It isn’t hard for me to distinguish between who are, in my opinion, the really excellent instructors, and the ones whose classes I’d rather pass on. The instructors who stand out above the rest are the ones with a message and purpose for every single class they teach.
As the fitness industry has evolved and expanded to include all types of movement, the mind-body principles of yoga and Pilates have begun to spread to other forms of exercise. Even before they called it the “mind-body” connection, athletes could tell you about “the zone” or that place of mental clarity where they excelled in their sports. They could also tell you about “the wall” or how their performance suffered as a result of distraction or negativity. It is inarguable that a person who has cleared their mind to focus on their workout will most certainly attain greater results than a person who attempts the same workout with a bad frame of mind.
As an independent entity, I understand that it is up to me to have a great workout no matter the circumstance. Even when I attend a class where the instructor has chosen to ignore the concepts of the mind-body connection and focuses instead on technique or worse, just goes through the motions of the workout as s/he would their list of to-dos, I use my own internal scripts to find “my zone.” But I don’t enjoy it. I, like almost all participants in a class, want to be able to surrender to the instructor and follow along so that the work almost happens by magic. Let me repeat that, in case you weren’t sure about want your students what in a class: they do not want to suffer to obtain results, they want them to happen magically. But you knew that right? Which brings me to the difference between great instructors and mediocre ones.
Difference Number One: Great instructors have a purpose for the class and every action within the class supports that purpose. They take the time to explain their purpose to their students at the start of the class and as they move forward they demonstrate how each step along the way supports that purpose. Students will be less distracted if they understand what they are there to do. It doesn’t matter what style you teach, you can establish a purpose. In cycling, you usually choose your purpose when you create your profile. In a sculpting class, you might choose to perform all pyramid sets, or infuse circuit training or interval training concepts. The purpose for a step class will usually be set by the choreography, but there are ways to incorporate a purpose here too. As long as you have a reason for doing what you do in class, you have a purpose.
Difference Number Two: What really sets an instructor apart is his or her message. The message is different from the purpose in that it helps get the student in the right frame of mind for their workout or could inspire them to put forth greater effort or to return for another class. The message will be the hardest part for any instructor because most often, you’ll have to dig deep and determine what you want to give your students in the way of motivation and inspiration. I’m not talking about your typical “Go Go Go” cues. I am talking about how you, as a leader and a coach are going to reach out and move the people in your room to become better versions of themselves. As an instructor, you have a unique set of experiences and life lessons that have shaped you. You thus have a unique message to share with your participants that will help them overcome their obstacles and setbacks. Sometimes the message is just enough to help them leave behind their ordinary world and focus on themselves for the time being. Sometimes the message is a call to act in a manner that takes them outside of their comfort zone for a valuable reward. Whatever your message is, it will be best delivered if it is all your own and if you completely believe it. Sure, you can borrow other’s words of wisdom that have impacted you, but once again, your unique perspectives will mold them into your own.
If you haven’t taken the time to think about the purpose of your classes or the reasons you choose the movements you do, sit down and figure it out. Once you know your purpose, you can more effectively instruct your students. The message will also require some thought, but once you find it, you are on your way to being on the list of top instructors. Check out the links below for helping you get your message out!
Franklin Covey’s Mission Statement Builder