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?


Disclaimer: Links to outfit details are affiliate. Thanks for your support! 

Health & Wellness Posts from the Archives & Interwebs

10 Health & Wellness Posts to Read

Hi friends! One last roundup post while I wrap up vacation. These are health and wellness posts/articles from the archives, blogs I follow and from readers!

Health & Wellness Posts to Read

5 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me before I Went to College

A good read this time of year if you’re heading off to college or have a child about to do so. Hindsight is 20/20, right??

Peace Pits: DIY Aluminum-Free Deodorant Paste via The Hippy Homemaker

I had the pleasure of meeting Christina in New Hampshire and she is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to natural home and beauty solutions. This is her DIY recipe for natural deodorant–check it out!

Pride in Ability vs. Pride in Appearance: Why Sports & Fitness Matter

A big change in my health and happiness happened when I shifted my focus to what my body can do rather than on how it looks. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely DO care about my appearance, and I think that’s absolutely fine, but my self worth isn’t myopically fixated to it anymore. My body can run a marathon, do push ups without modifying, hold a plank for over five minutes, finish a Barry’s Bootcamp class without throwing up (haha)–these accomplishments are so much healthier to focus on than what my stomach looks like in a bikini.

Tips for Working Out with Weak or Injured Wrists via Lifting Revolution

THIS POST talks about how to strengthen wrists and THIS POST talks about upper body exercises that don’t put as much pressure on the wrists.

I hear this ALL THE TIME from clients: I can’t do this [push up/plank/etc] because my wrists hurt. There are muscles in our wrists so just like any other body part, they can be strengthened. There are also ways to avoid putting unnecessary stress on them. Love these two posts from Lifting Revolution on the topic.

The Rich Roll Podcast

Ok, this isn’t an article but I couldn’t do a health and wellness roundup without including Rich Roll. I’m obsessed with his podcast! He interviews people across the spectrum of fitness, nutrition, business, thought leadership–if you’re not a listener, you’re missing out!

What Do We Deserve? by Erin Bailey

This post went viral the other week and showed up several times on my Facebook feed with HEATED comment threads. It’s about cat-calling and men making offensive remarks to women in public (scratching the surface of the whole rape culture issue, I’d say). Warning: The comment section on the article is … yikes. Some intelligent dissenting opinions but also some vial, offensive trolling. If you want to avoid the negativity, I’d skip it.

Does Alcohol Limit Muscle Growth? via Muscle and Strength

This article breaks down some scientific studies looking at the effect alcohol consumption post-exercise has on muscle growth.

Alright we’re officially back to our regularly scheduled blog program tomorrow. Vacation mode: Off. 😉


Recipe Roundup from the Archives & Interwebs

10 Healthy Recipes to Try

Hello from Martha’s Vineyard! With three little maniacs running around, I wouldn’t say this vacation is exactly relaxing (LOLLOLLOL) but it is wonderful being back and getting to show Joe’s fam this beautiful island I’m lucky enough to call home. I’ve been getting in about 30 minutes of work each morning before the crazies wake up so here’s your second roundup from the archives, blogs I follow and readers. 🙂

10 Healthy Recipes to Try

Greek Yogurt & Crushed Almond Banana Popsicles

This healthier dessert is super kid-friendly. You can have them help you make them and customize their own toppings. Adult-friendly, too. 😉 greek-yogurt-almond-frozen-bananas

Clearly an old post based on this photo quality haha

High-Fiber Coconut Blueberry Breakfast Muffins from In Fitness and In Health

Drooooool. Blueberry muffins for the win … every time.


Baked Zucchini Chips with Lemon Yogurt Sauce from Hungry by Nature

How delicious do these look?! Make these zucchini chips the next time you need a healthy snack. baked-zucchini-chips-angle-tall

Creamy Almond Garlic Sauce (Vegan)

This is a delicious sauce for pastas and stir-fries! Creamy Almond Garlic Sauce (vegan) - perfect for serving with pasta or quinoa and roasted veggies, or drizzled on salmon and brown rice

Pesto Spaghetti Squash with Spicy Roasted Chickpeas from The Healthy Maven

I make some version of roasted chickpeas almost every week–seriously my favorite snack. Adding spaghetti squash and pesto to the mix? Game over. Get in my belly NOW. Pesto-Spaghetti-Squash-with-Spicy-Roasted-Chickpeas

Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers

These are awesome for meal prep. Freeze a bunch to have on hand for weeks! Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers -- vegan, gluten-free and a great option for food prepping for the week!

Healthy Breakfast Casserole from Eating Bird

What an awesome baked egg dish idea!


High-Protein Black Bean Avocado Tuna Salad Sandwiches from Ambitious Kitchen

This recipe looks easy and delicious! Also seriously check out Monique’s cookie recipes on AK: AMAZING. AvocadoTunaSalad-2

Oatmeal Raisin Energy Bars

Make these at the beginning of the week to have on hand as a grab-and-go snack! (No-Bake) Oatmeal Raisin Energy Bars -- easy to make and the perfect snack! | pumpsandiron.com

Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites

These are great for a snack or health(ier) dessert. I’ve heard they’re delicious microwaved but haven’t tried it yet myself. 🙂 Chickpea Chocolate Chip "Cookie Dough" Bites (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, no added sugar)

Try one of these recipes this week! And if you have a recipe of your own to share, leave it in the comments!