The stage is set and it’s time to shine.
So are you a superstar worthy of the spotlight, or better fit behind the scenes away from center stage?
While I don’t necessarily consider myself a group exercise guru, I do have years of experience as a manager, participant, and in a pinch, a fill-in. Thus, I know what it takes to be great and I’ve hired, fired, and coached up my fair share of instructors (cue the old adage, those who can’t do, teach).
If you’re an instructor of any level, use the following to audit your skills and upgrade your game.
And if you’re a participant, here’s what makes those incredible instructors you’ve been streaming stand out from the crowd (FORTË has a ton of ‘em).
Energy: Energy is everything. Even instructors lacking in the following skills can mask their limitations by pumping intoxicating energy throughout the room. It’s something special that rushes through the air, giving you, as a participant, that spark you need to push a little harder, hit that last rep, and pour more sweat. But, wait… I’m not talking about those yelling-and-screaming “motivational” tactics of old. No, no. Classes these days aren’t the old-school, drill sergeant-led boot camps your parents are all too familiar with. I’m talking about positive energy that attracts others like a magical magnet or extraordinary aura.
It may sound crazy but if you’ve experienced it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s a unique blend of passion, pizzazz, positivity, and enthusiasm that somehow transfers from the teacher to you. If you’re captivated by your instructor throughout class (perhaps feeling as though he or she possesses some sort of superpowers) and high-fiving and hugging strangers while smiling through the sweat after class, you’re in the right place. Instructors, these are telltale signs your energy is on point and you’ve got the goods that make up the DNA of group fitness legends.
Cuing: Raise your hand if you want to feel lost during class… How about confused? Embarrassed? Nothing beats that fish-out-of-water feeling, right!? Oh, and let’s not forget in-class injuries! Who doesn’t love a little ongoing pain with their gain(s)… Ok, ok. Do you sense where I’m taking this sarcasm? One word solves all of the group exercise pitfalls above: Cuing.
Great instructors know cuing is a blend of art, science, and skill, and they treat it as such. Through a deep understanding of both verbal and visual cues (for the instructors in audit mode, here’s a great resource on both from our friends at IDEA Health & Fitness Association), a top-notch instructor has the ability to make everyone from newbies to vets safely follow along and get the most out of each exercise — even as the choreography and movements increase in complexity. They can take moves that require mastery and simplify them so everyone can ace ‘em. Their demonstrations have a way of making your body mimic their movements to a T. Even their words manage to strike a chord in your brain and leave you feeling as though they’re speaking directly to you. When a packed class can match the instructor’s every move like a never ending game of Simon Says, your cuing is quality.
Modifications: Alas, the little brother of cuing is the ability to modify. While closely related, I believe “modifications” deserves its own section. As a participant, if you’ve rarely noticed an instructor dishing out modifications (yet, you’ve used them many a times), that’s an outstanding thing. Sound a little counterintuitive? Hear me out. An excellent instructor effortlessly weaves modifications into the class, so the people who need them are well aware, and the ones who don’t, don’t even notice them.
So instructors, can you adapt to the many exercise levels in the room? Are you able to dial it down for the injured, offer challenges for the elite, and keep a close eye on the newbies? It’s a tall order, but a great group ex instructor gets it. As the regulars are pumping out jump squats, the majority of class is air squatting to perfection, and the newbie battling knee pain has her quarter squats down. That’s the beauty of modifications. All-time instructors know ‘em — and teach ‘em — for every single exercise.
So, do you want to exercise with the best? I’m talking Hall of Fame-worthy instructors from coast to coast… Start hitting play with FORTË. And if you want to be one of the best, well, watch and learn!
P.S. Pressing play from the comforts of your own home? Here’s how to transform your home into a first-class fitness facility without breaking the bank! Warning: You’ll be surprised by how easy it can be!
Clay Manley is a word nerd with a fitness background. A Certified Personal Trainer who took his talents to the keyboard. You can give him a shout and find more of his work here.