Success Tips for Teaching Beginners

Group fitness has an amazing capacity to provide instruction, camaraderie and fun all in one place. But if our mission is to Inspire the World to Fitness®, our teaching must reach beyond the front row and speak to the impressionable newbies in the back corner. With a few subtle adjustments, a group exercise class can become a safe haven for even the most novice participant.

Let’s break down the BEGIN Strategy, consisting of five simple ways to prepare for any participants, whatever their level.

B: Beginner’s Frame of Mind

One way to instantly be a better teacher to beginners is to try something new yourself. Find a format you would rather die than teach, and take that class. Go to adult ballet classes if you never wore a tutu in elementary school. Be a beginner again; if you just see class through a beginner’s eyes, you’ll be much less likely to leave your own class feeling lost and confused.

E: Elevate Your Cuing

People follow first by seeing. Begin by showing the move and describing what’s happening (whether it’s a previewed move or the move performed at a slower tempo). Then teach and anchor any specialized terms. Next, call the exercise by its proper name, which will give beginners a chance to perform the move and associate it with the word. Then take a break from yammering! You don’t want to overwhelm newcomers with verbal input. Describe key points succinctly to get everyone moving together, and then choose one focus. Perhaps this week you concentrate on placing weight in the heels or on keeping the chest lifted. With one specific focus, beginners have a better chance of getting it right.

G: Give More Than Options

To help novices choose appropriate options, avoid simply listing modifications. Instead, fully explain your expectation and provide several ways to meet that goal. For example, you might say, “We are getting ready to do 15 squats, and I want your legs to be toast by the time you’re done. You can do this (squat), this (squat to calf raise) or this (squat jump). Feel free to mix and match these choices, doing whatever will make your legs not want to do this any more at the end of the 15. Let’s go.” Using this strategy allows all your participants to self-select the best options for them.

I: Investigate and Communicate

Review your personal communication skills. Arrive early and stay late, reach out to new faces and help each person feel welcome. Ask open-ended questions, such as, “What are you looking for in class today? How do you want to feel when you’re done? What could I do to make you feel successful today?” Ask any question that might help you dig a little deeper into the psyche of a beginner participant and then tailor your class to meet those needs. If you can, follow up at the conclusion and extend a personal invitation to return.

N: Never Stop Learning

Education is a must in our profession. Get your educational fix by finding an upcoming conference, ordering a new DVD, taking an online course or finding a workshop in your area. “Soft science” is extremely important and will help you develop the art of teaching multilevel classes.

You will always have fresh faces in your back row. And remember, your regulars will be there no matter what. We have a huge responsibility to strike a balance between empowering die-hards to do what they need to do and keeping beginners coming back and feeling successful.

To read the entire article, please see “How to Really Teach to Beginners” in the online IDEA Library or in January 2010 IDEA Fitness Journal.

To purchase the DVD Powerful Teaching: Group Strength Foundations with Shannon Fable, please visit the online IDEA Store.

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Shannon Fable

IDEA Author/Presenter
Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is the founder of SFR, a consulting f... more less
February 2010

© 2010 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

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