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The Future of Group Exercise: Empowered Instructors


Group fitness is viewed in the industry as a value add that can increase membership and improve retention rates. According to club owners, managers, instructors and personal trainers around the country, when implemented properly, adding group fitness can have significant positive effects in key areas of business. Across countless clubs and employees, the one question that’s asked more often than the rest is, “Why are great group fitness instructors so hard to find?”

This question is easy to answer, but hard to digest. Great instructors are not found — they are attracted, developed and retained.

Often, we focus so much on our business’s immediate issues — satisfying customers or competing with the gym across the street, for example — that we miss subtle, yet important factors that drive long-term success.

Here are three pillars of a successful group fitness experience:

  1. Instructors. They bring the class energy, help attract and retain members through relationships, and motivate your members to drive results.
  2. Atmosphere. The lights, music, and overall mood of the class setting.
  3. Strategic tools. The equipment, class content, apps and data you provide to your instructors and members.

In many cases, the best way to acquire what you want is to first focus on areas that fall within your control. In this case, if you want to attract top-level instructors, focus on getting the atmosphere and strategic tools right first.

Let’s start with the atmosphere. The way to attract top-level instructors is the same way you attract members: by providing best-in-class equipment and overall experience. Lights, music, programing! Creating a training atmosphere that is desirable for both members and instructors will help to attract talented instructors and more importantly, give them a reason to stay once they arrive. 

And let’s not forget the stage. Give instructors a platform — a literal, physical platform. By elevating your instructors physically, you elevate them mentally as well. A stage will make your instructors feel empowered and help members perceive the importance they bring to the group fitness experience.

Now for the strategic tools. Focus on tools with a purpose rather than marketing gimmicks. Research and educate yourself on what tools are available and align strategically with the goals you have for your business. 

It’s most important for instructors and staff to understand not just how, but why they are using the tools you’ve chosen to help improve your business and the member experience. Invest, re-invest and continue to invest in education related to these tools. As employees come and go, technology moves forward and equipment is replaced, it becomes even more important to maintain effective education practices. This is vital to sustained success.

If you nail the atmosphere and the strategic tools, you may find you don’t need to seek out instructors. They will come to you.

In summary, first focus on the variables you can control. Create an attractive atmosphere for trainers. Identify and utilize tools with purpose to achieve your goals. And provide regular educational opportunities for all instructors and staff.

With those building blocks in place, you’ll be able to implement a sustainable and successful group fitness program for your members.

Brett Lato, M.A., is the manager of training and education at Polar. For more information about Polar, visit polar.com/polarclub.


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