// Overcoming newbie nerves

As a new instructor, it is perfectly normal to feel nervous before your first few classes. Carl McCartney explains how to control it to ensure your participants still receive world-class instruction.

Adding The feeling of ‘butterflies in the stomach’ can actually assist in your performance and effectiveness when instructing. This sensation is caused by the body releasing adrenaline, which increases heart rate, alertness and awareness. However, you need to control nerves to give a good performance as, without the control, the nerves can turn into fear, which can lead to a first class nightmare. Detailed below are some do's and don’ts to help you on your way to teaching a great class.


Arrive early. Aim to be either in or around the studio at least 20 minutes before your class. This will give you time to run through the points below and ensure that all the equipment is working correctly. You might want to ask a member of the management team to help you so that you can prepare effectively.

Prepare thoroughly. Before your first class, make sure that you know your choreography, the music that you will be using and the main teaching points and/or coaching objectives. Also, review your preparation before the class as this will increase your confidence.

Prepare a one-page outline of the class. An effective method quite often used by newly qualified instructors (and some experienced ones) is to write a brief outline of the class on a single sheet of paper as an aid to memory. You can place this on the stereo or near to your teaching position and glance at the outline when changing the music or volume.

Smile. This relaxes the class, helps win them over and makes you look confident. More importantly, a smile helps to relax you too.

Breathe deeply before you walk into the studio. Practise slow, deep breathing. If you can, try breathing ‘in’ for a count of seven and ‘out’ for a count of eleven. This will steady any feelings of nervousness and help control the adrenaline rushing around your body.

Meet and greet people as they walk into the studio. Teaching to familiar people is less nerve-wracking than teaching to a group of strangers. Introduce yourself to people and find out as many names as possible as this will help calm your nerves and give you opportunities to connect throughout the class.


Admit that it is your first class or that you’re brand new to teaching in your intro. Remember that your participants are attending your class for a fulfilling experience, and admitting that you are nervous or unprepared will place doubt in their minds as to your ability. Your group fitness manager has placed you in the class because they are confident that you can do the job, so have confidence in their decision. Of course, once you have given your participants a great class, there is nothing wrong with admitting that you were nervous.

Refer to detailed notes or choreography throughout the class. It is perfectly acceptable to have an outline of the class available, but instructors that are constantly referring to notes (or, worse still, reading from choreography) do not inspire or portray confidence when teaching. Your participants are expecting professional instruction from a well-prepared, competent instructor and using notes constantly will not fulfil their expectations. It will also limit your ability to provide feedback on technique or give effective coaching points as your focus will be on the notes and not in the room.

Let it all go wrong if the nerves get to you. Every instructor will make mistakes at some point; it is human nature and it is the most powerful method of learning. The secret is to not make the mistake known or let your class know that you have done something wrong. If you do make a mistake, simply get back to the original plan as quickly as possible and have confidence in your preparation. Remember, unless you are using choreography and music that your participants are extremely familiar with, only you will know that you have gone wrong!

These are just a few ways to overcome nerves, but you will develop your own methods as your experience grows. Remember – every instructor has to start somewhere.

This article is reprinted with the permission of www.fitpro.co.uk


Carl McCartney
Carl has five years’ experience with Les Mills® as a group fitness management trainer in the UK. He has also travelled as a presenter for BODYPUMP® and RPM®, and holds a degree in sport and exercise science. For more information visit www.inclusive-fitness.co.uk