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Group X: Handling the Influx of Rookies

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It’s a new year! In the fitness world, we know that means an influx of newbies to our group fitness classes. And with that comes the good, the bad and the ugly. Nothing can excite a group fitness instructor more than a full class of eager participants! But it’s important to remember that oftentimes the New Year’s crowd is coming in with little to no exercise experience — a challenge in a Group X setting, especially when we want the participants to enjoy themselves, avoid frustration and of course, keep coming back for more.

For the New Year I have compiled the top three ways that your group fitness team can ensure that all those fresh-faced Group X rookies keep coming back to classes all year long.

1. Be early for class and introduce yourself. When you have the time to look around the class BEFORE class starts, you can often spot a rookie. Take the time to talk to them (sans microphone) and let them know that they are in good hands. The first class is often a learning experience for a newbie and you want to be sure that they know this off the bat, to avoid frustration. I often share a story about my first Group X experience and how I felt frustrated and confused. This lets them know that we all start somewhere, that feeling a little out of place is normal and that WE are there to get them through the workout safely and effectively.

2. Remember, it’s not your show. Sometimes when an instructor straps on a mic, they get lost in the performance. But let’s not forget that we are there as instructors for the class participants, not the other way around. The New Year is a great time to refocus on the class participant — nobody cares how many squats or lunges you can do if your class is not getting the safest and most effective workout that they possibly can. Take the time to watch them, to teach them correct form as best as you can in a group setting and to let them know that it’s THEIR workout.

3. A little encouragement goes a long way. Stay after class and chat with the participants. Look for the rookies — tell them they did great and let them know that you want them to come back. Remind them that each class gets a little easier and that with every challenge there is a change to their bodies. Challenge = Change. After class is not really the time to correct form (unless they specifically ask you) — it’s a time to let them open up about whatever they would like to talk about. The more you connect with the participant, the more comfortable they will feel, which means they are more likely to continue to come to class.

In the end, Group X is about the relationships. It’s about the group dynamic and the energy that comes with the feeling that “we are all in this together.” Great music, instructor expertise and personality add to the experience, of course. But it’s the connection to the instructor that often gets the member who might be on the fence about a workout, to actually make the effort to come to the class each week. Reach out to your members, talk to them, watch them. If you genuinely care about them they will know it and class numbers will remain high throughout the year.

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Rachel Zabonick

Rachel Zabonick is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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