I know you are expecting my inaugural review, but now that I am four classes (and four mostly-written reviews) into this adventure, I feel like there are two important points to make before I launch into the first specific class analysis.
I am guilty of just about every criticism noted in every review. Some of these, I’ll call them mistakes, I am happy to say are years behind me. Some occurred as recently as this week. I teach six group fitness classes a week, and I am human.
I am not writing about these classes to complain.
OK, I am not only writing to complain. I am hopeful that I can provide a little mentoring for the current generation of group fitness instructors so that they may learn lessons faster than the 20+ years it has taken me.
I want our industry to be as good as I know it can be. I worry that so many newbie fitness professionals out there seem to think, “if I build it, they will come.”
Many have taken out loans and leveraged their futures to open studios where they are now so mired in the details of ownership that they can’t see the instructors right in front of them.
If big gym chain fitness directors and small fitness boutique owners alike can’t take the time to make instructors better, who will?
I’d like to try. Because in many ways, we are all only as strong as our weakest link.
Many people don’t know the difference between SolidCore and Pilates, or between Soul Cycle and Zengo. Or Zumba with Sarah vs. Zumba with Sophie. It is a disservice to every group fitness instructor out there when one of our own teaches a sub-par class. If Cathy Class-Lover attends a BodyCombat class in Chicago with some guy named Fabio and doesn’t like it, I am going to have to work far harder to get Cathy to try my BodyCombat class. She already thinks (knows?) she doesn’t like BodyCombat.
So we need to work together and quit acting like competitors. The only us vs. them should be the awesome instructors vs. those who are incompetent. How do we (TOGETHER) showcase our talents and marketing power in a way that demands respect and appropriate compensation?
United we stand. Divided we… continue to barely make enough money to cover our expenses. And keep kidding ourselves that this is a career, when, based on our pay, it’s really just an expensive hobby.
I realized quickly I needed a unifying principle by which to compare and contrast experiences. My guiding question became:
Do you find the experience gratifying?
I was having a difficult time qualifying how these classes made me “feel.”
To say, “Did you enjoy it?” after a Les Mills GRIT training workout doesn’t seem like the right question when I’m collapsed in a heap on the floor because I never knew I could work that hard, but then I DID.
“Was it hard?” isn’t the right question after Zumba or a Restorative Yoga class, because I go to those classes to re-energize, either by ramping up the fun, or powering down and finding some stillness.
My very smart fitness pal, Megan Simone, was the one who suggested the word that works best in my mind:
Let me be clear. When I take my favorite classes, I have NO PROBLEM describing the feeling. I feel strong. I feel fast. I feel powerful. I feel sexy (for a minute or two). I feel fierce. I feel beautiful. I feel gratified. Not usually all during the same class… although possibly during BodyJam.
Many of you will want to know, regarding all of the ClassPass options I tried – was it a good workout?
All of the ClassPass workouts made me sweat. Those of you who know me might joke that I was probably sweating before class began. Fair enough. However, I would offer that I also always sweat in class because I make an effort. And maybe because I’m competitive. And also maybe because I hate wasting time.
I have been in a class that annoyed/bored me so much that I kind of sleepwalked through the motions and did not sweat, sure. But most of the time, my mindset is: I showed up; I’m dressed to work out; I might as well make the most of the experience.
However, I have 30+ years of fitness and dance experience to help guide me if I’m not getting what I need. I can choose to modify an exercise to make it easier, harder, or just have a different focus. I can tell myself what the instructor is missing – use your hamstrings, spread your toes, lengthen your lower back…
I believe in the science behind fitness. I read a lot, but not nearly as much as I could. Exercise science is constantly changing as more and more researchers choose to study safe and effective exercise, and so what you will not find here is my assertion about whether or not each workout was “effective.”
The effectiveness of the workout definitely plays into my overall impression, but it is just a piece of my analysis. With each class I attend, when I leave I ask myself, “Do I feel satisfied?” That is my over-arching question.
I am not a physician, a research scientist, a physical therapist, a personal trainer, a running coach (nor did I stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night) with specific expertise in the effectiveness of every exercise out there.
What I am is a group fitness professional.
I hear many people call themselves group fitness instructors. I rarely hear the word professional used, probably because very few people do it full-time. Many have another job, or consider teaching their “side” job. But not me. This is what I have done and who I have become over 20+ years. I believe I am the closest thing there is to a career group fitness professional, and that means I have a unique perspective and a unique set of skills that qualify me to offer these observations.
I also don’t know what you, yes you, need or want from your workout. I don’t know if you easily maintain your weight and you just want to move a little because you know it’s better than not moving. I don’t know if you are trying to lose 150 lbs, or gain 20 lbs. I don’t know your physiology, your level of coordination/agility, your age, your gender. I don’t know whether you like someone to hold your hand, or someone to get in your face. I don’t know whether today is an active recovery day for you, or a balls-to-the-wall workout day.
That’s one of the challenges of being a group fitness instructor. We have to try to figure out how to offer the “right” workout for ALL of those people and more, all at the same time.
Let Me EduKate You
I appreciate the difficulty of the group fitness instructor job. I know first-hand how many different sets of skills it takes to be good at not just leading, but actually instructing a class, and that might just be the missing link in a lot of these reviews. I am seeing a lot of class leaders, but not a lot of instructors.
As a class-goer, I wish for you a better class experience where you learn something new. I think you deserve to expand your fitness horizons, to be challenged with new information that might change the way you perform an exercise or hold a posture. You deserve to expect some level of expertise from the instructor, and some skill in deconstructing and passing along new information.
Now, maybe you don’t want to get all science-y at every workout. Maybe you just want to work hard or lose yourself in the moment. That’s ok, too! But a fitness professional’s job should include educating participants in some way. Maybe what you learn is how to let go of the day’s stress. Maybe what you learn is that you can push harder than you ever thought possible.
There are so many ways to learn, and so when I find a class led by an instructor, I find that most gratifying.
In closing, I am so grateful to Elizabeth for letting me guest blog about my passion. Maybe I’ll write again soon.
Oh – wait… Were you expecting ClassPass reviews to follow?
(Can I winky face in a blog?)
I didn’t forget. I’m just stalling.
Kidding. First review is headed to my editor’s desk… right… now.