More important than the variety of your classes, it's the instructors who teach the classes that make your facility successful.
Remember the days of "hi-lo" aerobics? It almost seems funny now that the basic group exercise programs of 10 to 20 years ago were so popular. Today, there isn't a month that goes by that our magazine doesn't report about a new type of group exercise class - from dance to sports-specific, combined class formats, and cardio and strength classes outside of the group exercise room. Groups that create friendships and fun are what bond members to your fitness center. But it's not only the variety of your classes that make your facility successful; even more so, it's the instructors who teach the classes.
I, for one, can tell you of many classes I have attended once, never to return. While the class name sounded great, the instructor was lousy. It takes a certain type of individual to be a good group exercise instructor. You can't pull someone off of the personal training floor and ask them to teach a class. Group exercise instructors have innate qualities that "make" the class. A background in fitness instruction is merely the baseline skill an instructor must possess. More importantly, they must be "people" persons, leaders and, please, they must know their "stuff." (Have you ever been to a class where the instructor put a piece of paper on the floor to reference while teaching? Ouch!)
As a fitness center manager, it's your job to ensure that your group exercise instructors are passing muster. In this issue, Natalie Digate Muth tells us what it takes for "Maximizing Group Exercise Instructor Performance" (p.28). She begins by explaining the importance of evaluations, and then outlines several types of assessments and evaluation methods for new instructors and for those currently on staff. Muth also discusses the importance of recognition and rewards, as well as professional development. To help you put the information to use, Muth provides some tools: a yearly performance review schedule, sample competency areas for reviews, a list of performance review elements and a sample participant evaluation form.
The information in Muth's article will apply to any and all types of group exercise programs. But one class that tends to be particularly different from others is group cycling - mainly due to the safety hazards. On page 34, Richard Borkowski provides "A Safety Checklist for Group Cycling Classes." I urge you to copy the sections of this article as handouts. There are three sets of safety guidelines - for members, instructors and administrators.
Keep your group exercise programs fun so that participants keep coming back, and keep them safe as well!