Qualifying as a fitness instructor, personal trainer or group exercise instructor requires a lot of studying to help you design and implement safe and effective sessions, BUT you are not taught to teach. You aren’t taught in as much detail how to communicate and engage with clients like education teachers are – and why not because you have very similar roles?

A lot of instructors naturally adapt an effective teaching method through their own passion for exercise and helping others. However, have you ever noticed how some instructors are fully booked all the time and they don’t do much different to the next fitness professional in terms of marketing or the style of class they run? It’s likely to come down to that small missing piece of the puzzle…your instructing style!

Let’s explore 4 simple yet powerful ways to improve your instructing style to keep people coming back.

1) Develop a rapport and relationship with your clients

Developing a rapport and relationship with your clients from the beginning is fundamental! A person’s perception of you is made from that very first meeting so it is vital that you project what you want people to engage with. People develop a rapport through their engaging communication styles, through asking questions and actively getting clients involved in the whole process. Relationships are developed by finding similar ground, encouraging a fun and social dynamic and by making sure you get to know each of your clients, even if it’s just their name. Imagine you are entering a fitness session with 10 other people, which of these would you like best:

Scenario 1: the instructor doesn’t acknowledge you individually and gets the class started

Scenario 2: the instructor says ‘hello’ but you know they aren’t sure of who you are or your story

Scenario 3: the instructor says ‘Hi Emma, how are you today? Great to see you!’’

It usually takes the smallest actions to develop a rapport with clients so take some time and consider whether you make people feel welcome, do you acknowledge them on a personal level, include them in the exercise experience and ensure they are benefiting from it?

2) Ensure your classes are person centred and educational

Clients may not just come along to your classes for exercise; they may join for the social aspect associated with exercise whether that’s in a class environment or to talk to an instructor 1:1. People also participate in exercise to feel like they ‘belong’ or ‘are part of a community’ plus it adds structure to their week. Those that regularly return to exercise sessions are those that feel they achieve a range of benefits from being there from the physical to the psychological, and usually that comes down to their instructor ensuring the experience is person centred and educational.

When you work 1:1 with clients then it is so much easier to ensure the whole experience is person centred and educational. Saying that, there are still a lot of instructors that approach their sessions with the ‘I am the instructor and I know how to achieve your goals so you’ll follow my lead’ vibe. I don’t mean that in a harsh way, they just haven’t taken a step back to realise that that is what they are doing. So make sure you take the time to get to know why your client has chosen to train with you, why they need your support, what they hope to get from these sessions…then you discuss the best approach using your knowledge.

But when it comes to a group format, it can be harder to ensure the experience is person centred and educational. You need to ensure that each individual receives the attention required so that can range from the rapport building we previously discussed through to correcting their techniques, addressing ways in which exercises can be changed for them or other ways to keep them active alongside your class.

Let do some role reversal again, pretend you are going into one of your group classes (or 1:1 training sessions), how do you think you’d feel about the instructor? Do you feel part of the session? Do you have any input? Do you learn anything?

Use these answers to shape your future practice or reinforce your existing skills.

3) The intonation of your voice

The intonation of your voice plays a big part when making clients feel welcome and encouraging them throughout to keep going. If you are saying ‘well done’ ‘good job’ but with no enthusiasm or passion it is going to become very repetitive and demotivating if they feel you are just saying it for the sake of it. When encouraging people during your sessions you need to be enthusiastic and mean what you are saying, make sure they feel good about what they are doing.

Every instructor has their own style and that’s what people like but you need to consider how your style comes across to others. You can do this by either recording a snippet of your class so you can see what others see or by asking for feedback from your colleagues or the group. Asking for feedback can be one of the hardest things to do but in a lot of circumstances clients love it because again it makes them feel INVOLVED

4) Ask for feedback

That brings me on the final way to improve your instructing style…

After each class, ask your clients for feedback on the session- what they liked, what they didn’t like and what they would like to see in next week’s class.  By asking for their feedback you are allowing them to become more involved within the class and by listening to their requests and feedback you can adjust your classes accordingly to make them more enjoyable and effective.

Clients that get input into future sessions are those that LOVE to return. Vary the questions each week and remember that although you are involving them in the process you will still give them a little bit of what they want….and more of what they need  🙂