The Business Behind A GFI

Group fitness instructing is more than leading a class through a work out routine. There is a trifecta behind a GFI that consists of education, teamwork, and class value. Understanding this trifecta can help a GFI better connect with their participants and the facility they work for. They will also be able to maintain a level of professionalism as well as follow the code of ethics:

Provide safe and effective instruction

Provide equal and fair treatment to all clients/participants

Stay up-to-date on the latest health and fitness research

Maintain a current CPR certification and knowledge of first-aid

Comply with all applicable business, employment and property laws

Maintain confidentiality

Refer clients/participants to the appropriate health or medical professionals when needed

Uphold and enhance public appreciation and trust for the health care industry

Establish and maintain professional boundaries

There is more to it than just obtaining a group fitness certification. Learning techniques, choreography, music, equipment and cueing will take time and practice. Attending workshops, training sessions and conferences will help with gaining more experience and knowledge.

Fitness formats fall into three categories: Cardio, Strength Training and Mind/Body. With cardio, the focus is on conditioning the cardiovascular system with drills or combination patters. For strength, the muscles are the focus, using a variety of equipment and exercises. For mind/body, flexibility, strength, balance and core training is the focus, also combining relaxation and focus.

Creating a community where instructors rely on one another, and members rely on more than one instructor, can increase member retention and create new business. When people feel connected to a gym, they will show up more often. This sense of connection will always win out, even if other gyms are offering new equipment or cheaper pricing. When a participant doesn’t feel as though they are being competed for by various GFI’s to raise their class numbers, the members will have a positive experience and become more active and healthier. GFI’s should encourage participants to cross train and to try other classes that are offered.

Group fitness classes and their value are calculated in a few ways: class counts, cost per head and penetration. GFI’s are usually required to keep track of how many people attended their class. Target numbers for a class are usually set based on the time slot and/or the square footage in the room. Cost per head will take a GFI’s salary and a head count of the class into consideration by determining the value of the class. With penetration, the facility usage and class counts are used to determine if a class is serving an appropriate percentage of the members.

Increasing class value starts with teamwork and education. Music will help to motivate people to move. Updating the music and selecting playlists for classes are easy ways to increase a participant’s enjoyment. Updating and refining the choreography in a class helps to keep the class exciting and interesting. Making sure the equipment is up-to-date and in working order is a must. Interacting with the participant makes them feel as though they are part of a community.

Every GFI who stands in front of a class faces the responsiblity of ensuring the facility and that the equipment is appropriate and safe. GFI’s cannot avoid liability (responsiblity). Liabilities can be reduced though, making sure there is a standard of care in place, implementing risk-management strategies. Negligence is defined as a failure to act as a reasonable and prudent person would act under similar situations. For a GFI, it’s important to know that a failure to act refers to an omission as well as acts of commission. In others words, a GFI can get sued for not doing something that should have been done, as well as doing something they should never have done in the first place. To legally be able to bring a charge of negligence, the defendant (person being sued) had a duty to protect the plaintiff (person sueing) from injury, and didn’t.  This would have to be proven. The defendant failed to exercise the standard care needed to perform the duty, that this failure was the reason for the injury, and that the injury caused damage to the plaintiff.

If there is an accident in class, an accident report should always be conducted. You want to record the name, date and place of the accident, as well as a brief description to the body part(s) affected and what had happened. If there was equipment involved, record the description and model number, if applicable. A reference to the instructions given to the participant, a brief, factual description of how the accident happened, and the names, phone number and addresses of witnesses if there are any. A signature of the injured as well as the GFI is important, too. These reports should be kept for several years, depending on your state’s statute of limitations.

GFI’s should have adequate insurance coverage that will pay the cost for a legal defense and well as any potential claims rewarded. Various coverages are:

General liability: covers basic trip-and-fall- type injuries.

Professional liability: covers claims of negligence based on professional duties.

Disability: provides income protection in the event of an injury to the GFI

Individual medical insurance: provides hospitalization and major medical coverage.

Umbrella policy: provides additional coverage

Liability waivers signed by a participant releases the GFI and the facility from all liability associated with an exercise program and any resulting injuries. An informed consent form looks similar to a waiver, it’s not. This form is used to make dangers of a work out routine known to the participant and thereby providing an additional measure of defense against lawsuits.

A contributory negligence defense means that the plaintiff played some role in the injury, and it’s not solely on the defendant (GFI). The injured is also responsible, or contributed to the injury. Comparative negligence defense is where the fault of the injury is compared between the participant and the GFI, to see who is most at fault. An Act of God defense is not often used in sports related injuries for GFI’s, but it’s an injury caused by unforeseeable acts of nature.

When dealing with the music aspect for a GFI, there is a copyright law that needs to be upheld. A GFI needs to make sure that the music he or she is using is copyrighted, therefore needing to purchase a performance license in order to play music. Most clubs and studios obtain a blanket license for their GFI’s,


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