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6 Exercise Barriers: Help Clients Break Through

Part of your role as a group fitness instructor is to help students reach their fitness goals. This is not always an easy task. Each person has different objectives, as well as unique obstacles to overcome. If you can understand some of these factors, you’ll be in a better position to meet participants’ needs, and you’ll be a more effective teacher, coach, motivator and leader.

Whether people want to lose weight, get stronger or improve their health and wellness, your job is to get them in the door consistently. No matter how positive their intentions, they won’t succeed without regular participation. Address those obstacles to consistency, and you’ll help well-meaning participants reach their goals. Here are some common roadblocks students face, and some suggestions on how to help them overcome these barriers.

Lack of Time

Perceived lack of time to exercise is a common complaint. Even people who have a sincere desire to get fit fall off the wagon when life gets crazy. There are creative ways to minimize the time commitment and still offer results-focused programs. For example, many facilities schedule express classes that enable clients to get in and out quickly; they also offer circuit classes to allow participants to accomplish a lot in less time. Why not volunteer to teach an express circuit class? Carefully select exercises that target all muscle groups, and offer very little rest between sets. Just 30 minutes of this calorie-blasting workout is more than enough to help improve strength and cardiovascular conditioning.

Other types of creative scheduling can also make a difference. Mary Beth LaVeck, an instructor at Aspen Athletic Club in Liverpool, New York, offers unique scheduling for her 90-minute boot camp class. “I give students the option to do all or just part of the class,” she says. “I set up a circuit so my students can come to class late, begin with some rhythmic movements to warm up and then join in when the next segment begins.”

Lack of Success

Students who feel successful will return to class. Create a positive experience for everyone. Introduce lower-impact or lower-intensity options for each exercise to accommodate all levels. Encourage and motivate students to work hard, while also respecting limitations. For example, the plank is an instructor favorite for training the core, and there are endless options to choose from. Students can do it from their knees and/or forearms if they’re beginners, or with one leg or arm elevated if they need more of a challenge. Demonstrate all the options for your exercises throughout class, to ensure that participants are challenged, safe and successful.

Lack of Fun

Working out doesn’t always feel comfortable, and some exercises can be extremely intense. How do you create a fun and positive experience while also challenging and motivating students to get outside their comfort zones?

In recent years, dance-based classes have been very successful, especially with beginning exercisers. This may be because participants are able to challenge themselves physically in an environment that feels more like entertainment than effort. Zumba® classes, for example, dial up the fun factor by creating a party atmosphere with upbeat music and energizing Latin-inspired dance. The music and dance moves allow participants to get their heart rate up while also feeling energized and invigorated.

Instructor enthusiasm and personality can also create a motivating and uplifting workout experience. Lead by example, by modeling high energy and excitement. If you’re having a good time, your students will too. A smile or a sincere motivational cue can make all the difference. Positive energy is contagious, and your students will follow your lead.

To read about the other three barriers and how to overcome them, please see “How to Create Outstanding Outcomes” in the online IDEA Library or in the June 2013 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.


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Melissa Weigelt, MS

Melissa Weigelt is an ACE-certified group fitness instructor, NASM-certified personal trainer and vinyasa yoga instructor with 20 years of experience in the fitness industry. As an ACE- and AFAA-approved provider of continuing education for fitness instructors and a member of the BOSU® master trainer and development team, she enjoys sharing her knowledge and ideas with others.

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