Getting ready to teach a fitness class for the first time can feel nerve-wracking at best and terrifying at worst. Whether it’s a new-to-you format, a class at a new location or literally your first time ever teaching to a group, it's normal to feel jittery as you branch out or make the leap from fitness student to fitness instructor. Take heart in knowing that most instructors have felt this way at some point—it's natural! Apply the helpful tips here to make for a smooth and enjoyable experience when teaching a fitness class for the first time.
Map It Out
Prepare everything about the class. Winging it or going in with a half-baked idea of what you will teach has the potential to backfire, leaving you feeling panicked and looking unprepared. New instructors often find it useful to write down the entire lesson plan.
You could bring this lesson plan to class, but avoid consulting it too frequently when teaching. What works better for class flow is to memorize each 5- to 15-minute segment of the class (e.g., 0:00-10:00 warm-up, 10:01-20:00 choreography block 1, 20:01-25:00 squat and shoulder sequence, etc.). Bring your “cheat sheet” to class as a reassuring backup, but refer to it only if needed.
Practice, Practice, Practice
One of the best ways to combat nerves is to practice what you’ll be teaching. That means physically going through each exercise in your living room (or, if possible, in the studio where you’ll teach). Choose exercises and sequences that you feel most comfortable doing. Talk through all the cues, as well. Becoming very familiar with the moves and cues really helps quell nerves and boost confidence.
Picture a Positive Experience
Leading up to the class, spend a few minutes each day visualizing yourself teaching a great workout. Imagine yourself smiling up there at the front of the room, appearing relaxed and in control of the group. Picture happy, friendly students coming up at the end of class to tell you they enjoyed the workout.
When you're afraid or nervous, it's tempting to keep your head down and just go through the motions until the class is over. But that doesn’t provide the best experience for participants, or you.
Remind yourself to make eye contact with the group and exude energy as you teach, especially in the first few minutes of the warm-up. This is the first impression you’ll make as an instructor in action. Smile so you feel more relaxed and to communicate that group fitness is fun. Focusing on making participants feel welcome can help relieve your own tension.
Put Aside Perfectionism
Remember that the class doesn’t have to be perfect. Not at all. If you make a few mistakes— like going off beat, forgetting a sequence or missing a cue—it doesn’t really matter. Even experienced instructors make mistakes.
Avoid putting pressure on yourself to have every minute of the class unfold perfectly. What matters most is that the overall experience is safe, effective and enjoyable for the people in the class.
Reflect for Next Time
Recognize your achievement—you’ve just completed your first class! Shortly afterward, spend a few minutes reflecting on what worked well with this group of participants and what you might need to tweak for next time. Also, what felt especially right for you? Teaching fitness is all about gaining experience and refining your skills as you go.
Your ability to teach fitness classes creates a rewarding opportunity to motivate people toward greater health and fitness. Focus on this important effort, along with the tips in this blog post, to help you teach any fitness class with success.
Amanda Vogel, MA, human kinetics, is a self-employed fitness instructor, presenter and writer in Vancouver, B.C. In addition to being a social media consultant, Amanda tests fitness gadgets, gear and clothes and writes about them on her blog www.FitnessTestDrive.com. Find Amanda at @amandavogel on Twitter, @amandavogelfitness on Instagram and @FitnessWriter on Facebook.