Reflect on the last time you taught a group fitness class. Can you recall one positive experience that stood out? Perhaps a participant finally completed that extra rep, maybe you felt for a moment that the entire room was in the zone, or perhaps you were proud of your killer playlist. Pause, take a breath and relive that shining moment. How did it feel? What did you hear? What, specifically, made it so great? Absorb the experience with all your senses.
What does the process of reflecting evoke? You might notice a feel-good sensation, for example. This process is called savoring, a tool that helps you hold on to good moments, and it is associated with a variety of positive benefits (Smith & Hanni 2019). Just as you can deeply enjoy a cup of coffee or your favorite food, you can apply savoring to exercise instruction. This article explains what savoring is, explores its benefits and shares how to implement it. This addition to your routine can reap incredible rewards for you and your participants.
What Is Savoring?
Savoring is the process of actively appreciating the good. Maria Sirois, PsyD, a positive psychologist and international consultant in Lenox, Massachusetts, says that savoring is an “integration of awareness” that is both calming and grounding, and it can “enable us to not only hold on to the positive, but also become more mindful when it occurs.” If we practice savoring, we’re more likely to search for and find more moments to appreciate. Savoring is beneficial in the present moment, and it’s also a useful tool for thinking more positively in the long run.
Savoring involves amplifying positive focus while reducing, dampening or diminishing negative thoughts and feelings. This suggests that the more we savor, the more likely we are to promote positive thoughts and feelings (Smith & Hanni 2019). The more we search for the good, the easier and more natural it feels.
Why is savoring useful for group fitness instruction and participation? First, it can make exercise more appealing, and it has a pleasurable effect (Bryant & Verhoff 2007). When people are drawn to a group fitness class, they typically have a goal in mind—to lose weight, become stronger, lower their stress levels or gain confidence, for example.
When you ask goal-setters to reflect on an accomplishment or some aspect of their progress, they get to feel and experience gratification, which helps them celebrate wins, both small and large. Instead of thinking about an unsuccessful moment, they walk out of the fitness center with a powerful memory of a positive moment, thus making them more likely to return. This creates environments where people actively appreciate the good, notice changes and are excited to return.
Savoring a class is beneficial both for participants and for you as the instructor. When you take the time to savor, you associate positive thoughts with your job.
Benefits of Savoring
In addition to strengthening the bond between exercisers and their workouts or between you and your job, savoring can lead to stronger relationships between you and participants. In short, when someone tells another person what went well or what felt good, and the other person responds positively, the relationship grows stronger.
Sharing positive news with another person is also referred to as capitalization and is associated with relationship well-being (Gable et al. 2006). Sirois reflects on the time an instructor pulled her aside and told her she did a certain move really well during class. She said that, for a moment, they were both able to rest in positive emotions, brought about by the instructor’s noticing, and then highlighting, the good. How powerful is that? Positive relationships are a key component in well-being (Seligman 2018).
The benefits of savoring do not end there. Savoring interventions have been associated with greater happiness and resilience and fewer symptoms of depression (Smith & Hanni 2019). Savoring also increases perceived job performance (Lin et al. 2011), so if you take a moment after class to savor the highlights, you may feel more confident about your time teaching.
Understanding what savoring is (and what its benefits are) is the first step. Now let’s dive into how you can weave this practice into a group fitness setting.
How to Implement Savoring Moments
According to Sirois, a savoring moment can take as little as 30–60 seconds, during which time you can pause for the group to recognize and honor what they’ve just accomplished. One of the most intuitive times to guide participants through the process is during the cooldown, when they can reflect on the entire class. Don’t forget to take 30 seconds after leaving the facility for self-reflection.
Frame your guidance in a variety of ways and create a unique, authentic script based on your personality. It can be as long or as short as you want.
Here’s an example:
“Reflect on your time in class and pinpoint a positive experience. This moment may be one where you felt especially strong, learned something new, pushed yourself more than you have in a while, gave yourself permission to rest when you needed it, were brave and tried something new, progressed a move, or showed up on time.
“If nothing comes to mind, don’t force it; just be open to what comes. If you can think of a moment, try to relive it. What were you doing? How were you feeling? Hold on to that experience for a few breaths. Savor it. The next time you’re debating whether or not to attend class, remind yourself of this moment.”
Jocelyn Bowers, a group fitness instructor in Victorville, California, recalls when a participant said to her after class, “Thank you for helping.” This small gesture was fleeting, so to hold on to the moment, make the benefits last longer and strengthen the relationship, Bowers chose to savor it. At the end of each class, Bowers asks participants what their “savor moment” is. It can be difficult for people to instantly think of something, so she invites them to write down their moments and leave them at the front desk. Bowers recalls receiving the following written note: “My savor moment—the ability to do just one more than the last time. You’re the best. Thank you.”
By encouraging participants to savor moments during and after class, you inspire them to recognize their accomplishments and connect further with you. This is an extremely powerful tool for motivating people and building strong, positive relationships.
Make It Last
Go one step further with the concept of savoring and encourage participants to practice on their own. Motivate class members to recognize special moments in and out of the studio space—moments that call for reflection on the good they’ve done for themselves. Create “savor opportunities” in each class, and challenge people to notice them on their own throughout the day. Once they start doing this regularly, they will reap even longer-lasting benefits.
See also: Turn Negatives Into Positives
Bryant, F., et al. 2011. Understanding the processes that regulate positive emotional experience: Unsolved problems and future directions for theory and research on savoring. International Journal of Wellbeing, 1 (1), 107–26.
Bryant, F., et al. 2005. Using the past to enhance the present: Boosting happiness through positive reminiscence. Journal of Happiness Studies, 6 (3), 227–60.
Bryant, F., & Veroff, J. 2007. Savoring: A new model of positive experience. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
Gable, S., et al. 2006. Will you be there for me when things go right? Supportive responses to positive event disclosures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91 (5), 904–17.
Lin, C., et al. 2011. Savouring and perceived job performance in positive psychology: Moderating role of positive affectivity. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 14 (3).
Seligman, M. 2018. PERMA and the building blocks of well-being. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 13 (4), 333–35.
Smith, J., & Hanni, A. 2019. Effects of a savoring intervention on resilience and well-being of older adults. Journal of Applied Gerontology : The Official Journal of the Southern Gerontological Society, 38 (1), 13752.
Savoring the Past
Research suggests that individuals who positively reminisce—savoring moments that have already happened—are better able to enjoy life (Bryant et al. 2005). People feel more skilled at savoring the past than at savoring the present or the future (Bryant et al. 2011). Therefore, savoring a past moment in group fitness—say, in an indoor cycling class—is a useful tool for you to use as an instructor and something to encourage among your participants. For example, if you have a core group of attendees and you recall a particularly riveting hill climb from last week when everyone was giving full effort and staying present, bring that moment back for all to savor.
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