Skills & Drills
Let your smartphone or tablet be your ally as you organize your teaching schedule and prepare for class.
Have you ever awakened at 3:00 am in a cold sweat, clutching your bed covers and muttering, “But I’m not on the schedule, and I have to drive across town in 5 minutes!”? Once your heartbeat has settled down, you realize you were having a nightmare that was triggered directly by your sometimes hectic life as a group fitness instructor.
It’s easy to understand how your stress spills over into sleep. After all, you work at three different facilities, you teach four formats, and only half of your hours are set in stone week to week. The rest are changeable based on member support and demand (and who calls in sick!).
It’s a lot to keep track of.
On top of this, you develop fresh playlists, create unique choreography and sign up for continuing education workshops as time allows. Oh, and there’s your “regular” job, which like many instructors you have in addition to a fitness career. Wouldn’t it be great if you had a personal assistant to help you find music, make playlists on the go, organize your time, teach you new steps and maybe even help you motivate students? Well, reach into your pocket and pull out your smartphone (or grab your tablet)! Download the right applications (apps) and you’ll be as efficient and effective as your best-taught classes.
Note: All apps can be found in either Apple iTunes or Google Play.
Unless you teach only prechoreographed classes with mandated playlists, your music is your personal signature. Your choices create your instructor brand and can make or break a class. You have to know how to synchronize music with movements and sometimes to match it to mood. You aspire to be keenly aware of the people attending your classes, and you strive to meet their musical preferences when possible—even if you don’t care for them personally. Here are a few apps to help you find new music and create and manage playlists.
Spotify offers legal and free access to a massive library of music. Stream music from your computer and from your smartphone with the free app or with a paid subscription. The paid version ($10/month) lets you play music in “offline mode” with no wifi or cell service required. Create as many playlists as your heart desires without having to purchase individual songs. It’s a great way to “plug and play” in cycling classes, boot camp, free-style dance and so on.
Jog.fm users can create their own playlists or search through others’ for workout songs. You can search by type of song or by beats per minute, which is great for instructors. The next time participants ask about a song you played in class, put your playlist on this app and share the link.
If you’re particularly passionate about music, you’re always searching for the next hit that’s going to supercharge your students. How many times have you been at the mall, heard a catchy song and wondered “What is that? It would be great for my kickboxing class.” Shazam® “listens” to the song and gives you the name and artist in about 30 seconds.
Have you ever loved a song but thought it was either too slow or too fast for your class? Tempo Magic Pro lets you change the bpm of a song to suit the speed of your class without messing with the pitch. It also features gapless playback so you can keep the party going.
If you have your own fitness blog, you know how important it is to update it on a consistent basis so that you can develop and maintain a dedicated group of fans. The following apps support blog organization and on-the-go updates.
Blogger, WordPress and Tumblr all have their own mobile blogging apps that sync with your current blog. ShoZu allows you to update all your online content because it supports a variety of blogging platforms as well as Picassa, Ovi, Facebook, Twitter™, LiveJournal, MoBlog, Typepad, Vox, Flickr®, YouTube and others.
You’ll probably want to download mobile HootSuite™ and/or TweetDeck so you can manage your social media while on the road (but not while driving!). According to Biray Alsac-Seitz, MS, a fitness technologist and instructional designer who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, a good mobile reader is a must so you can read all your syndicated blog feeds in one app. “I use myFeeds (which works with Google), but there are many others. It’s great for catching up on the latest blog posts and news while I’m waiting for my next class to start. Plus, you can quickly find trending topics that can act as a great conversation starter during your warm-up.”
What about apps to help you piece together all the stringy parts of your crazy schedule? Things and reQall™ both act as task managers and keep your schedule whipped into shape so that you can focus on getting to where you need to go. Use them to itemize your classes, playlists, subbing opportunities, etc.
If you work at more than one location, you may have more than one database password or employee ID. Keep track of them all with eWallet®, an app that securely manages all that information in one place so you free up some space in your brain (just don’t lose your phone!).
Many fitness facilities have developed their own mobile apps. Check whether yours has one available to keep you informed and engaged as a part-time employee. Some of the apps feature indispensable organizational and scheduling tools.
For many overworked instructors, one sore spot (other than hamstrings and triceps) is a lack of time and energy to be truly creative and also to find ways to motivate members to do more than they already do. Who has time to come up with new ideas when it’s obvious there should be 30 hours in the day instead of 24?
ChallengeLoop gives you a perfect excuse to stay connected with your participants, motivate them and help them stay on track with their fitness goals. Create inspiring challenges, such as riding 5 extra miles in cycling class or participating in a choreography contest, and track the results together.
If you’re a yoga instructor, you have quite a few apps to choose from for inspiration. Many feature glossaries and/or sample routines. Options include Yoga Deck, Yoga Positions Pocketbook and 101 Yoga Poses. Pilates instructors may find the sample mat repertoire on Pilates Interactive quite inspiring. And the examples on Winsor Pilates and Pocket Pilates can spark creative ideas.
Spinning® and Keiser® both offer indoor cycling apps. Although these are geared more toward the consumer, they provide fun, motivational tips you can share when teaching. Class Builder™ offers everything from “simple target intensity levels . . . to advanced heart rate training.”
TRX® Force is a “super app” that will help you fine-tune your group classes with a library of moves; it also includes benchmark tests and randomized workouts. For step ideas, Alsac-Seitz suggests downloading the YouTube app and subscribing to a few “favorite channels,” such as Step Junkie or LethalLeslie, both of which regularly post routines.
Evernote will let you organize the ideas that come to you when you least expect it (e.g., when standing in line at the coffee shop or picking up your child from daycare). Add video, audio, text and pictures to your notes and categorize them. “You no longer have to keep routines on index cards or in a ripped-up notebook (which I used to do!),” says Alsac-Seitz. “Store your ideas digitally on your phone (the app also syncs with the Web and a desktop version). So next time you have an exercise idea or [come up with] a routine (or you see something inspiring at a workshop or conference), use your phone to capture it, add notes, tag it and categorize it! You have your own database, and it’s easily searchable and shareable with other instructors who have the app.”
Other useful apps will get you safely where you’re going by helping you navigate the moody traffic (and weather) in your neck of the woods. Waze is a community-based traffic and navigation app that offers “live routing” based on information provided by other users. Says Alsac-Seitz, “This social GPS system helps you point out accidents, police, and traffic updates and still provides turn-by-turn navigation. So you’ll never be late for a class!”
Weather apps are a must when you’re teaching outdoor classes or special events like hiking or swimming, adds Alsac-Seitz. She recommends Weather Underground, which is localized and offers free severe-weather push notifications.
What about self-care? Chances are you have been known to overtrain from time to time, even though you know that all the good stuff happens during recovery. Apps like ZephyrLIFE help you track your stress and fitness levels so you know when to work harder and when to pull back, which is useful when you’re teaching more than one class in a day.
Use the magic of mobile apps to keep you updated, inspired, motivated and on time!