Take A Fitness Detour

I like to think of my fitness class as a road trip.  I hop in the driver’s seat of my car, and for one hour, I take all my customers on a journey from Point A to Point B – the start of class to the end of class.  My goal is to bring them with me every mile of the way.  I point out all the road signs, play some upbeat music, and have them sing along.

But what happens when I take my customers on an adventure they have seen before?  What happens when I drive the same route, point out the same landmarks, and play the same music?  Suddenly excitement begins to fade.  What was new and exciting becomes old and familiar.  Our customers might lose their enthusiasm, and even fall into that autopilot mode of “going through the motions” without being actively engaged in their workout.  How can we, as fitness professionals, ensure that this doesn’t happen?  How do we take our customers on a detour, so they can discover a new exercise experience?

The answer is variety.

No matter how much we try to avoid it, we have teaching habits, patterns that we fall into.  An hour before class, we discover that one song that we meant to change is still in our playlist.  That one move that was difficult three days ago suddenly feels easy.  But the wonderful thing about adding variety is that it can be simple. Avoiding that automatic cruise control mode doesn’t always require a lot of preparation.

You might be thinking, My classes already have variety.

We might change our music every week, or even change the class format from time to time.  But remember, even within our variety, we have patterns.  Take this example: While driving my own car, my posture while driving does not change much, even when taking a road I have never traveled before.  I would, more than likely, drive with my left hand on the wheel, right elbow resting on the console, just as I usually would.  But say, one afternoon, my car breaks down and I am given a rental car to take to school the next morning.  My driving posture would change, even just slightly. I would need to adjust the rear view and side mirrors, as well as the seat position.  I might even drive a little more cautiously in an unfamiliar car, placing both hands on the wheel.  While I am still comfortable driving the car because the same basic principles apply, I am forced to make slight adjustments that require more concentration in an unfamiliar vehicle.

Now apply this logic to communicating to our customers.  By providing a different vehicle for arriving at Point B, we cause our customers to make adjustments to unfamiliar cues and in turn, engage their concentration.  To do so, we need to mix up not just our class content, but our methods of teaching.  For instance, if I have already said to my customers, “Put your weight in your heels,” I need to create a different way of communicating this the next time they need a reminder.  Instead of “Weight in your heels,” I might use a visual cue, such as “Make indents in the floor with your heels.”  By doing so, I have provided more than one way of understanding the concept.

Also, remember that we are teachers as well as leaders, and our customers learn in many different ways.  One day after an evening class a few years ago, a long-time customer came up to me while we were putting our weights away.  She said, “I don’t know why, but when you said to pull our elbows in, I didn’t register it.  But then you told us to place our elbows beside our ribs, and it clicked.”

I find this happens quite often, and adding variety to our cues is simple.  If we find ourselves falling into the automatic cuing mode, it’s time to mix it up.  Create a helpful tip you have never used before.  Think of one yourself or check out this link to 15 Confusing Group Fitness Class Sayings Decoded for ideas.  Take your next class on a detour.