Fitness Instructor Series: Tips for Newbies

Hello friends!
I am in the middle of a launch week with one of the gyms that I teach at. That means that the new music and choreography comes out, especially for Les Mills classes. I have been enjoying teaching and taking the new releases! Something about a new release is similar to the first day of school. Nerves are up and hoping you don’t forget your choreography is on the front of everyone’s minds. For a new instructor, the first launch week can be super intimidating. Even for those veterans, launching all the new releases can be a challenge!

Part 1 of this series gave some tips on what it takes to become an instructor, but it doesn’t end with getting your certification. There is a lot more to think about once you pass your training and complete the certification process. I have some of my own advice I could give to new instructors, but I used my resources, and asked a slew of some of my fellow instructors (Les Mills and others) about what advice they had to offer! I asked them what they wish they would have known as a newbie instructor, and what advice they had to give other new instructors! There are some similar themes that run through the quotes.

– “Just because I have a certification/degree does NOT mean I have the acquired skill that goes along with it. HUMBLE YOURSELF and LEARN!”
Ashley , BP, BF and RPM
(THIS, there is more to instructing that just getting a certification)

– “That it becomes an addiction , more so than just working out. Always have one release in your back pocket: Your “ Go To” class for when times are stressful or tough and you haven’t had time to prepare.
Vanessa, BodyPump, CXWorks, BodyCombat

– “You can’t please everybody. So don’t. You do you. Start subbing a lot. It improves your teaching skills and how to adapt and adjust to the audience in front of you. Smile. And most importantly stay authentic. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Your participants can feel and smell it.”
Vee – BodyCombat, BodyPump, BodyFlow, CXWORX, GRIT, The Trip, RPM and Sprint, 200-RYT, Insanity, PiYo, TRX & Barre

– “Three simple words… Roll with it!”
Beth, BodyFlow

– “There is a difference between teaching versus leading a workout class. While one can memorize choreography and nail cueing, a fitness leader is one who can create experiences for his/her participants – highlighting musical points, crafting witty sayings, and connecting truly and fully with everyONE in the room. Being a fitness leader is a journey – stay rooted to who you are and why you do it, be open and vulnerable to growth, and never be afraid to reach out for help.”
Lisa, Body Combat, Body Pump, RPM, and CX

– “I wish I knew that I didn’t have to be perfect to still give a good class. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and to let your struggles and efforts show – that can make you more relatable and it’s ok not to be/look the same as everyone else.”
Jackie, Pop Pilates, BodyCombat, BodyPump and Silver Sneakers.

– ” That you can’t and won’t please everyone so being yourself is really the best approach. Acknowledge that you’re scared and nervous but “just do it” comes into play here. Be extra prepared as far as choreo, equipment etc so you aren’t focused on remembering moves and can see your class. Be extremely patient with yourself. As a brand new instructor you’re going to have a lot of “bad” classes but chances are the members don’t know that. Baby steps- don’t try to be good at all 5 key elements straight out of your first training. It takes years. Get to know your members, it makes a world of a difference, and more personal. Also… if you are BRAND new to fitness, go to the library and start reading up on muscle groups, body mechanics, etc. You need to be knowledgeable because people will ask you the most random of questions.”
Reena – Combat, Pump, Attack, p90x and turbo kick

– ” Don’t take negative responses to your teaching style personally because you cannot and never will please everyone. Continue to do educate yourself about the muscles and the body (outside of the release materials) to understand why we tell students to get into certain form, how to isolate the muscle we are targeting and ……smile and project the joy you feel for the program you fell in love with to your students.”
Donna, Bodypump

– “Get in early and learn the sound system and mic. Practice with it on. Get comfortable fixing the tech so it doesn’t get in your way.(I love this point! I spent time at several of my gyms learning the stereo, the lights, the locks and such so I felt comfortable with the classroom set up). Get out of your own head and focus on helping your participants. Every time you feel your thoughts drifting back to yourself- “Ugh, I flubbed the choreo, those people are laughing in the back, is it at me?” Move it back out to your people and remember they NEED you and whatever is happening on the floor are things they are personally working through (usually). Sit well in your confidence and the class will feed from it and respond.”
Michelle, BodyJam

– ” Being an instructor is an evolution and we are always learning and tweaking our abilities. Allow yourself to absorb the vibe of the participants and adjust accordingly while still doing you.”
Trish, BoduPump, BodyFlow, Sprint

– “My first instructing gig was with Silver Sneakers. Though I think my one thing I wish I knew was that I needed to find my OWN voice as an instructor, that it was OK to let loose.
Practice by yourself in front of a mirror–focus on how your body moves. and when you feel comfortable try ‘walking through’ a class with a more seasoned instructor.”
Becky, SilverSneakers, ATTACK, CX and RPM

– “When you make mistakes, just keep going. Be fun and authentic. Participants need that before or after their day in a life. Review Choreography – I am still learning the importance of just a few minutes makes all the difference.”
Sarah, Bodypump, HIIT, Aqua.

– “It’s their workout, not yours. It’s about you helping them reach their goals, not you being the focus of their attention or the “star’ or about showing them how fit you are or what a great performer you (think you) are. Be prepared and organize your content.
Connect! Eye contact everyone, see who is struggling and who owns it and everyone in between and find a way to connect and support them verbally and via body language. Express the music and the move. Learn to “read” the mood of the class and the people in it so you can respond authentically. Do You!”
Shannon, Body Pump, Boot camp, TRX, Barre, Step, Zumba, Strong by Zumba, PiYo,

– “Technical difficulties will always happen many times and, unless the member knows the choreo, NODBODY KNOWS YOU MESSED UP! It is all about how you keep the class going!
Be you, not perfect! As cheesy as this sounds it is something I always need to remember when instructing. All you need to do is be present, bring the heart and the passion you have!” Savanah, CXWORX (Les Mills Core), BODYPUMP, and Les Mills GRIT

– “ASK FOR FEEDBACK! You may not always like, and it may not always be easy to swallow, but it WILL make you a better instructor if you take it to heart and prove to incorporate it.”
(yes, always be open for constructive feedback, and use it to make you an even better instructor)

– “Embrace your personality, don’t try to teach like anyone else. Find your own voice and don’t doubt yourself. Be open to constructive criticism. Whether it is from a member or management, every class is a chance to learn. Instead of being defensive, listen no matter what. Apply what you can use and let the rest roll off. Know that for most GFMs giving constructive criticism and suggestions is sometimes more challenging than hearing it. If they are speaking with you, they truly want to help you become a greater instructor. It’s only through letting go of our perceptions that we can understand others.”
Kylee, BodyCombat, CX, BodyPump, SPRINT, Cycle, Yoga.

– ” It’s ok to mess up occasionally. Your members know you’re human and not a robot.”
Dee, Bodycombat, Bodypump and GRIT

– “It can be overwhelming at first so focus only on the task in front of you. Also, if you’re having fun, they’re having fun.”
Jeanne, BodyPump and SPRINT

– “Always teach your class like it’s your first class, because for someone, it is their first class. Always praise the efforts that your students are giving you. Praise goes a long way!
Always thank them for coming to class and spending their time with you.”
Julie (Zumba, Strong by Zumba (original instructor)

– “Never apologize!! 99% of the time you are the only one in the room who knows if you screwed up!! Relax, have fun with it, and always always remember that this may be the best hour of someone’s day!”
LeeAnn, Pump, Combat, cx, spin and coaching.

– “Be confident! Confident in your ability to lead the class in a safe and effective workout.” Liza, Body Pump, Body Step, Body Combat, GRIT, insanity

– “You are going to mess up and it’s ok. Even when you’ve been doing it forever you are going to make mistakes. No one is perfect, just keep rolling. Don’t freak out and don’t stress to achieve an unachievable goal. Relax and have fun. You are about to start the BEST job ever where you have the opportunity and privilege to touch lives daily.
Be your authentic self. We all have different personalities and so do our participants. You aren’t for everyone and that’s ok, but to someone you may be everything. People can spot a fake but will love you when you are YOU, warts and all.”
Cynthia– Cycle, Sprint, yoga, Freedom barre, pound, CPT, strength and HIIT style classes.

-“You don’t need to a skinny Minnie! You are somebody’s inspiration today!
Believe in yourself! If you don’t believe in you, who will?”
Cristina– Body Flow, RPM, SPRINT, Silver Sneakers
(This is so true! And my own fears of not looking a certain way kept me from pursing being an instructor for years)

– “You will not instruct like someone else because you are unique. That is what you should be unique in your instructing because it will work for you.”
Elizabeth-BP, Strong by Zumba, Insanity Live

– “Just because people may be silent during your classes doesn’t mean they’re miserable, just means they’re focused on their workout, if they keep coming back, chances are they DO enjoy your classes. You WILL make mistakes along the way. It’s a fact of life as an instructor. And not just mistakes in choreography. You may have a very challenging class planned, and you end up getting 6 newbies, 5 of whom are very new to exercise in general, and you may have to change your playlist or entire class objective on the fly. Or maybe you may have said something that while you meant well, might have been completely misinterpreted. Use those mistakes as learning experiences, not failures.”
Marina, BODYCOMBAT, BODYPUMP, GRIT, Beachbody Live Insanity & P90X, Kettlebell AMPD
(So true, I have had students who never smiled in class or acted like they were enjoying the workout, then come up to me after class and said how much they loved the workout)

– (For those with Les Mills) “You get 20% off the purchase of an older release within 2 weeks after getting certified. Buy the oldest release available right away before it goes away forever at the next Autoship!”
Brigette, BodyJam

Here are my key points I try to instill and remind myself as well instructors who are new to my gyms and/or Les Mills.

  • Practice more than you think you need and practice getting back on track if you make a mistake.
  • Go to classes with other experienced instructors.
  • Your skills as an instructor are not based on what you look like.
  • Instructing is not a competition! We are here for the members, it is not our own workout.
  • Learn the names of your members, the personal touch goes a long way!
  • Take advantage of master classes and advance trainings. Never stop learning!
  • Have 1 release or 1 full workout that you can pull out on the fly, either for your own class when it is hard to find time to pull out different material, or when someone needs a sub short notice.
  • More certifications doesn’t always mean a better instructor. Focusing on one class and perfecting your art is more important aiming for more and more certifications.
  • Smile and have fun!!

As you can see, there are lots of things to think about if you are a new instructor or thinking about becoming one.
With all this amazing information, I would take a few and stick with those! Most important, be prepared and have fun while you teach a safe and effective workout!

Up next in the series, advanced training and CEC credits!


14 thoughts on “Fitness Instructor Series: Tips for Newbies”

  1. Lots of great advice fr om all your comrades 😉 Sounds like a lot of it is just having the heart for it and the desire to help others, any mix-ups/forgotten moves will go unnoticed if you have the enthusiasm for your class.


  2. Awesome tips from your brigade. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea to teach…definitely not mine…It takes a lot to deal with people…


  3. These are some really great tips! I’m terrified of being up in front of a room, so I don’t know if being an instructor is ever something I could do, but a lot of this applies to so many things in life.


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