I teach a weekly Bootcamp group fitness class. The group is large, enthusiastic, hard working and always appreciative of the workout I create for them. I genuinely look forward to Wednesday mornings 🙂
This class is unique in many ways. There’s no fancy choreography. It’s the only class I teach that’s likely to have a man or two in attendance (often in the back corner, but that’s okay…). The diversity in fitness level is huge. And the participants range in age from late teens to mid-sixties.
Each of the above, on it’s own, makes the class challenging to teach.
For the past few weeks a handful of participants have made the challenge even greater.
I’m a firm believer in giving people a road map to my class. I like to spend the minute or two before the music comes on introducing myself, welcoming newcomers to the class, letting participants know what equipment they’ll be needing, giving a few safety reminders and outlining the format of the day (it changes from week to week).
While I do so, I expect participants to give me their full attention. Their full and QUIET attention.
Now I know that many people come to group fitness classes for the social component. And honestly, while the class is running, particularly if we’re doing circuits, stations or partner work, I ENCOURAGE participants to interact with one another. Doing so makes builds camaraderie, motivates people to work harder and is just plain more fun.
But during those first two or three minutes of the class, the microphone is mine and I expect them to respect my position as the instructor and LISTEN UP.
This week, the beginning-of-class chit chat was excessive. When I put on my microphone and started my ‘welcome’ spiel, I expected the chatter to taper off. It did not. I spoke louder to be heard over the din. The chatter continued. I stopped speaking, hoping that might send a message. No such luck. I made a joke about needing to clap my hands like the kindergarten teachers do to get the attention of a room full of 5-year olds. Nada.
I gave up trying to speak over the 4 or 5 people who continued to talk, turned the music on and started the class.
Afterwards, several of my regulars came up to speak to me about what had happened. They were upset, annoyed and wanted me to say something to the offenders. At that point, it was too late. People had already left the aerobics studio and I wasn’t completely sure who was even responsible.
I spent much of the remainder of the day thinking about the situation. In all of my years of teaching group fitness, I can honestly say that I’ve never felt so disrespected by members of a class.
Was I being unreasonable expecting silence and attention from the entire group? (I don’t think so; a big part of my job is making sure that my classes are fun and safe and proceeding without instruction undermines those goals)
Is it too much to assume that people behave respectfully in a group learning environment? (Why should it be? We expect our children to behave respectfully in their school classrooms)
Should I have singled out the offenders and admonished them in front of the class? (I’m not a big believer in public shaming; when my children misbehave in public, I take them aside and speak quietly so as not to embarrass them in front of their peers)
After chatting with two fellow instructors, I’ve decided to share my feelings with the class next time we meet.
Not in a judgmental or de-moralizing way, but plainly remind them that I’m a fitness PROFESSIONAL and that my job requires that I create a safe and welcoming environment for them to exercise in.
That other members of the class want and need to hear my opening instructions to get the most out of their group fitness experience.
That once I’m finished with my introductory comments, they’re welcome to chat amongst themselves (although too much chatting tells me that I’m not working them hard enough and need to throw in an extra burpee Tabata interval….).
That I’ll continue treating them in a respectful manner (arriving early and staying late to answer their questions, giving them modifications for exercises when they ask, being friendly, making eye contact with them during class and taking the time to learn their names…), if they’ll only extend me the same courtesy.
And if they can’t conduct themselves in a respectful fashion, they’ll be asked to leave 🙂
P.S. I’ll let you know how it goes…
Group fitness participants; have you ever been to a class where you couldn’t hear the instructor over other participants talking? How did it make you feel? What did your instructor do about it?
Group fitness instructors; has this ever happened to you? How did you respond?