When I was younger, one of my dad’s friends asked me, ‘What’s the first thing you look at when you see a group photo that you are in?’ Although I had never really thought about this before, the answer was obvious – I looked at myself.
I’m not unique, most of us do look at ourselves first, even if it’s without intention. Think about the multitude of Facebook or Instagram photos that you are in, I’m pretty sure you seek yourself out first before looking at the photo as a whole.
My dad's friend used this realization to actually teach me a deeper lesson. He said, ‘The thing is Bevan, most people spend most of their lives thinking about themselves and absorbing their own experiences, so don’t waste too much time worrying about what others think of you.’
This was a powerful lesson for me to learn as a young person, but there’s another layer to this lesson that can help you grow your group fitness classes.
Contemplate this: how often do you think about what it’s like to do your class as a participant?
For most of us, our group fitness teaching is absorbed through our own experience. Sure, we think about our participants but it’s through our own eyes. How often do you actually think about what it’s like to be a person in your class?
Think about these questions:
- What’s it like to be a participant before your class starts?
- How do the participants experience your connection, motivation, coaching?
- How do people feel about themselves in your class?
- What do they walk away from your class thinking
The list of questions could go on.
One of the most powerful ways to explore this way of thinking is to identify different types of people and then reflect upon their experience. For example, imagine a brand new person who has never tried a group fitness class before; they may be a little bit insecure around exercise and may be a little overweight. What is their experience during your class? What about the person who’s a regular and has been coming for years, who is fit and confident with their level of fitness? You could even look at personality traits such as shy vs outgoing.
Looking at your experiences through these different perspectives can be a transformational tool in learning where you need to evolve as an Instructor. It helps you identify where you can shift and improve, and this is just the first step. The next level happens when you challenge yourself to think about the ultimate experience people could have with you.
Let's go back to that new member who is insecure and possibly a little overweight. What do you think would be the ultimate experience for them? Remember, we are thinking of it from their perspective.
I imagine they would want to feel safe, welcomed, cared for, to have a clear understanding of how the class works and how they can be successful during the workout. They would also want to feel proud of themselves as they walked away from the class.
Do you think this person would want to come back to your class if you had created this for them?
Once you have identified what the ultimate experience could be for your participants, you can then determine how to create this. You are looking for the steps and actions you need to take to achieve this, these types of questions can help:
- What can I do to make this person feel safe and cared for?
- Am I teaching the class in a clear and informative way?
- How will I create success in the workout for them?
- What can I do to make them feel proud of themselves?
By exploring these questions you will come up with some really thought-provoking and practical actions which you can then apply to your classes.
You can see how this process allows you to open yourself up to the potential and possibility of creating more amazing experiences for your participants but it only happens if you spend the time doing the work. Challenge yourself to reflect on a different type of person each week and then design the ultimate experience for them, then move to the next participant type.
I can almost guarantee that your own experience of your classes will go through the roof if you do this work, because if you learn to reflect upon and then create the ultimate experience, your classes will get bigger and bigger – and let’s be honest, having packed classes is the ultimate experience for us Instructors.
BEVAN JAMES EYLES is from Christchurch, NZ, where he still lives. He began teaching in 1999, and has raced in eight Ironman competitions as well as marathons. Bevan is also a writer, and contributes to his hometown newspaper, the Christchurch Press.