FASTEST WAY BACK: 10 tips to rebuild your confidence for teaching

The global COVID-19 vaccine rollout means Instructors can soon get back to what they do best – teaching live classes in the studio. We asked Les Mills Trainers to share their tips for preparing to get back on stage.

What do you need to do before your first class back?

Playlist? Check. Mic belt? Check. Remember how to breathe and coach and move at the same time, and motivate a room full of people while remembering 55 minutes of choreography? Oh yeah… it’s all coming back to us now…

Returning to teach, while super exciting, can also be nerve-wracking. You may not be feeling at peak teaching-fitness. Maybe you’re anxious about coaching with a mask on. Perhaps you got certified in lockdown and haven’t yet taught your program in a live setting. Whatever you’re feeling, you're not alone! Get ready to rock your first class back with the following hot tips from Les Mills Trainers:

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“Months of doing LES MILLS On Demand™ or your own workouts means we do forget that breathing and coaching while exercising is a different ballgame!” says UK Trainer Sarah Norman. “It is actually a ‘practiced art’ that we forget about as it becomes so natural. Start practising coaching out loud as you move about your home a few weeks before you go back.”

“Teach someone at home!” suggests fellow UK Trainer Nicola Franklin. “This will get you back into the swing of moving and talking with the music and standing up in front of people again. You could also jump on some livestream classes. If there is someone you know teaching and you haven’t stepped into the online space, ask them if they will share their class with you. You could even teach just one track.”

Reconnect with the releases

“Start training the releases if you have had time off in lockdown,” says Nicola. “Check in with your gyms to see what releases they would like you to teach and get started with those. If you don’t have the equipment you need, find household items you can use (even if they aren’t the right weight) and just get used to going through the movement patterns. Bodyweight squats, lunges, push-ups, etc... will all help build strength and practising the choreography will build your confidence."

If you teach LES MILLS GRIT™, LES MILLS CORE™ or BODYPUMP™, you could also use your free Reebok x Les Mills Nano Series to come back to these programs with an extra bang!

Get ready to go into the club

Familiarise yourself with club procedures: are you allowed to have the fans on? Should windows be open? What’s the protocol for wiping down equipment after class? Be fully prepared to answer any questions from your participants.

“When my clubs first reopened, my boss emphasized that our main focus was to help people feel safe and comfortable, so I practised teaching with a mask on,” says US Trainer Jen Pontarelli. “I learned that I no longer needed a wind shield (fluffy) because my mask served as one.”

“Get your gym bag ready,” adds Nicola. “Anything you need for classes, make sure you have clean and ready to go: mic belt, spare batteries, clean wind shields, antibacterial wipes for the mic and equipment… anything to make you feel confident when you head back to the studio for the first time.”

“Know how to use the stereo and mic system beforehand,” suggests US Trainer Jamila Green. “Show up early and know who your point of contact is if you have any issues.”

Do be aware of the capacity of the studio. "Don't be tempted to let extra people into the room even if all the participants say it is OK," says US Trainer Rebecca Regnery. "It's a slippery slope and makes it harder for other Instructors to enforce the rules."

Pick a playlist you love!

The first class back probably isn’t the time for also teaching brand new material you’ve never taught before. Pick a playlist that makes you feel comfortable: confident in the choreography, music you love, familiar movement patterns for you and your participants. If you’ve been teaching livestream classes, think about using the same tracks.

“Give yourself the gift of preparation,” says UK Trainer Denice Burr. “When you know exactly what you are going to teach, you are free to connect with the class.”

Have an overall class objective

This can help refocus you if you do get distracted by (for example) a choreography mistake. Perhaps you want your participants to feel successful in their first class back or be happy with their level of fitness – whatever it is today. Reminding yourself of the bigger picture can help to keep your focus on your members, rather than beating yourself up for missing a rep.

"Make the focus of your first few classes only about connection and having fun, not about the work," suggests Rebecca. "Channel Marlon [Woods]! Give yourself and the class plenty of grace and space. Let go of the need for perfect technique and choreography for the first few classes."

Script your pre and post-class intro

Check in with your club to see if there’s a suggested script to use. You may need to explain participant spacing, how you have modified the choreography (if relevant), or ensure people have sweat towels.

“I reminded my BODYPUMP participants that they may need to use lighter weights if they’ve had a break,” says Jen. “In my club, they have to wear masks in class and if they need a breather, they leave their equipment and walk out front. I also explained how to wipe down the equipment.”

Focus on connection

It’s likely that your studios will have reduced capacity, meaning fewer participants in your classes. This can feel very different in terms of the space, sound and “vibe” of the class, so it’s vital you dial up your connection skills.

“Remember why the members have come back to live classes,” says Denice. “It’s not solely for the exercise – there are plenty of fantastic online options available to them! They have come back for the social connection, the banter and the feel of being ‘together’.”

“If you’re wearing masks in class, find new ways to establish connection (because it's so different when people can't see us smiling),” says Jen. “Eye contact and using names becomes more important than ever. People may be feeling weak, so use intrinsic motivators to rebuild their self-esteem.”

Be deliberate with language that celebrates the feel of training together. “Use inclusive language: ‘we’, ‘team’, ‘together’,” adds Denice. “Tell them how pleased you are to see them again!”

Celebrate the options

Now, more than ever, your participants need to see the different levels in class. Remember, how you “sell” the modifications can make a big difference to your members’ feelings of success. Offering push-ups on knees “as a great way to build strength” is a much more positive message than “if you can’t do push-ups on your toes…”

“Tailor your coaching,” says Denice. “The members (and us!) may be worried about whether they can still do the whole workout. Normalize (and encourage) pausing to catch your breath and then re-joining.”

“If you have lost some of your strength/ flexibility/ fitness, do the options too,” adds Sarah. “Demonstrate the REAL you. This is hugely motivational and relatable for your participants, and reassures them that it’s OK for them to be less fit – no judgment! In a few weeks, your participants will see that you're back to your original fitness and strength.”

It doesn’t have to be perfect

“I went into my first class back with the mindset that I didn’t have to show up in the best shape, or have perfect technique, or give great coaching,” says Jamila. “I just needed to show up as myself – real and authentic – and my passion for teaching would shine through any insecurities I had. Once the music started, it honestly felt like home again. I absolutely think people appreciate authenticity over ‘perfection’, or perceived perfection any day.”

“Drop any judgment,” advises Sarah. “Whether this is on yourself for trying to be perfect in your first class, or if you think others will judge you for being anything other than your own high expectations.”

Completely fluff the choreography and have no idea what comes next? "Shouting ‘Remix!’ is a great way of acknowledging you goofed something without apologizing and feeling bad," says UK Trainer Sean Rafael. (We love this).

Review and self-reflect after class

What did you do really well? Is there anything you would do differently next time? If yes, how would you do it differently?

“Celebrate yourself on your way home with all you did right for the people in front of you,” says Sarah. “Did you make them feel welcome? Did you show your genuine joy to see them again? Did you get through it? Did your participants get a workout? Did they smile? Did they want to come back?”

Get ready to rock your first class back with this "build your confidence" worksheet.

Special thanks to Tine and Eric Boles.