Curbing the Chatty Cathys in Your Classes

Apr 01, 2002

Q:What do you say or do when two (or more!) people in your class keep talking during the workout? These magpies are nice people, but they have no clue how irritating their conversation is to everyone else in the room. What can I do to retain class control without looking like a control freak?

Marina Aagaard, Roende, Denmark

Nobody likes being told off, yet it is important to show the rest of the class that you are in charge and that you take their workout experience seriously. But your approach has to be subtle and positive. Never act with irritation or anger, as this indicates loss of control.

If people keep talking together during a workout, I would deal with it with some humor. I suggest making direct eye contact with the participants in question, keeping your gaze fixed on them until they catch on. Then wave a finger showing, “No, no” (as you would to a child), put a finger to your mouth and say, “Shhhhh!” But remember to also wink and smile. The talkers are bound to pay attention, because everybody else will be watching. The rest of the class will probably be on your side if you take action in a good-natured way. If this fails, lower the music volume for an instant, to emphasize your message, and then repeat these same actions.

If they still keep talking, I would recommend keeping cool. Ignore them, pay extra attention to the rest of the participants and direct the class’s attention away from the offenders, maybe by regrouping the class.

After the workout, I would immediately approach the offenders, so that the other participants will notice this as they are leaving. I still recommend that you present a positive attitude. You could say something like, “The relaxed and joyous atmosphere of a class often makes us want to talk, but please remember to respect your fellow exercisers, who want to be able to hear the music and the instructor. It is also important to me as an instructor that I have your attention during the workout.”

Danielle Aubuchon, Santa Barbara, California

I encourage laughing, joking and socializing in my classes. Having said this, I must add that I also ask that my participants focus, pay attention to their form and not forget that they are in class to get a good workout.

I teach circuit training classes. In these classes each exercise needs to be performed in a timely manner so the 60-minute class flows smoothly and efficiently to ensure the efficacy of the overall workout. However, traffic jams and confusion arise from time to time when some participants pay more attention to an interesting conversation they are having than to what they are doing.

After experiencing some rather frustrating moments and worrying that we were losing sight of our goals among the chatter, I tried a couple of different ways of managing the class while still allowing the “fun factor” to survive and flourish! During class, I now make a point of wandering from participant to participant, gently reminding everyone about form and sometimes just asking people how they are doing or how an exercise feels for them. This approach reminds participants in a friendly way why they’re there. Yes, it is to have fun, but more important, it is to work out safely and effectively.

I do have a couple of die-hard “Chatty Cathys” who never seem to know where they’re going or what they are to do next because the social aspect of the class seems to be more important to them. So I decided to make the following brief announcement before class one morning: “While I totally support and enjoy all the fun we have each session, we do need to keep the class moving. Therefore, I would appreciate it if you would all pause in your conversations while I announce the next stations. After everyone has heard what we’re going to do next, feel free to resume your chatting.”

Because I made my announcement in a lighthearted and supportive manner—not in frustration—it turned out to be very effective. A need for a gentle reminder may arise from time to time, but I don’t mind because the classes are running smoothly and everyone is having a good time while being respectful to each other—and to me!

IDEA Fitness Edge, Volume 2003, Issue 2

© 2002 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.