A career professional who has risen from fitness model to 2003 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year, Keli Roberts sees opportunities in the industry and takes advantage of them. She enjoys talking to the masses about the benefits of exercise and, as group fitness manager for Equinox Fitness Clubs in Pasadena, California, teaches a variety of classes each week. What are her secrets? Education, hard work and practice, practice, practice.

What is your favorite
music mix? Why?

I use a lot of Dynamix’s music. The music is always upbeat and motivating. I often see people in my class singing along with it (that’s a very good sign!). Variety is one of the most important aspects of music. I get tired of music very quickly, so I have a large selection to choose from.

What sources do
you tap for new ideas?

Conventions are the best places to get new ideas, but there are a lot of great industry books, magazines and videos, too. I really enjoy Mindy Mylrea’s sports conditioning and medicine ball videos, as well as videos from Rob Glick, Douglas Brooks, Jay Blahnik, Michelle Dozois and many others.

How do you teach
a multilevel class?

It’s easy to come up with a good exercise selection by working out progressions and regressions. I’ll take a move, demonstrate the easiest variation, then progress it two or three levels for my experienced participants. I often keep demonstrating the easiest variation so that the newer people in my class feel comfortable.

What was the smartest thing
you did to grow your career?

Maintaining my education and certifications keeps me up-to-date on trends and new information. I love to learn. Becoming certified (ACE, ACSM and AFAA) has given me many opportunities. Certification is especially important when working with the media—you have to be on top of facts.

What is your favorite warm-up?

It begins with an acclimation period
in which I introduce participants to
the unstable surface of the BOSU®. We practice mounting and dismounting from all different directions. Next, we do a little marching routine and progress to a compression/march/jog/pendulum. I incorporate simple double-leg balances, eye-tracking drills, squats and slow knee-ups.

Who is your most
inspiring class participant?

I have two. The first is a very heavy woman who takes my class every week. She totally inspires me because she works hard, challenges herself and always lifts the right amount of weight. My second inspiring participant takes my indoor cycling class. At 81 years old, she reminds me that fitness is a way of life. I can only hope to be in as good shape as she is when I reach her age!

Do you have any
advice for new exercisers?

Let yourself have time to develop your exercise habit, then add on more time and activities. It’s better to do a little bit often than to do a whole lot every now and then. Be patient and persistent and don’t give up. The results you want may be right around the corner.

How do you avoid injuries?

I take 2 days off each week. One day is complete rest; the other is active rest. I don’t exercise when I’m sick, and when I’m feeling tired, I modify my workouts. I take care of injuries as soon as they come up. If I have a nagging pain for more than 3 days, I have it looked at by my sports medicine doctor or chiropractor. Ice is a great help for minor inflammation, and rest is one of the most powerful medicines for injuries—it’s also the one thing group fitness instructors never give themselves enough of.

What advice do you
have for new instructors?

Take classes, practice and be prepared. Go to as many conventions as you can, and read and watch videos. When I teach something new, I practice a lot and create a game plan. This is really helpful if you tend to get nervous. If it’s a choreography class, make sure you’ve worked out all the teaching progressions. Don’t hesitate to have a cheat sheet.