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5 Traits of the Best Fitness Instructor

Fitness instructor

As a group fitness manager, you may already know who your best fitness instructors are. However, you’re lucky if you see your instructors once a week, especially these days, and there’s probably no way to monitor every action. If you try to boil the contribution down to numbers, you might create a team focused less on winning and more on trying to impress you.

It’s time to change the score card and think more broadly about what you value in employees. The best fitness instructors need to be more than simply “the best.” They must contribute to the department, the facility and the organization—not just to the participants in their own classes. Your vision shapes your team’s culture and, subsequently, your program. Define what you believe are the most needed qualities, hire instructors who showcase these attributes, and cultivate these qualities in your employees. Below are five traits to look for when hiring the best fitness instructors

What to Look For

Keep this checklist handy when scouting, interviewing, auditioning and hiring.

  1. Talented, yet teachable. All managers want talented instructors who can step into a room and rock the regulars. But at some point, you’ll introduce new formats or you’ll need help with new programs. If your most talented instructors have no interest in learning, you’ll be up a creek! The best fitness instructors know how to teach, and they also understand how to be students. Continuing education is important not just for the sake of a successful program, but also to help keep the “empathy gene” on high alert so that a wide variety of participants are taken care of.
  2. Confident, yet humble. Obviously, someone who can command a crowd and take charge of a room is a “most valuable player” (MVP). However, a confident instructor can sometimes turn into your LVP (least valuable player). While instructors need to be confident, they also need to be humble and respect their managers, co-workers and class participants. Every person in the studio made a choice to show up at that particular time, thus providing a platform for instructors to do what they love. Isn’t this a humbling thought? Shouldn’t we show gratitude for the people who provide us an opportunity to live out our dream? Also look for instructors who are thankful for the work you do and are respectful of your time and energy.
  3. Unique, yet similar. When you build your team, find instructors who suit the needs of different participants. Everyone has particular tastes, and some people will not respond to even the most popular instructor. As an example, think of the items on the menu board at Starbucks. All the drinks have a theme (caffeine-inspired), but different drinks appeal to different customers. The same holds true for group fitness instructors. Select employees based on their values and character versus circumstance. Seek out unique talents, quirks and abilities to put together the perfect roster—so there’s something on the “menu” for each group exercise participant.
  4. Creative, yet compliant. You want teachers who think outside the box. At the same time, you don’t want them to be so creative that the rules fly out the window. Whether teaching is a hobby for your instructors or is their full-time career, you have a department to run. Each instructor must understand the need to stay engaged and to comply with policies and procedures. Reward creative solutions, but also reward adherence.
  5. A leader, yet a follower. Instructors are leaders. Hire and incentivize instructors to take on this expanded role and to teach for more than the ego stroke. Remind them that people look to them for motivation, education and information, in addition to a great class. Find ways to enhance their leadership skills. At the same time, they need to be able to follow: they need to appreciate who’s driving the bus (you), and they need to be willing to sit in their assigned seats while loving—or at least appreciating—every minute of the journey.

See also: Top Fitness Instructors, What’s Their Secret?

Shannon Fable

Shannon Fable is a sought-after speaker, author and thought leader in the area of fitness business development and strategic innovation. She has spent more than two decades helping impressive brands such as Anytime Fitness, ACE, FIT4MOM® and BOSU® with business and program development. Fable served as chair of the ACE Board of Directors and is the co-founder of GroupEx PRO®, a cloud-based group fitness management tool that she successfully sold to Daxko in 2019. As a certified Book Yourself Solid® business coach, she helps fitness professionals navigate the industry to build scalable and sustainable careers.

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