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The five key strengths of the ideal instructor.

A single great group fitness instructor is able to attract and retain hundreds of members over time. A great team can add literally thousands of members and be transformative to the success of your facility. Yet investing in a high-quality instructor team is something many clubs neglect.

When it comes to recruiting instructor talent there are a few key traits to look for. Successful instructors generally have one or more of the following five key strengths:

Physical execution - Teachers who move beautifully are inspirational. Many of the best instructors have a background in dance, gymnastics and other sports involving technical perfection and coordination.

Coaching ability - People love intelligent instruction on the what, why and how of exercise. Personal trainers are often strong in this area, as are sports coaches, dance teachers and even school teachers.

X factor - Look for the rock stars, those people with magnetic stage presence and the ability to create huge excitement on the floor. Many of them have a background on the stage, in theatre, dance or music.

Relationship building - You sometimes see an instructor who attracts full classes, despite not having the greatest form or stage experience. Their secret? Working hard to create friendships, trust and loyalty with the people attending their workouts. Look for people who genuinely care about others and are passionate about sharing their love of fitness.

Class design - Being able to successfully combine great music with the right exercises means physical results and motivational magic. This is a crucial aspect of successful group workouts, but a rarely found sustainable talent in individual teachers. In our view, it is more successfully delivered to instructors via standardised “pre-choreography”.

When talented instructors are armed with the latest training in the above skills, the impact on retention can be remarkable. This is evidenced by a study by Les Mills and Curtin University in Perth which highlighted the effect fitness instructors can have on whether members keep up, or give up, their exercise regime.

Ask Bryce Hastings, Les Mills Head of Research, about it and he explains that achieving the long-term behavior change necessary to fall in love with fitness requires the conversion of extrinsic motivation into intrinsic motivation – and there’s a real art to doing this effectively. A talented fitness professional knows how to make it happen.... though often unconsciously.

“When we first jump on the exercise bandwagon, most of us do so because we feel we have to,” says Bryce. “Perhaps a doctor or loved one has encouraged us to exercise, or we’ve put pressure on ourselves to better our body,” he explains. “With this in mind, the last thing we need is added pressure.”

“Being led through a workout by someone barking out orders and yelling at you to push through the pain is unpleasant and it creates more external pressure. While this pressure can stimulate an immediate response, this type of motivation won’t last forever – and it can even be detrimental when it comes to creating long-term change.”

Studies show participants are far more likely to fall in love with fitness if they are led by an instructor who:

  • Allows them to feel in control of their workout – encouraging them to push themselves when they can, take a break if needed and even leave when they have had enough.
  • Is on their team – they don’t tell them “you have to” they inspire them with terms like “let’s…”
  • Participants can relate to, someone who empathizes and feels their pain when the going gets tough.
  • Recognizes the efforts of exercisers and gives genuine meaningful praise which builds confidence.
  • Explains why exercisers are doing specific exercises – knowing that when people understand the benefits they’re more likely to embrace the exercises with enthusiasm and shift behavior.
  • Wants to connect and shows a real interest in participants – taking the time to learn names and understand training goals.

When instructors lead with this approach it fosters motivation that is self determined – meaning participants choose to be active because of how it makes them feel rather than because they feel they have to. This is the secret to long-term behavior change.

Motivational communication has long been an integral part of Les Mills instructor training. Our instructors receive in-depth initial and advanced training, plus educational sessions every 3 months. Partnering with us ensures that your instructors will be trained in a motivational communication style that will help increase class attendance and help you to retain members. If you'd like to learn more, we'd love to hear from you.

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