Why are we not talking to our participants?

Holly Lynch

Showcasing vs coaching in group exercise classes.

“How come you use your microphone in some classes but not in others, Holly?” I was asked this question last week after instructing one of my many group exercise sessions. “Some programmes are designed to be music led whereas others are designed to be coached all the way through by the instructor,” I replied. “When you go on the course you learn how participants want it to be delivered.”

My participant left happy with my response, but the questioned lingered a lot longer for me and opened up a whole hoard of further questions. How could some brands insist on constant coaching and others, in contrast, don’t want you to open your mouth at all? And, more importantly, which one sits best with my own individual style? Are we there to merely provide the exercises or are we there to help educate our participants on the WHY behind the WHAT?

I realised that if I looked back over the many classes I have delivered, my delivery style has answered my own question. I have become qualified in at least five different brands that prefer a ‘non-verbal’ approach to instructing and, in every single one of them, I have managed to find some way of adding vocal coaching. I’ve injected coaching before the session in a class introduction, between tracks, during quieter sections of music, and in some I’ve totally ‘rebelled’ and used a microphone or verbal coaching throughout.

I feel that as a personal trainer, a sports degree holder, and an enthusiastic class instructor, it is not good enough to simply stand at the front of the class doing a routine and expect your huge range of ages, abilities and experience levels to follow along. Will they get a workout? Yes, probably. Did they enjoy it? I hope so. Do they have any idea why you did what you did? If you didn’t ever open your mouth, probably not.

And there is the sticking point right there!

How can people possibly buy into something that they don’t understand? Okay, every January they will because that’s the ‘done thing’, but we will only keep them longer if they start to truly believe in the processes of physical training.

Tell them what they can expect to experience in the session – and why. Tell them which muscle groups they will feel the most – and why. Tell them when they can expect to experience a heightened heart rate – and why. Tell them to release their heels – and why. Tell them to sit their shoulders back and push their chest forward – and why. Tell them to reach from their scapula – and why.

I think I may be overselling the point, but the current exercise trends seem to be leaning more and more towards blaring music with funky/hunky-looking instructors with very quickly obtained qualifications that did not require any necessary pre-requisites in health or fitness. I fear that the industry will lose its educational standing and these ‘fad’ workout trends will take precedence in an industry that should be best known for scientific progression and knowledge.

So, I will continue to ‘rebel’, I will continue to put coaching into sessions when I feel it is required, and I will continue to do the best by my participants and clients because, at the end of the day, I owe it to them to provide the most effective experience possible!



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