So Are YOU a good fitness instructor?

What has always baffled me throughout this freestyle v pre-choreography is that unless I am mistaken, to get an exercise to music qualification we all had to teach an exercise to music class. That meant listening to music, designing out routine and then teaching it. But it seems that there is a startling lack of teachers that firstly want to, and secondly can teach a reasonable h/lo class. I accept that step is a different issue as a lot of places are asking for a step certification, and I myself was put off from teaching step for a number of years, but a hi/lo class? Please!! Before I go on I must say that there are some areas that I have visited where freestlye is running things, where classes are buzzing and the instructors teach with a great degree of skill, but it seems this is becoming the exception rather than the rule.

I accept that the industry has changed a lot. When I first starting teaching there was only hi/lo, leg bums and tums and circuits. Now there is such as wealth of choice that it is harder for the traditional hi/lo and step class to stand alone. But it is possible. Trust me! My Monday night aerobics class regularly attracted over 90 people every week. And before you say it was because I was a presenter, most of them did not know of my “other” life!

The question that bugs me is, if Steve Ceri and myself can have a hi/lo class of over 1000 people at Balckpool, and if you go most hi/lo sessions at conventions or weekenders they are full, with participants and instructors alike that are twisting turning, knee upping, step touching and SMILING, and that if level 3 sessions at most events have a waiting list of people trying to get in to them, then why is that enthusiasm not filtering down into the studios and sports halls? Why are a lot of instructors reluctant to teach hi/lo and step and choosing to focus on other areas of the industry?

I believe that as fitness professionals, which I am hoping that you are, you are trying to be as versatile an instructor as possible. This means that as well as learning the newest techniques in conditioning, stretching and developing new skills and classes such as Pilates, spinning etc, I feel that you should be refining and maintaining your teaching skills.

Ok, a little bit of honesty time. When was the last time you attended a convention, fitness weekend or fitness day? And those of you that have, when was the last time you attended a workshop detailing how to break down choreography, create your own choreography or to learn techniques to teach to a wide variety of participants?

I feel that the industry has developed a quick fix mentality, where some instructors want to see choreography, slot it into their existing class format, and teach it the next day. While this is great, and we have all been there, I do feel that this ultimately is not actually improving the teacher’s ability. Without understanding the why’s of teaching and choreography construction, it is difficult to recreate the combinations that you see at these events.

Presenters such as myself have spent a long time perfecting how we are going to teach our routines, create our choreography and try to create new concepts. The why, or how we deliver the material always comes before the actual routine , or final product. To deliver a successful aerobics session I feel this needs to be the case in studio or sports hall classes.

I accept that this maybe the fault of us presenters too (sorry guys!!). There does seem to be a wealth of masterclasses as opposed to workshops going through the break down of choreography. Choreography notes seem to focus on the end product rather than the actual journey. There also seem to be a wealth of session descriptions that include “take home choreography” or “learn today and teach tomorrow” This could feed this current trend of learning as many routines or moves to keep your classes interested, but by-passing the ingredients necessary to make those very same routines so accessable. But I suppose because there is such an increase in fitness weekends as opposed to fitness conventions, we presenters can only deliver what we are asked to by organisers.

Another issue is one of personality. Looking at the Works team I think you will agree that there is a wealth of talent here but also a vast range of strong personalities, that can create great atmospheres within their sessions. Us freestylers are battling with a vast array of other class formats designed to get people fit, achieve body composition change, and having a good time. Therefore being enthusiastic and passionate about what you do is a must here. Whether you are a sergeant major type instructor, or one that cracks jokes throughout your class, I feel you must offer that something extra to keep people coming back for more. Remember people come as much for you the person as well as what routines you deliver.

Talking of which remember it is not your class but your members!!! You may have come back from the latest event determined to teach the newest bamboozaling routine, but remember that it is they who come for a workout, to feel that they have accomplished something, to have a good time. Their needs should come before your own of wanting to teach the latest Steve Watson combo! I know this seems a no brainer but I have seen it too many times where for example, an instructor has gradually turned a beginners step class with over 80 people in to a beginners class with 10 people in, because she kept on increasing the level of the class beyond the level of the participants, because she had been to numerous events and persisted on teaching those routines rather than keeping to the level of the class. The result that class was replaced by a pre choreographed program.

So, are we as freestyle instructors losing out to other programs? I believe that we are but judging by the amount of people that still attend fitness events I feel this situation can be resolved. By focussing on your class’s needs, by refining your teaching skills, and by being passionate about what you do and teach you can have as busy hi/lo and step classes as your conditioning, flexibility or other programs.

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