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Group X

Group X: Etiquette


Let’s talk manners. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and discuss bad behaviors. After all, what really goes down in studios these days might shock some.

I’m not talking about your instructors — because let’s hope that they know and follow the unwritten (or written) rules of group fitness. I’m talking about the seasoned class participant who feels entitled. The one who knows all the rules and doesn’t care about them. The one that shows up late and leaves early. THOSE are the ones I am talking about, and it happens everywhere. I have never been part of any club that doesn’t have a stream of characters that march to the beat of their own drum.

What’s tricky about these characters is that it sometimes feels like etiquette can’t be enforced. I can’t tell you how many times I have asked one particular member not to clean up her equipment while the rest of the class is on the floor doing abs — yet she continues to do it, till this day. So let’s talk about what we can do to ensure that all of the participants in your classes are getting the best experiences that you can deliver.

Etiquette problems in Group X can range from members barging in during a class cool down in order to set up their spot for the next class, to using a cell phone during class. (Yes. I have actually had people texting during a plank, while two feet in front of me. Rude!).

So what do we do? When does the group fitness manager get involved? Well, this is tricky. I personally like instructors to try to forge relationships with their class goers. If the relationship is there before there is a problem, often dealing with the problem can be as easy as a conversation (off mic) with the perpetrator. So here are my guidelines to getting involved with an issue in class:

1. It has gone on for a few weeks. The first week someone texts during a plank you can give them the benefit of the doubt. I like to assume that maybe they have a very sick child at home and maybe they just need to check in with the babysitter, mid-plank, of course. Stretching it? Yes. But I like to give them that chance. The second week I might mention ahead of time to the class in general that this is their workout, that they should turn off their phone and enjoy their time working on themselves. If it is still going on the third week, it’s time to say something.

2. It is clearly upsetting the instructor beyond just an annoyance and they can’t seem to handle the situation on their own. I judge this on a scale of one to 10. One being — the instructor mentions it but seems to laugh it off. And 10 being — the instructor is considering getting rid of the class, or often subs the class out. I have had an experience where a Zumba participant constantly berated the instructor’s choice of music. No one else had an issue with the music (note to self, always do your homework when anyone complains about anything). It got so bad that no one would sub the class and the instructor eventually gave up the class to an instructor with a thicker skin who was able to put the member in her place (gently, but firmly). You can note that I did not know about this situation until the instructor was in my office giving up the class.

3. Other class participants are complaining about it. In my mind this one requires quick action. They are paying members and one member doesn’t get to decide that rules don’t apply to them, especially when it bothers others who are following those rules. Don’t waste time if members are complaining, but do your homework and never assume that a complaint is a valid one without first doing some research.

As a rule of thumb the issue has to score two out of the above three before I get involved. But remember that these are just guidelines and getting involved sooner rather than later can often nip a bad habit in the bud.


Kerri Miano

Kerri Miano has been working in the fitness industry for over 10 years. She is currently the group exercise director at Meridian Fitness & Wellness in Hazlet, New Jersey.

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