Beyond The Pool: offering a take-home message

By weaving a take-home message into your instructing, you can empower participants to take control of their own workouts, as well as other areas of their lives.

Ever felt like you were getting nowhere on pool deck? Burnt out from working so hard just to get a participant to push themselves? Frustrated at putting so much effort into a class but feeling like you weren’t helping them beyond the pool?

I have. In fact, three years ago I nearly gave up teaching. My numbers were great, I loved class planning and I was teaching fun, effective classes. So what was the problem?

I felt like an entertainer, like I wasn’t making a real difference. I wanted to connect with my participants in a way that would inspire them beyond the pool; in a way that would empower them to go home and enrich their own health and wellness. But I couldn’t work out what the magic element to do this was.

Luckily, I ran away to become a yoga instructor, and learnt new ways to connect with people so that they truly hear our words of inspiration, go home and think more about them, and bring them to fruition in their lives.

Aqua instructors are at the very frontline of fitness, with huge capacity to make a difference in a lot of lives. We don’t always need new moves, new music or fancy costumes – we can use some simple tools to get people to connect with themselves.

These are the techniques that I use in my classes now that I’m back teaching group exercise, empowering my participants to live their best lives.

Take-home message

Planning a take-home message for class is a beautiful way to connect a little deeper with your participants. It is useful to draw on something you have a direct experience of, or are working with in your life, so that you can talk about a take-home message in an authentic and meaningful way.

A take-home message can be something as simple as ‘fun’ – choosing to look for the enjoyment in life – something more goal-based, such as being accountable for our own choices, or something more mindset-based, like treating ourselves with love and kindness.

When choosing a take-home message, check that you are providing a solution, something positive for them to go home with rather than dwelling on problems or barriers. Instead of focusing on what is missing or not being done, it is much more inspiring to focus on the possibilities.

Themes for take-home messages include honouring your body; commitment; freedom; giving 100 per cent; community; friendship; and making good choices. The possibilities are endless, and whatever inspires you has the potential to also resonate with your participants.


When planning a take-home message I start with some brainstorming. Jot down what the take home message is, what it means to you, why it is meaningful to you and how it can be used positively, both in class and beyond.

Write down any supporting words, phrases and quotes that enhance your theme, feeling free to use a thesaurus or wider reading to enhance your notes and diversify the language you use.

Plan Questions

Questions are a wonderful way to allow participants to reflect and take ownership of their own experience.

Reframing inspirational cues as questions can redirect their mental approach: rather than simply relying on you to motivate them and tell them to work harder, it can get them to think about their own ability to direct their fitness, health and life.

By putting them in the driver’s seat of their own outcomes, you can empower them with the independence to manage not only the effort they put into your class, but also into their health and life beyond the pool.

It is useful to plan and practice saying a number of questions that relate to your theme before class in order to get comfortable with them and make them come naturally when you’re instructing.

For example, if your chosen message for the class is ‘Giving 100 per cent’, you might pose the following questions:

  • Are you selling yourself short?
  • What if the only chance you had was now?
  • What is your ultimate goal? Can you focus on that?
  • What would it mean for you and your loved ones if you backed yourself 100 per cent?
  • Weaving a message into class

So how can you incorporate the message into your class without it seeming awkward or contrived? In a nutshell, go slowly! When people arrive at your class it’s likely that they’ve just had to deal with traffic, parking, work, family and any other number of stresses – so they may not yet be in the right frame of mind to really hear what you are saying.

For the first 10-15 minutes of class, just include a peppering of words related to your message. As you get further into delivering the workout, begin to really watch and read the unique people in front of you and what they need in that particular moment. This is where your preparation work becomes useful: draw on any words, phrases, thoughts or questions from your planning that will be the most useful to them in that moment.

Our words can have a profound impact when used at the right time, so practice recognising when participants are most in need of a push, some motivation or encouragement.

Empower them before they go home

In the last 10 minutes of class, remind participants of your take-home message and the power they have to bring it into their lives at any time.

By connecting them to the power already inside of them, and inspiring them to take control of it, you can touch your participants’ hearts and have an impact long after they finish your class.

Claire Sawatzky is an innovative instructor, a hardworking dreamer and a self-confessed anatomy nerd. She studies science and business at university and runs Barefoot Potential, a beachside boutique fitness and wellness hub. Her classes are passionate, playful and held together with a whole lot of sweat and love!