// Harness the power of words
by Paul Peroy
Words are our most powerful tool. They can instantly create happiness or sadness or inspire people to change their lives. When used effectively to construct a clear and concise message, we can ensure that the words we deliver achieve our desired effect in the group exercise studio.
As a fitness instructor you should be aware that the words you use have the power to keep participants interested in exercise and to establish their frame of mind. Your role is to motivate people to live healthier, fitter lifestyles. It is important, therefore, that you don’t underestimate the power of your position; a flippant comment or negative tone may set an unwanted mood for a class workout and have an effect on participants’ goals. It’s always important, but especially as soon as you switch your microphone on, that you remember what your mum told you – ‘think before you speak’.
The introduction to your class presents the opportunity to set up a great workout. It’s a time to connect with your clients, whether it’s a group or one-on-one environment. Introduce yourself and briefly mention your qualifications or experience in the field. Ensure participants feel welcomed, comfortable and aware that your attention is on them. Let them know what the session is going to consist of, its benefits to them and how these benefits will be achieved. This is also the time to make yourself aware of any injuries or conditions your clients may have, so you can ensure the workout is appropriate for them. There is nothing worse for a class of participants than their instructor informing them that they feel tired or not in the mood for instructing a class, or just starting the workout without any introduction or explanation of what is to follow.
The timing of your words is essential too – there is no point in pushing your participants by saying ‘come on, you can do it’ in the first two minutes of the workout, because you will exhaust your motivating language and have nowhere left to go when they need you to push them at the end of class.
A great introduction might include the following;
- ‘Hi (club name/client), just in case we haven’t met before, I’m (your name)’. Make eye contact with each individual.
- ‘I’ve been teaching (name of class format) for two years and have been an instructor for over (X) years’.
- ‘Today’s class is a fairly intense workout that will challenge us on several levels, particularly our cardio fitness, which will help us burn fat and keep our heart healthy. It also has interval training where we give the cardio a rest and work on some toning to make sure our legs, butts and abs get stronger and leaner’.
- ‘If you find the class too challenging, make sure you pay attention to the lower intensity options’.
- ‘Is anyone participating in this class for the first time? It will take a few classes to get your stepping feet, so please also feel free to have your step lower than mine at any time in the class’.
- ‘Does anyone have any injuries I should know about?’
- ‘I’m so pumped tonight – are you guys ready to give it everything you’ve got? (Encourage participants to communicate back).
The main workout
As the workout gets under way, it is crucial that you let your participants know what they have to do and when they have to do it. The set up phase requires us to communicate effectively so our clients know how to execute exercises correctly and safely. Use clear, concise direction. Here is how I cue squats; ‘Draw your navel to the spine, heels under your hip, sink your butt back and down, keep your knees travelling in line with your toes’. For a workout to music, you would also need to let participants know the timing of the movement, i.e., ‘down slow, up fast’.
During the workout correct any issues that you notice with the execution of the exercises; i.e., ‘Keep those knees in line with the second and third toe, great, yes like that’ taking the opportunity to commend all the positives. You can also explain how each exercise benefits them, ‘These squats are going to tone our legs and butts. They are also a big muscle group so we are burning lots of calories here’.
As the workout continues and the fatigue builds you need to really pump up the inspiration to help participants get through it. Again, with each exercise, revisit the set up, correction and motivation. If their form is really slipping, you should consider pulling back, but for the majority of participants a few motivating words are what’s needed.
Most people will mentally decide they can’t go on before they physically cannot do so. As fatigue kicks in, use your motivational skills and explain the benefits they will see. Most fitness professionals have an assortment of fatigue-busting motivational statements – just make sure that you use yours when they are required and not prematurely.
The cool down and completion of the workout is a time when the power of your words can make or break you. Commend participants’ hard work, reassure them that they are one step closer to their goals and inspire them to continue with their fitness program and class attendance.
This phase is often forgotten, or the same old standard closing words are used.
Creative cool down language could include the following;
- ‘Well, it seems we made it through that awesome workout, there were a few moments there I wasn’t sure I was going to make it, how about you guys?’ (Encourage participant feedback).
- ‘It’s great how we pushed ourselves to achieve what we thought we couldn’t’.
- ‘See, we are so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for’.
- ‘If we keep this up I see our goals being achieved in no time’.
- ‘So, I’ll see you guys back here (your next session/class or similar classes), because regular workouts equal results’.
- ‘If this is your first session with me, or you have some feedback, come have a chat with me’.
- ‘Thanks for a great workout guys, goodnight!’
Make sure you have scripted and learnt a few different lines so you can mix it up each session. Your scripts must suit your personality and clientele and be authentic. Also, don’t get carried away and speak throughout the entire class – endless repetition or too much chatter can make your voice become ‘background noise’ and people will stop listening. Using your words sparingly will make them more effective and will also allow participants to truly experience the exercises and music.
As an instructor, you are a positive lifestyle role model for your participants and members, so you need to be mindful of everything you say in their presence. And if you are one of the growing number of fitness professionals using social networking technology such as Facebook and Twitter to share your life and thoughts with clients, you must also think before sharing your words online. You have the power to change lives, one person at a time, one word at a time.
Paul started his movement career as a dancer and choreographer, moving into group exercise in 1993. He has been a personal trainer and managed facilities and many group exercise teams, but his passion lies in instructing classes. He is currently the group fitness manager for Lifestyle Fitness Australia in Carlton, Erskineville and Marrickville.