I always had this idea and image of what a fitness instructor should be. I think I was basing these opinions on the work out DVD’s I have in my possession. Perfect bodies. Incredibly fit. I had no clue as to the background of the individual, or their skill set. I didn’t know what was involved with being fitness-savvy.
While a lot of fitness instructors look good (it comes with the job description) they are very real. I’m not certified yet, but I have had friends ask me what I do to stay in shape, what my “secret” is. And I can tell you that I don’t have a perfect body. I am not incredibly fit, although I’d like to work on getting more toned. I’m very passionate about what I do, and it shows. I’m knowledgable, because it’s of interest to me. I don’t think when people look at me, they think, “Perfection”. They think, “Fitness enthusiast”, and I’d prefer to be seen in that light, hands down!
Fitness instructors are motivating. It shows by their dedication to the craft. They are constantly working towards knowing more about what they do, by getting certified, and keeping up with their certification. It shows in the workshops they attend, in the continuing education they seek out, and presenting what they’ve learned to their participants. Being dependable and reliable is another enviable trait for a fitness instructor. If a class starts at 9am, the instructor is there earlier than class time, setting up and getting everything prepared for the class. They are ready to go, and are on time. This shows professionalism. It shows respect.
Having good communication skills and being sensitive to those in attendance is a great quality to have. Everyone is unique, and listening to a person and really hearing what they have to say shows great empathy. No one wants to be brushed off, or pushed aside. Letting your participants know when there is an upcoming schedule conflict, holiday interference, or events that may be of interest is a nice way to show you want to build camaraderie with your participants.
Keeping yourself from burning out is important. When there is burn out for an instructor, things start to feel mundane, and repetitive. You might not feel as involved or give as much to the class as you normally would. Taking breaks, going on vacation, or switching classes with another instructor is a good way to keep away from burn out.
So, with all of this said- why does a participant keep coming back?
Because you create reasonable expectations. Ask your participant what they expect from the class. Make sure they understand what is realistic. Most likely, they will not lose a substantial amount of weight over a very short amount of time. It’s healthier to commit to a program that allows the time to reach that goal safely, and effectively. Focus on the short-term gains along the way to that big goal. Clothes are fitting better. Increased energy. New friends. A positive outlook towards an attainable goal.
Because you setting goals. What’s realistic? What’s the length of time? How will you know when the goal has been reached? How soon, how often, and for how long?
Because you give positive feedback. Giving feedback, and positive reinforcement will go a long way in making sure you see a participant the next week. Sometimes incentives can work- like giving out free key chains or water bottles when someone has reached a goal. Attendance goals is a great way to give out incentives, too.
Because you make work outs interesting and fun. Would you want to do the same thing all the time, over and over? Changing it up and making the class exciting and fun is a great way to show someone the positives to coming back to class. Different types of music will help, too.
Because you are real with your participants. Your group should be shown the difference between work out discomforts, vs. potential signs of injury or something more serious. Also, it’s not a good idea to have a “come on, don’t wimp out on me” mentality if someone is giving you all they’ve got, and you don’t think it’s enough. It’s a good idea to work within the range for each individual in the class. Not everyone will be at the same fitness level, and it’s OK.
Because you develop group camaraderie. If there is a feeling of cohesiveness, people will come back. Learning a new routine as a group, or working towards a goal as a group only enhances the cohesion.
Because you emphasize the good that comes from exercise. Encouraging the participant to disregard the minor exercise discomforts, and counteracting with positive thoughts helps. Think well of the movement in your body, how encouraging others are in the class, etc.
Because you help people develop intrinsic rewards. Remember, intrinsic behavior is enjoying fitness for what’s felt internally, with no external rewards. The participant can feel more accomplished, have higher self esteem, and have more energy.
Because you focus on an overall healthy lifestyle. Working out is just one aspect to living well. Eating right and steering clear from toxic substances shows a positive body image to your participants.
Because you know the signs of body image disorder. There is no “right” way to look. We all have different body shapes, but there are some who want to reach an ideal shape that might not be a healthy goal. People who have exercise dependence are people who push aside their commitments to family, work, or relationships for fitness. Those with dependence will feel guilt, be irritable, or have depression if they can’t work out. There might be signs of eating disorders, like anorexia or bulimia. If there are signs of any of these disorders (weight loss in a very short amount of time, paleness, complains of being cold, dressing in layers to hide weight loss or to keep warm, dizziness or faintness, hair loss, dry skin and compulsive exercise) it’s a good idea to approach the participant gently and with a lot of sensitivity. They might deny it. Give them information about a nutritionist, dietician or refer them to their doctor for further help.