What I’m REALLY Thinking When Teaching a Group Fitness Class

What I'm REALLY Thinking while Teaching Group Fitness

WEARING | Eddie Bauer Movement Capris (sold out in this color but available in black) // Lululemon tank (sold out but shop current selection here)

The other week I saw an article on Well and Good called What Trainers Actually Think in which they had Barry’s Bootcamp instructors fess up to the thoughts going through their head while teaching. I thought it’d make for a fun post topic, so I’m having a turn at it! 🙂

I only teach megaformer classes currently, but these really apply to all group fitness. Enjoy–and if you’re an instructor or trainer, chime in and share your own thoughts in the comments!

What I’m REALLY Thinking When Teaching a Group Fitness Class

How are they actually doing this?! I can’t do that…

I teach early morning classes and they’re typically full of regular clients who have been coming several times a week for years. I am constantly in awe of them! Because I have such an advanced group, I do my best to put together challenging class sequences or at least give advanced options for each exercise. Sometimes I’ll give the class the option to do a combo or advancement that’s REALLY challenging–like I honestly don’t expect anyone to actually try it. Hey just throwing this out there, but if you’re feeling like a ‘roided up gangster this morning you could try supporting your entire bodyweight with your pinkie finger while you do this next move! Without fail at least one client will do it and make it look easy.

What in the hell?! How is she doing that?! I can’t do that!

The secret is out, guys. Some of you are way stronger than me. 😉

That being said…

Shit. Did I make this too hard? Abort mission! Abort mission!

Maybe there just happen to be a lot of new clients in class that day. Maybe you just went way overboard in planning your decathlon of a class. If you’re a group fitness instructor, you know what I’m talking about: Those classes when you look around the room and it’s pure chaos. Not a single person is doing what you’re saying. Some are modifying as best they can; some are just giving you blank stares; some are swearing under their breath–it’s a straight up mutiny.

At the first sign I’m about to lose a class to anarchy, I abort mission. Kneeling crunches guys! Just kneel down! 3, 2, 1–hurry!! I just replace a few planned exercises with easier combos as I go. Hard workouts are great and all, but not if they’re too hard. If the whole class is taking breaks every five seconds, they’re not getting in an effective workout. That’s no fun for anyone. I try to read the class as I go and adjust if necessary.

Shoot did I say 15 more seconds? Ok this is going to be the longest “15” seconds ever. Count slow…

In Lagree Fitness you typically stay on core and arm exercises for 1 minute and low body exercises for 2 minutes. I’ve been teaching for so long though that I honestly barely even need to look at a stopwatch. I can just tell when it’s been about 60 seconds. Plus, depending on the BPM of the music, I can tell how long it’s been by the rhythm and number of bars that have played (15 years of tap dancing was good for something!). 

95% of the time I’m successfully keeping track of the time, but if I spend extra time adjusting form with a new client, or there’s a musical malfunction, or I go off on a tangent talking about form, there’s a good chance I’m guess-timating with the time. Relax, an extra 15 seconds in Bear never killed anyone. 😉

Side Note: I should add that often I’m purposely not leaving the class on something for the traditional amount of time. I think it’s important to read the class instead of being a stickler to the exact timing. If, for example, everyone is dropping to their knees and taking breaks in a plank move then clearly I’ve made the sequence a little too challenging and there’s no use in staying on that last plank for a full 60 seconds–get them onto the next thing! And the reverse is true as well–sometimes I like to make a leg exercise more challenging for an advanced group by keeping them in it for an extra 30 seconds and adding in some pulses or holds.

Dang I wish I was doing this workout with them–it’s such a killer routine!! No fair. *pouting emoji*

I get workout FOMO at least a couple times a month. Especially on those days when clients come up to me after class and comment that the routine was particularly challenging. I’ve tried to do classes on my own after teaching a routine that gets a lot of positive feedback but it’s just not the same. With the megaformer, I need an instructor telling me what to do and other students surrounding me so that I’m motivated to stick it out. So when your legs are shaking and burning and you’re cursing me in your head, know that I’m actually weirdly jealous of you.

Whyyy are you here?!  Take a rest day, bro.

I get it–being injured sucks. I get so stir-crazy when I can’t workout with the frequency and intensity I’m used to. And there’s nothing wrong with exercising around your injury and modifying so that you can do some form of workout while you heal (I do this myself!). But every once in a while there will be that client who just pushes it too far. I’m talking cracked ribs, four slipped discs, a broken femur, pink eye AND the Zika virus … still showing up to take class. It’s nerve-racking for me because I don’t want to see them injure themselves further and while I know how to safely modify around most strains and injuries, I’m by no means a doctor. If you have a manageable injury, by all means, come to class–I’d love to help you work around it! If you’re in a full-body cast or have swine flu however, TAKE A REST DAY, HOMIE.

Ughhh I love this song! Don’t. Start. Singing.

My singing voice could bring a grown man to his knees. Not in a good way. As in, clutching his ears with cupped hands and writhing in pain as he drops to his knees begging, “Make it stop! For the love of all things holy, MAKE IT STOP!!”

When a jam comes on I have to fight the urge to sing along over the mic and literally say over and over to myself “don’t sing, don’t sing, DON’T YOU DARE, NICOLE.” A little dance and some enthusiastic counting to the beat of the music will have to do.

I really should have thrown on some mascara this morning. Brushing my hair wouldn’t have hurt either.

I don’t wear makeup or particularly care about what I look like when I’m doing my own workout, but when I’m in front of a group of people and also in front of a giant mirror for hours at a time, it’s nice to look somewhat presentable (haha). No matter how many times I vow to run a brush through my hair and apply some mascara or, at the very least, vow to plan an outfit the night before, that alarm goes off at 5AM and all bets are off. Eh this bun on top of my head will do. Black leggings and the first tank top I find crumpled on the floor? Perfect.

If I’ve brushed my teeth and remembered to put on deodorant I consider it a win. 😉

Wow I love her leggings. I wonder who makes them?

More often than not, I’m not so much *thinking* this but saying it out loud.

“Move your knee back one inch. Great! Where’d you get your leggings? Are they comfortable?”

I try to refrain until after class but I can’t help window shopping my clients’ outfits.

What did I just say? Was that sentence even English? Did I really just queue proper form by comparing it to a twerk? Wait what number comes after 3? Hello, Brain, are you there? Is this thing on?

On marathon teaching days, Jello Brain sets in around class #5. I lose the ability to form proper sentences and this weird version of autopilot-meets-verbal-diarrhea starts coming out of my mouth. I’ll say something and then question if it’s a real word. “Underneath” is a big one. For some reason my mind doesn’t accept that this is a real word during class number #5 of the day. Put your foot underneath the strap. Underneath? Overneath? What am I saying. Is that a word? Where am I?

My form queues get stranger and stranger as well. Imagine someone’s stepping on your hair while you’re holding a tray of biscuits. That’s the type of core engagement I want here. *blank stares*

And counting? Forget about it. I remember there was one class that I literally couldn’t count down from 8 without missing numbers. It was so embarrassing all I could do was laugh.

As entertaining as slaphappy Jello Brain is, it’s the reason I rarely teach more than three classes in a day now. And if I do, I’ll make sure they’re spaced out so I have time to relearn the numerical system in between. 😉

If she doesn’t put her MFing cell phone away I’m going slap it out of her hands.

It doesn’t bother me at all if people keep their cell phones on the floor by their machine during class. Maybe you were playing on it before class started and it was most convenient to just tuck it nearby (I do this) or maybe you’re expecting an important phone call. Not a big deal. Now when people are ACTIVELY USING their cell phones during class … hell to the no.

My iPhone is attached to my hand, so I get it, really I do. Want to Snapchat a workout selfie before class? You go, girl! I’ll even take it for you! Seriously, just ask–I am a phenomenal photographer of workout pictures at this stage of the game (#BlogLyfe). But if you don’t put it away when class starts just know that I’m probably cursing you in my head.

Instructors/trainers: ‘Fess up! What are you thinking while teaching? Can you relate to any of mine?


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  1. When I’m in a fitness class, I always look at other gals leggings and athletic shoes and often wonder what brand they are wearing so I can get the same thing 🙂

    Ha, ha regarding the cell phone, but I feel that way where ever I am and someone is having a useless conversation that I have to over hear 😉

  2. I’m not an instructor, but I am constantly shocked by the women exercising with their hair down…and I’m not talking a barre class. Full out HIIT on the treadmill. Meanwhile, I’m alllll about the braided pony. I don’t want anything touching my face or neck.

  3. ha!, I love this! I’m not an instructor, but I do spend the majority of my thoughts when I am at the gym trying to figure out the brand of clothes people are wearing. I feel like no matter what I wear, I can’t seem to put together a great looking outfit like most of the people I see!
    I’m happy to see that the instructors also think the last “10 seconds” are really hard to get through also!!

  4. Hahaha, this is honest and hilarious. The best blog post combo! I’ve never taken a fitness class though I REALLY need to. Lol and I totally get the cell phone thing. Especially when someone being on their cell phone distracts you. Like they’re hovering and blocking your view or hogging up a machine while they respond to a text. How selfish!


  5. haha your thoughts are perfect! the “dont start singing one” so much truth for me on that one

  6. I don’t teach a lot of group fitness but I have had lots of similar thoughts during group and personal client sessions!

    Nina @ChicFitPT

  7. HAHA! I have all of the same thoughts when I am teaching my classes!
    Stumbled onto your blog and loving it!


  8. Oh my stars! I’m a Pure Barre instructor and, as you know, set-ups and queues are vitally important. When I teach a 5:15 a.m. classes I don’t know what I’m saying half the time! Flatten out your abs, really send your navel to your spine! Lot’s of blank stares. The best is when I crack a joke, giggle at myself, look at my clients and *crickets* Alrighty, apparently I’m not nearly as funny as I think I am. (and yes, I have used the term “twerk” as a queue)

  9. Christina says:

    Haha! This made me laugh. I am an instructor and get brain mush constantly. Or I cue the wrong body part. Whoops. And a lot of times I just feel like I am blabbering to myself. Crazy lady talking to herself here. So funny.

  10. Stacy Choquette says:

    NIcole this is great and so spot on! As a fellow Btone Instructor I love this, especially the jello brain. The only one you missed is “why are they doing the exact opposite of everything I am saying!” I say bend your knee, its stick straight! I say keep your hips in place and their bobbing up and down. hahaha Classic toners 🙂

  11. This is really something which i should know Thank you

  12. This post is awesome. I had someone riding next to me in flywheel last week literally playing Pokemon go during class. I wished I was on a real bike so I could give them a flat tire. About a month ago, I was at Title for kickboxing and unfortunately overheard a lady telling the instructor before class that she had a fracture in her foot. KICKboxing. They kindly told her to punch instead of kick with that foot and she didn’t understand WHY. I made sure I was not in a line of sight of her because it was early and I was annoyed LOL just a couple things that also drive the class takers crazy…. However I definitely sing during class if the music is loud enough. Perks of no mic…. LOL

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