As a certified group fitness instructor, you know how essential a physical warmup is, but in today’s world—when digital distraction and the rigors of a stressful life tend to short-circuit the brain—there’s also a need to mentally connect attendees with the moment so they are fully present to receive your cues and guidance.

You’ve seen the glazed eyes and absent stares that indicate people aren’t listening as you share the day’s plan. They’re likely ruminating about a social media post, a work conversation gone rogue or what to prepare for dinner that night. What’s the harm in that? Well, the mind-body connection isn’t just for yoga classes! There is power in full engagement, and it’s contagious. In your next class, try the following tips and feel the group energy converge and soar.

Social Media Connection

While it’s not safe (or desirable) for participants to be on their phones during the workout, it can be a struggle at the beginning of class to detach people from their social media feeds. So why not integrate the virtual world into your warmup? Create a private Facebook group beforehand and use it to inspire class members and boost community.

Before class starts, invite each participant to post a goal for that day on the group page and then ask people to set their phones aside for the workout. This tactic solidifies the goals in participants’ minds, and later people can go back, post updates and congratulate each other on completing their goals. You can also create a Twitter hashtag and incentivize attendees to tweet a “movement mantra,” such as “Today I support my health with burpees and kettlebells! #JaneGymRocks.”

Query the Crowd

Another way to focus the collective is to do an informal health and wellness survey or briefly query people about a topic. As participants are gathering equipment and finding their spots, ask them a question that will help them become more present and mindful about their own health, something that will stimulate a wider discussion. Here are some suggestions:

  • What’s the largest muscle in the body?
  • Which is more important for weight loss: diet or exercise?
  • How many calories are in a standard postmeal smoothie?
  • How long does it take for the body to become deconditioned?
  • Can you name one of the muscles that make up your core?

The purpose of this exercise is not only to bring people front and center for the workout, but to educate them about their bodies and health.

Invite a Guest Teacher

When you were in high school, do you remember how the sight of a substitute shifted your thoughts and made you more aware? Why not ask a fellow instructor to lead the warmup? It could be a fit pro who teaches the class before or after yours. Guest instructors can also promote what they offer (hey, you’re all on the same team). Another idea is to invite a “front row” participant to lead the warmup or ask one of the facility’s personal trainers who needs a little promotion to boost his or her practice.

Brain and Body

To avoid “herding cats” at the beginning of your well-planned workout, try these simple, community-building ideas designed to encourage engagement and the pursuit of shared goals—fun and fitness. When mind and body are aligned and distractions are set aside for the moment, attendees will better connect with you and your class plan.