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Issues with technology, memory and participants are all par for the course for Group Ex instructors. So, how best to retain control (along with your dignity!), asks Marie Anagnostis.

Just when you thought you’d experienced everything that could go wrong as an instructor, something completely left of centre (that would be instructor left!) catches you off guard. Here are five common challenges that you’re likely to face as an instructor – and some troubleshooting advice to help you stay in control!

1. The mic is not working

It would seem that nothing raises more ire for a GFI than a non-functioning mic. But before you hit the panic button, try the buttons on the mixer: are they on? Is the volume turned up? Is the battery flat in the mic pack? And – don’t laugh – are the batteries the right way around? It’s easy to make simple mistakes when you’re in a hurry, talking to members and trying go through chorey in your head!

And if all of the above are in working order, but the mic still won’t play nice? Plan B – BIG visual cues! The classes where I have cranked the music, and just given visual cues got the best feedback (I will try not to be offended by the fact that my best classes are the ones where I don’t speak!).

Having said this, however, it should be noted that some clubs may have an OH&S policy in regards to a non-functioning mic, as well as guidelines regarding member safety if they can’t hear you in a class, so make sure you know the procedure in the clubs you work in.

2. You totally forget the chorey

We’ve all had that moment when you completely space out and forget what you’re doing – and if you haven’t, you will (sorry!)

There is a fine line between acknowledging your error and making a joke about it (which can make you seem more approachable and human, thereby helping you connect with participants), and continuously messing up and losing all credibility in the eyes of your class.

It’s useful to remember that, usually, if you don’t even mention the error and continue, participants won’t notice – the key is delivering that chorey with confidence. I was recently doing a super slow in a PUMP class, when the music was clearly telling everyone to do singles. I kept a straight face and continued confidently. The main thing is: don’t stop! Just do anything your brain can manage, and get back on track when you finally remember what you are meant to be doing.

3. Someone is clearly hating your class

You’re nailing every cue, your form is textbook, you’re hilarious – but one member (or more) is making it known that they think aren’t impressed with your class.

It’s the nature of the beast, put yourself in front of 50 people and there will be haters – you can’t please everyone. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that these people are a distraction to you, as you question what you could possibly be doing wrong.

As soon as I identify these people, I do one of two things based on my evaluation of their individual behaviour: I either pay plenty of attention to them and lay on the charm, or I completely ignore them and focus my energies on the people that are actually enjoying the class. The fact is, there are plenty of instructors on the timetable, and if turning up to your class is such a burden then they can go to a different class.

4. You don’t know what to say

As I see it, there are two parts of your ‘Instructor brain’ – one for chorey, one for coaching. When they are both firing on all cylinders, it’s a beautiful thing. When the coaching cylinder is malfunctioning, you have one awkward situation on your hands as you are left standing there in front of a group of people looking like a venus fly-trap with your mouth hanging open and no sound coming out. This is actually not so bad (just close your mouth).

As a general rule, I don’t think we use enough silence when we teach. Think back to when you participate in a class, how much of the instructor’s information do you register? 10 per cent maybe? Less? Flip your brain explosion into a positive by letting members enjoy the music: remember, you’re teaching group fitness to music, not group fitness to music and every piece of information you know about a squat.

There is a fine line though, so if you have stood there for half a track with no words coming out, try these:

  1. Think about yourself, how are you feeling? If you’re nearing exhaustion, chances are your participants will be too, so throw out a motivational cue. Are you locking out your elbows at the top of your bench press? Then cue ‘soft elbows at the top.’
  2. Look around. Someone in your class will be doing something that needs correction and/or motivation. Use that person as your guide in what to say to the rest of the group.

5. You forgot your mic belt

I may have literally hundreds of mic belts, but I still forget to bring one sometimes…!

If you’ve asked around the gym but no other instructors have a belt to spare, you could try:

  • Holding it in your hand. Not so good in PUMP, but it can be done in ATTACK.
  • Using the clip on the back of the mic-pack to attach to your waistband. However, this may only work for slow-moving, non-impact classes – and with reasonably tight waistbands.
  • Mic-pack in waistband. Probably the most popular option, though you would need to be careful that it doesn’t fall through the leg of your shorts, or get crushed when you are lying down.

Would you respond to any of these situations differently? Do you have other GFI issues that need troubleshooting? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Marie Anagnostis
Marie is the boss of Accomplice Accessories (home of the Unicorn mic belt), a Les Mills Instructor, head trainer at F45 Belconnen and sometime forgetter of chorey.

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