The Top 12 Things that Group Fitness Instructors Do that Annoy their Participants

Are you unknowingly annoying your class participants? Check the following list that shows the biggest pet peeves group exercise participants have when it comes to their instructors.





1. Running Late... all the time.

Tardiness happens to the best of us, even when we have the best intentions - sometimes it's the perfect storm: you spill your pre-workout supplement on your compression crops, your iTunes playlist is acting weird, and you get caught in traffic. It happens! But, consistently running late to class is a surefire way of ticking off your class participants.

My recommended rule of thumb: arriving 15 minutes early is "on time" and arriving on time is late! Running late sends the message that you think your participants' time is less valuable than yours. Don't do it!


2. Frequent Subs

Don't get me wrong - we all need subs in class from time to time. We have lives! But if you consistently need subs for your once-a-week class more than twice a month, it might be time to reconsider your time slot. Your class participants want to connect with YOU and if you're frequently absent, the connection will be lost.


My recommendation: Keep a running list of your sub dates and look for patterns. If you need subs more than you teach, it might be time to give that class to an instructor who can consistently show up.


3. Not Being Prepared

There's basically nothing more awkward in a group fitness class than when the instructor clearly has not prepared for the class. Whether it's not knowing the choreography well enough, not having practiced a new move, staring at notes and not understanding them, or not realizing a song will definitely not work with the movements, it's just painful for everyone involved if the instructor is not prepared. There's an easy way to avoid this: prepare and practice at home! I get it, life is busy, and your schedule can be hectic, but you have a professional obligation to prepare in advance and bring your A-game every. Single. Time.


My recommendation: Prepare for your classes at least one week in advance, so when life gets in the way, you are still sitting pretty!


4. Getting Way Off of the Beat

There are many times when going off of the beat of the music is appropriate in a group fitness class: Tabatas, HIITs, and circuits to name a few. But if the class is structured to follow the beat of the music, participants can feel very annoyed if the instructor is not quite on the beat. Being able to anticipate what is coming next through the music is one way members feel successful in their workout.


My recommendation: Practice, practice, practice!


5. Screaming into the Microphone

Motivating the crowd is always the name of the game in a group fitness class, but screaming into a microphone is a definite way to cause your participants to cover their ears. If you wear a mic regularly in class, know that, when set to the appropriate volume, the members can hear you.

My recommendation: Instead of shouting into the mic, even for motivational purposes, try lowering your voice to a deeper tone. It lets the group know you mean business and you can avoid sounding like a screeching eagle. Win-win!


6. Constantly Singing into the Microphone

Look, sometimes when I'm really getting into the workout, I admit that I will occasionally sing along to the song that's playing, especially if motivates my group (if the song lyrics include "Put ya hands up!" and "Get low!" you best believe I'm emphasizing those movements by singing along in a fun way). However, if you are constantly singing on the microphone, especially when you should be cueing instead, your participants are going to feel like they are at a bad karaoke show instead of a fitness class.

My recommendation: Be yourself, of course, but cut your singing down to just a few phrases per class. Your participants will feel your fun personality but they won't get annoyed.


7. Being "that Woo-Girl" (or Boy)

Again, motivating your crew is the name of the game, and shouting out "Woo!" every once in a while is great! But constantly "woo-ing" is just eye-roll-inducing.

My recommendation: Save your "woos" for the high-intensity parts of your workout and your group will respond with enthusiasm.


8. Making Participants Partner Up and/or Touch Each Other

Of course there are plenty of formats that feel more like a small group training session than a group fitness class, and partner work may be appropriate for those formats. However, for the general group fitness population, most participants prefer to feel the energy from the group, but be the star of their own one-man show. I specifically remember the horror I felt in a group exercise class when our instructor told us to partner up and one partner would hold the ankles of another partner for leg raise/throws. I did not know my partner at all, and she had to lie down and touch my sweaty legs as loomed over to throw her sweaty legs back and forth. It was just uncomfortable for both of us. In that same class, my partner and I had to hold our hands out at waist-height for the other partner to do high-knee runs. I remember apologizing profusely that I had to, once again, smash my sweaty knees against her palms as I huffed and puffed in her face. My partner also apologized profusely when it was her turn.

My recommendation: Avoid partner work when possible and for the love of God, don't make people touch each other!


9. Volume Problems

Every seasoned instructor has had issues with stereos, microphones, and technology; it comes with the territory. But one of the biggest complaints that group exercise members have is the volume of the music. Some like it loud, some like it quieter - you will never please everyone, but in time, you will figure out that "sweet spot" with each class. Of course, yoga and mind-body classes will have quieter music, where as cardio and kickboxing classes will have louder volumes. Ask your participants - they will tell you what they prefer!


My recommendation: Make sure your participants can hear your voice over the music, and AFAA (the Athletics and Fitness Association of America) recommends keeping the decibel level at 85 or below to avoid hearing loss. How can you test the decibel level of your music? There's an app for that!


10. Not Changing it Up Often Enough

It feels great to create a killer routine that your participants love and praise, but keeping the same step aerobics routine and playlist from 1994 and doing it every week is just ridiculous. Your class members need some variety and so do their muscles and brains. New material keeps minds fresh, muscles "confused" (in a good way), and your members coming back for more.


My recommendation: Depending on the format, I recommend changing up your routines and playlists every 2-8 weeks.


11. Changing your Routine Too Frequently

I know, I know, it seems like this is conflicting information, but hear me out! Class members do like some repetition from week to week so they feel that they have grown stronger over the span of a few weeks and have fully mastered the choreography. Just like music volume, there is a "sweet spot" for your specific classes, and you will figure it out by communicating with your members. If you ask, they will tell you! I've heard it all: "It's not a new routine yet, is it? I just finally "got" this one!" and "Is it a new routine yet? I'm over this one." Take their comments into consideration and figure out what your magic number is.

My recommendation: Just like above, depending on the format, I recommend changing up your routines and playlists every 2-8 weeks.


12. Unequal Repetitions

This is a particular pet peeve of mine! I don't know if it's my OCD tendencies coming out or not, but it kills me if reps on one side do not match reps on the other side. For example, if you do 8 lunges on the right, why are you doing 4 on the left? It is true that doing this from time to time won't hurt anyone in the long run, but consistently doing more reps on one side can lead to overuse and injury and that's a situation we want to avoid altogether. And who wants one fabulous butt cheek and one not-so-great one? Keep it even, guys!


My recommendation: Ensure equal repetitions, again, by preparing routines in advance and making sure you are counting consistently in class.


Do you have a pet peeve? Sound off!

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