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Why Do Some Classes Make You Miserable?

Author by Mark Grevelding


“Don’t let others box you into their idea of what they think you should be. A confined identity is a miserable way to exist. Be you and live free. Trust that in living true to yourself, you will attract people that support and love you, just as you are.”

~ Jaeda DeWalt

“There is nothing worse than teaching a class you hate.”

~ Mark Grevelding

Okay, so I made up my own quote – but it is true.  As a group fitness instructor for 22 years, land and water, I have taught classes I could not stand.  Whether it was the format, the location, the participants or the management, the class simply made me miserable.  How do you prevent a class from becoming dreaded?  Below are a few tips I learned on the journey.  

Own The Agenda

Recently, a subscriber emailed me for advice after taking over a class where the students had been allowed to pick what they wanted to do.  The students decreed that they wanted a total body format and equipment was required in every class.  While there are MANY things wrong with this scenario, lets start with the most obvious.   Obtaining feedback from students is one thing, but allowing them to dictate the agenda invalidates an instructor’s credentials and education.  (And if an instructor doesn’t have credentials and education than they shouldn’t be teaching.)

One wonders if the students are educated enough in the aquatic environment to know if equipment use in every class is safe, effective and recommended?  Do they understand that water itself is a form of equipment?  My advice to this instructor was to incorporate segments of non-equipment use in every class so that the students could experience the power of just working with the water.  A qualified fitness professional can accomplish many things with their knowledge but only if they assert their role as the instructor by owning the agenda.  Doing any less invites misery and mayhem.

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Beware the dangers of being pigeonholed into a limited format.  Every instructor who has every signed on to the latest trend has likely experienced the pain of being boxed in by a limited format.   There is never enough new material to keep the class fresh and boredom soon sets in.  The best advice I can give an instructor is to mix up formats so they are free to add in lots of variety in their classes.  HIIT drills are great but at some point, the students will cease to see results without variety.  Consider mixing up HIIT/anaerobic training with other aerobic exercise.  Remember aerobic exercise - that thing we have done for the past 40 years in fitness studios and pools? Mixing up a variety of training formats that target all the components of physical fitness will ensure maximal results for students and a wide range of class planning opportunities for the instructor.

The Name Game

The ability to mix things up will only happen if you give yourself permission to do so when naming your class and writing the description.  Generic class names like AquaFit and Aqua Challenge may be overused and unimaginative but the instructors teaching them get lots of leeway in their class planning.  Yes, marketing needs may dictate a trendy name from time to time but in general the happiest instructors are those who have the freedom to change things up.

Be Authentically You

“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.” ~ Judy Garland

Think back to your school years and the teachers that stand out as your favorites.  Whether it was their unique teaching style, personality, optimism, humor or passion, something made them stand out.   Stand out!  Shine!  Don’t diminish your light because others don’t like your personality or teaching style.  Trying to be someone or something you are not will make you miserable. The students who don’t care for your personality or style can simply move on to another class.

Know When to Fold Them

Speaking of moving on, sometimes you just have to cut a class loose.  No class should make you miserable.  Recently I gave up a class because I did not appreciate the students’ efforts to typecast me into the role of a HIIT & Tabata coach.  True to my heart, I am a ‘choreography kinda guy’ and I refused to be bullied into one-dimensional instruction. All is well that ends well.   The class moved on and so did I.

Teaching is a passion and should always remain that way. 



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