An acquaintance of mine from the gym who instructs a barbell class told me once that standing in front of all those people and leading a class made her feel a little like Super Woman. Or Madonna. She was center stage, all eyes on her, and once she got past the anxiety and nervousness of instructing her first few classes, it felt powerful. What she does helps other people to be fit, and healthy.
Before taking center stage though, there are a few things that need to be done in order to ensure the class runs smoothly.
A variety of fitness levels will walk through the classroom door. You can’t judge someone just by looking at them. An individual may have a medical condition you can’t see, or they may have one that you can (pregnancy is a good example of this). How do you know, and how can you keep track?
A health questionnaire for each participant ensures a safe pre-screening and can help the Group Fitness Instructor (GFI) determine if someone is healthy enough to participate, or if the individual needs to first consult with a physician. Some examples of pre-screening is the Physical Activity Questionnaire (PAR-Q):
American Heart Association/American College of Sports Medicine Health/Fitness Facility Preparticipation Screening Questionnaire:
These types of questionnaires can help the GFI better identify with their participants, and therefore create a safe environment.
Once the participants fill out a questionnaire, you can determine what sort of risk categories they may fall under. Here is a table re: the ACSM’s risk factor thresholds:
If a participant has been deemed as a high risk, they must be referred to their doctor before beginning your class. A doctor’s note recommending the individual return to class and is OK to continue is a must.
The next step after ensuring the wellness of those attending, is to make sure the environment is safe. Before starting your class, walk around the room. If it’s a small room, what sort of routine can you do in the classroom that will be safe and effective? Is the equipment safe? It’s a good idea to check and make sure that nothing is broken. How is the temperature in the room? Too hot, or too cold, depending on the type of work out you’ll be doing? How is the stereo system in the room? Is it working correctly?
Knowing the general characteristics of your participants beforehand can aide is creating a work out. Who is this class for? Is this a high intensity spin class held in the afternoon, attracting a lot of the college population, or is this a class held in the morning geared towards people with a more flexible schedule? Having knowledge of the general ability levels in the class can help you select the type of movements you choose to do, as well as the music played in the class.
If you have someone new in the class, one of the best things you can do is to make that new participant feel welcome. It’s always a good idea to learn the names of those attending, and encourage them to continue trying the class, even if they are unable to learn the movements in the first day. It’s always good to make a brief statement prior to the start of the work out so everyone knows who you are, and the objectives of the class. Developing a rapport with the participants creates mutual trust and respect between the GFI and those in attendance, which helps to ensure that the participants will keep coming back.