Are you dealing with the shame of a failed audition? Don’t wallow in embarrassment—use the sage advice of the best teachers around to try, try again!

You know the drill: You’ve just targeted your dream group fitness instructor job. You know you have the experience and skill to rock this position—but first you have to audition for it. The mere thought of a tryout has you shaking in your sneaks. What if you mess up the choreography or music? What if you fall or injure yourself in front of your mentor or she throws a curveball and you have to make up a whole new routine on the spot? The simple answer: You can deal with any of these nerve-racking, embarrassing issues. Read on to learn how other instructors (who are now hiring directors) bounced back from an audition fail—and learned valuable lessons in the process. Then find out how to quickly kick audition anxiety to the curb with a few simple centering tips.

Keep It Simple

Kari Merrill, group fitness director at Western Racquet and Fitness Club in Green Bay, Wisconsin, learned the hard way that less is more.

“I was hired from the membership base to teach cardio kickboxing, and the first class I taught was going to be my audition,” she says. “The main focus involved the 32 count. Could I cue, could I hear it, and would my movements flow together nicely? I knew I wanted to be different and ‘wow’ the group fitness director, so I searched for the best and most fancy combination I could find. Turns out this combo was clearly meant for instructors with a lot of experience under their mic belts. So my audition started, and I found the top of the 32 count (yes!). Then, I cued up an alternating front-kick double-double. I was smiling in my brand-new matchy-matchy outfit, and I started to hear the next 32 count. I suddenly got so freaked out that I just couldn’t cue the next move. This happened again and again and again until I finally busted out all the moves in one beat of music!”

Lesson learned: Merrill bit off more than she could cue, and she learned to start simple. “We instructors like the fancy stuff more than our class does,” she says. “I’ve learned that the participants’ energy and success are more important. I build my cardio kickboxing routines starting with two combos of fun and simple moves, so everyone starts off on the right foot. I always bring it ‘from the top,’ so there’s time to play and have fun.”

Awesome audition advice: Merrill recommends that you stay close to your original passion and purpose for teaching. “There is a reason you want to teach group fitness; hopefully because you love it,” she says. “That needs to shine through. Directors can’t teach connection, how to get excited about your classes or the desire to make someone’s day better. Be big with your movements, voice, confidence and smile, and practice, practice, practice.”

Roll With the Punches

Elizabeth Lenart, MEd, owner of innerathlete at DC Fitness in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, got sidetracked by an injury, which led to invaluable insights.

“The first time I was invited to work with the elite team at the BOSU&reg: Summit, I was psyched,” says Lenart. “I felt like I was getting to play with the major league players, so to speak, and I was honored! During the very first workout of the day, I injured myself. I wasn’t even doing anything—I pivoted to look behind me, and my knee just buckled. In no time at all, my knee swelled up larger than my head. It was so hard to walk, and I didn’t tell anyone how bad it was. I hadn’t been stretching enough, and my muscles just said, ‘That’s it!’ I could barely walk. This was an audition, and I needed to put my best self forward—but I ended up so disappointed in myself. I went back each day to the workouts and tried to stay as active as possible to show my dedication, gratitude and interest.”

Lesson learned: Lenart says her failed audition attempt set her up for better self-care. “I learned how important it is to remain engaged and to be professional,” she says. “I couldn’t perform many exercises with the elite team after my injury, so I found a way to stay energized and grateful for the invitation and the experience. I also learned to laugh more. I realized I was the one putting pressure on myself and saw that that wasn’t helpful. Finally, I learned the hard way that I needed to practice more self-care, in terms of preparing, so I wouldn’t get injured.”

Awesome audition advice: Lenart encourages instructors to keep it real. “The first thing I make sure a potential instructor knows before an audition is that I am not looking for crazy, wow-­factor routines or exercises,” says Lenart. “I want to see that he or she is able to teach, will display a stable rapport with clients, and can create a connection. You need to be able to explain the ‘what’ and the ‘why.’ Shine and brush off mistakes; remember that if you didn’t think you could do it, you wouldn’t be at the audition! I encourage instructors to own the room—smile and don’t lose sight of your strengths.”

Stay True to Yourself

Susan Reardon Galante, owner of Susan Reardon Wellness in Boston, was reminded of her strengths during an audition.

“I had the perfect playlist rehearsed and ready to go—choreography, everything—for a cycling studio audition. In the 25th hour, the gentleman who was running the audition asked me to choreograph on the fly to one of his favorite songs. I’d never heard of this song, and when I tried it I must have been riding over 140 rpm, standing in position three. I’m sure the fatigue and surprise were written all over my face! After the audition, (surprisingly) I got called back. Still, I decided that riding 140 rpm was not my style, and this wasn’t the job for me!”

Lesson learned: Reardon Galante learned that you can plan your workout, but things can change without warning, including “your audience, their fitness levels and other factors,” she says. “You always need to be prepared and then be skilled enough to pull a Hail Mary, because things don’t always go as planned.”

Awesome audition advice: Reardon Galante suggests that auditioning from a neutral, “chill” place will help your self-assurance shine through. “The best advice is to know your stuff beforehand. Your confidence will show, and that is such a win for you!”