. Start off for the first 2mins 15 secs on a fast seated flat (imagine your pounding along on smooth tarmac !) use a mid range resistance, then at 2m15s increase that resistance dial, slow those legs then stand with a hand position 3 and climb to the fast beat that kicks in at 2m30s, ride strong & fast till the end at 4m51s.
Also another good fast standing hill climb with a good fast strong beat is Loco by Manian. Stand and climb off that saddle at .38s until 1m16s, then stand and climb at 1m41s until 2m32s, then final climb at 2m44s till end of track. All other times stay seated and climb ! My classes love a good strong beat to work their legs against, and it keeps them motivated and their minds off the hard work ! ha ha ! Keep Spinnin !

13 06 2013

Ian, I have been using Hey Boy Hey Girl and it is great for a seated flat! (Look for it in my latest post.) Thanks for recommending it.

2 05 2013

I think my challenge would be to remember names I am for sure going to work on that

1 05 2013

I arrive early all the time because the gym changes the system each week. There is always one connection that is disconnected, one wire missing, name it. So I am there early!
I HATE to be touch by a “stranger”. I would NEVER use something physical with my participants (unless to correct a position)… No Hi-Fives for the same reason. Sweat is one reason, but mostly not everyone likes to be touch.
I kid around when my class is not full and people sit in the back. I joke about how I spit, sweat and ask them to come forward “come on! Don’t leave me all alone and make me scream for nothing!”. Cursing, I wouldn’t, I can emphasis it when one participant do curse, but won’t use it. Names… My classes have regulars, and I know their names, the ones that pass by or irregular are the toughest.
I have to give my class in French and English. It’s already hard to explain and shout the instructions to achieve the routine that I have not much for other things!LOL!
There are some improvement to be done with a few of these habits :)

1 05 2013

I teach a 60 minute spin circuit class that is 40 min on the bike, 10 minutes weights, followed by 9 minutes balance and flexibility, a one minute silent reflection and then close with a quote by Dr. Seuss. Each class is themed and the music revolves around that theme. I also incorporate trivia on the theme. For example, “Fire & Water” or “Dynamic Divas” “Disco” or “One Hit Wonders”. The songs relate to the theme and then the trivia is either connected to the songs, artist, or some aspect of the artist (something great that happened in a place where an artist was born). Great way to learn names and also fun and engaging (potentially decreasing any awkward silence and increase rate of return). If anyone is interested in sample lesson plans, let me know. I’m more than happy to share.

6 08 2013

Adrienne, I LOVE this idea! Please can I have a sample plan just to see how this works..I love learning random facts and hate that awkward silence :)

29 04 2013

I always try to think about teaching my class the way that I would want to be taught as a participant. As a participant, I personally DON”T want the instructor touching me, I definitely don’t want a sweaty high five and I don’t want my neighbor cheering me on. I know that makes me sound totally anti-social, but as much as I enjoy the whole group fitness thing, I’m not really there for the social aspect.
As far as cursing goes, I think it would probably be frowned upon at the YMCA that I work at.
I did enjoy the rest of the ideas in the article and I agree that learning names can be difficult. Definitely something I plan to work on!

27 04 2013
RateYourBurn (@rateyourburn)

Thanks so much for the rateyourburn shout out, so glad you enjoyed the post! Love this challenge.

-Team RYB

27 04 2013

Names are just so hard, especially when teaching at various places, and attendance shifts around, and people sit in different spots, etc. If they would just come every week and sit in the same spot with a name tag for like, 1 month steady, I’d have a chance – lol! :-) I also do the trick of writing down names I get and that helps. And, I have a maillist and fitguru website, and the folks that signed up for those (esp. if their email incorporates their name) are much easier for me to i.d. and remember. This is always near the top of my “things to improve” list.

I shy away from the physical contact due to the sweaty/cooties issue. I’m self-conscious about inflicting another with my own sweat, and also not enthused about being schmeared with someone else’s, so I’ve skipped this one. I’m also torn about the “choose a partner” drills. I’ve done them, but it can be awkward sometimes, since there’s always a mix of people who are into it and those who give off more of a loaner vibe.

One idea I saw in the comments which I’m going to try: get off the instructor bike, and hop on an open bike and join the class for a bit. I think that might be really fascinating, especially for some sort of race intervals.

26 04 2013

Names are hard! But I agree with Ted, write them down. I write them on my ride cheat sheet and can usually remember them after that.

26 04 2013

I need less filler… sometimes I can’t handle the silence of everybody just staring at me!!!

26 04 2013
Sussi Wilen Dacke

26 apr 2013 kl. 19:36 skrev “S p i n n i n g M u s i c” :

> >

26 04 2013
Ted Foxley

Hi Cynthia, I think we all struggle with names. Beside my workout, I have a sheet of paper where I write down names just after I’ve learned them (before the class gets going). Somehow…by writing them down, it helps. The other component is that, during the class, you can always glance down at your list and refer to it as required. Works for me! Bye now, Ted

26 04 2013
Misty Waite

#Fistbumps instead of #HighFives :)

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