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Group X: Can You Hear Me Now


When is the music too loud? The mic? As instructors we are trained on music — many times, music makes or breaks a class.

If you teach indoor cycling, you know that when you go to get certified you spend most of the full day talking about music choices. At a Les Mills training you don’t just talk about the music, you play each song and feel the music. They teach you to cue in the feeling (essence) of the music.

But do they discuss the volume? I honestly can’t remember discussing volume of music in any of my certifications. I know that some people like classes to be loud — but when is it too loud? There is a delicate balance between loud enough and too loud, but we need to be sure that as group fitness managers we are managing the volume, in addition to our team.

I will say that I have those few members who don’t like music … or so it would seem. You will have those members that no matter how low you go, they are impossible to please.

Then you will have those on the opposite end of the spectrum. These are the ones that want the music to be loud. And I mean LOUD — like they are at a club dancing the night away with no cares in the world. For a gym, for a wellness center, where we are selling “healthy,” that is not the way to go.

There are two organizations in the U.S. that protect employees in the place of work. It is their recommendations that give employers some way to gauge a safe work environment for employees, and in the case of gym ownership, members as well.

The first organization is the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA allows eight hours of exposure to 90 dBA (decibels) but only two hours of exposure to 100 dBA sound levels. I have personally tested out the decibel meter and I believe that 85 dBA is plenty loud to teach a one-hour class.

The second organization is the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). NIOSH recommends limiting the eight-hour exposure to less than 85 dBA. At 100 dBA, NIOSH recommends less than 15 minutes of exposure per day.

So there it is. What do we do with this information though? Well for one, I have marked the stereo’s volume controls with red tape (or blue depending on which studio you go into) at the exact line that should not be crossed.

Then I communicate with my team what the lines mean. Of course this is an imperfect system. I can’t possibly be in every class, every day (although sometimes it feels like I am) and I can’t control every instructor at every moment. But it certainly sets a guideline for everyone involved.

If a member complains to the instructor, they can look for that line and feel confident that they are keeping the music at a reasonable level. If they are above that line, they can rethink the volume, knowing that it could possibly be too loud.

After all, some instructors are slightly hard of hearing from years of music in their ears, and those lines help us to know when maybe we don’t know, or can’t tell, when music is too loud.

In summary, I suggest that you get an inexpensive decibel meter (the one I have set me back about $40) at your hardware store of choice, and get cracking with your red tape. And always keep your ear to the ground. Members will tell you what you need to know.


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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