// The 10 Commandments for Group Exercise Instructors

Whether you teach step, aqua or indoor cycle, there are certain rules that all group exercise instructors should abide by in order to be considered professional, says Ryan Hogan.

Group exercise has come a long way since the early days of leg warmers, dance shoes and endless high impact aerobics! It has evolved into a multi-disciplined, professional membership retention tool embraced by health clubs around the world as an essential component for success.

As time has passed instructors have become better skilled at their craft, thereby reducing the incidence of injury and burnout so prevalent in the early days of our industry. Many instructors have also chosen to reduce the variety of programs they teach, opting instead to become ‘experts’ in their chosen field.

Regardless of the different group exercise disciplines and the unique qualities which every instructor brings to class, there are certain rules that I believe all of us should follow. Below are what I consider to be the 10 Commandments that every group exercise instructor – both experienced and new –  should follow in order to be considered professional:

1. Plan and practice your classes

The days of improvisational teaching and making up your choreography on the spot are long gone. Good instructors prepare, rehearse and practice their class choreography well in advance of having to teach it. This preparation allows for more confident class delivery and less mistakes.

2. Have a professional appearance

You need to look and dress the part. When you’re in the gym and nearby vicinity you need to embody health and fitness. Dress professionally, make sure you smell and look good. You also need to dress appropriately; be aware of where you are teaching and vary your dress code according to the location.

3. Know your participants

When you are teaching a permanent class, make a point of getting to know your participants and acknowledging them when they return to your classes. This can be as easy as smiling and nodding, and can be taken to the next level by referring to them by name. This also covers knowing the ability levels of your participants. Teach to their level, and perhaps slightly beyond it in order to create a challenge, but beware of over complicating – this is a sure path to alienating participants.

4. Be enthusiastic and excited!

The fitness industry and group exercise classes are exciting and fun places to be – and it’s your job to make them so! There’s nothing worse than participating in a class with a boring and unenthusiastic instructor.

5. Be prepared for anything

Once you’re at the club, it’s your duty to teach the class regardless of unforeseen circumstances. If you teach with an iPod, bring a spare CD just in case technology fails you. If you teach freestyle, be sure have some back up choreography just in case your regulars do a no show! If you can pull off a class when the going is tough, you will always be remembered as a great team player.

6. Don’t talk other instructors and classes down

For some reason, perhaps due to the performance aspect of group exercise, some instructors are prone to compare their teaching style to that of other instructors and to highlight their superior participant numbers, often in front of members. Restrain your inner diva, teach your class and enjoy your own success without comparing it to that of your colleagues.

7. Follow your club’s OH & S policy

Rules such as not packing up equipment during a class, always using a towel and respecting the music levels exist for a reason. If you want to be a valued employee and contributor in an organisation you need to respect the rules. If you don’t agree with them, then perhaps it’s time to find another club to teach at!

8. Only give advice when you are qualified to do so

If you are qualified to certificate III level then stick to what was covered in it! This means not giving advice on rehabilitation, nutrition or personal training issues. Referring clients with more advanced questions to colleagues with greater knowledge in a particular area is good for you, the participant and the colleague you refer along to.

9. Have current industry certification and insurance

Being associated with an industry body and having insurance shows you care about your career and maintaining a level of professionalism. It also helps you keep up-to-date with current industry trends and best practices.

10. Remember, it’s not about YOU it’s about your participants

When you’re preparing your choreography think of your participants before yourself. Pick music and choreography to suit them – not you – and you will always be a winner.

These 10 Commandments apply to every group exercise instructor, but there are probably as many additional personal commandments as there are instructors in Australia – what would your 11th Commandment be?

Ryan Hogan
An accomplished fitness instructor and manager, Ryan is passionate about sharing the lessons he has learnt with others. He is a master trainer for the I.C.E indoor cycling program, and teaches group exercise in some of Sydney’s leading fitness facilities. Ryan is also the membership and sales manager for Australian Fitness Network.