The Introvert’s Guide to Fitness Instruction

A couple weeks ago, I submitted an article draft that made me sound terrified and lacking confidence. The subject was “what your fitness instructor is thinking,” and I rattled off all sorts of anecdotes that, while wonderfully humorous as always, made me sound unsure of myself in the fitness space.

The truth is that sometimes I am unsure of myself in the life space, and I happened to write that article in the midst of one of those times. I was out of town and dealing with marriage woes (things are still managing to stay on track if you’re interested) and I wasn’t able to tap into the confident part of me that day.

Needless to say I wrote a different article, but that original draft made me think of the difference in introverted vs. extroverted teaching styles. I believe that both styles have their place and that as an introvert you can be equally successful in teaching anything you so desire. Since this is a health and fitness blog, however, I will spend my focus on that by offering you the introvert’s guide to fitness instruction.

The Introvert'sGuide to Fitness Instruction

Group fitness instruction may come easier to extroverted people. They thrive being around others and actually gain more energy from those interactions, whereas introverted people tend to tire more quickly in similar situations. The important thing for introverts is to make sure that you have enough balance. Make sure to allocate time for activities that allow you to recharge and don’t overload yourself with activities that may drain you.

As long as you are recharged and ready to go, there is no reason why an extroverted personality would be a better fitness instructor. Just keep these tips in mind when teaching:

Start small

While making connections with EVERYONE in the room is going to be near impossible, make sure that you take the time to talk to at least one or two people each class. If you do this every time you teach, you will be sure to quickly learn who comes to your class and make those connections. Also make sure to introduce yourself and reach out to brand new attendees so that they feel comfortable.

Fake it till you make it

The only way people know if you are nervous is if you show them. By acting confident and excited to start class, you will be surprised at how quickly you actually are. Put on a smile and act like the most amazing instructor you know and soon you’ll probably end up being that instructor!

Make an awesome playlist

I get really excited by good workout music. A couple months ago I signed up for Spotify so that I could make class playlists and it has made a world of difference! Before, I would use the stock playlists that were offered, but once I started bringing in my own music I found myself notably more excited to teach class.

If you respond well to music, spend some time creating your own playlists. You will be surprised at how certain songs can make you start jumping on rowing machines and inspire you to push people a little harder.

Think about others

Remember why you are an instructor in the first place. You want to help other people focus on improving themselves. Rather than getting caught up in your own feelings, think about theirs. The more you focus on other people, the more rewarding the experience will be for both of you.

Just do it!

As an introverted person, I often have to put myself in uncomfortable situations. In order to make new connections and relationships, I often go way outside of my comfort zone by arranging meetings and making myself known. The same goes for fitness instruction.

I know that I am passionate about health and fitness and I can’t let my fears hold me back from trying to make a difference in the lives of other people. Often the hardest thing is just to get out there and do what is not comfortable. I find that even if my life is crazy, once I put on that microphone and focus on improving the health of others for an hour, I quickly remember how important it is and that shows through my instruction.

Questions:

  • Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
  • If you teach classes, what are some of your tips?
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23 Comments

  1. August 11, 2015 / 5:43 am

    Erin, I love this. As a new fit professional I want all the tips and info I can get. Keep sharing your expertise please 🙂
    jill conyers recently posted…Very Berry Smoothie BowlMy Profile

  2. August 11, 2015 / 6:14 am

    I remember us talking about said article. And I know the struggle of which you speak–though I do have confidence, I get tail tucked in group fitness situations unless I feel completely prepared–that is why I’m better one on one, when I can just concentrate on one person’s needs and cues.
    PS. Much to discuss.
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…Marathon Coaching vs Marathon TrainingMy Profile

  3. August 11, 2015 / 7:52 am

    This is glowingly helpful for everyone! I’m probably more extroverted than introverted now that I’m living life fully and committed to recovery, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get jitters about talking to people. I’ve always wanted to teach a class of some sort so I find this very helpful. Thank you!
    Danielle recently posted…Milk Tea & PoPoMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      August 17, 2015 / 12:42 pm

      Yeah, it can really be applied to anything and not just teaching classes. Glad to help!

  4. August 11, 2015 / 8:27 am

    I don’t teach fitness classes but I do teach my company’s nutrition training program and the first class I taught was 3 hours long. I was SO nervous and it ended up being a lot easier than I thought it would be. I have to remind myself: you’re the expert and they want to learn from you. Knowing the material inside out and backwards really helped me get through it 🙂
    Pragati // Simple Medicine recently posted…Firmoo Glasses Review + Book ClubMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      August 17, 2015 / 12:42 pm

      I can totally relate to that. 3 hours is a long time! I would have been preparing like a mad woman haha

  5. August 11, 2015 / 9:10 am

    Awesome advice Erin. As an introverted personal trainer, I both avoid teaching and going to group classes. I much prefer one-on-one training, but do push myself out of my comfort zone to do lectures now and again. I always need to keep I mind your point about how I’m there for THEM, not myself. With more time in the industry comes more confidence, which I hope will help me get better with group situations 🙂

    • erinsinsidejob
      August 17, 2015 / 12:41 pm

      Totally. And sometimes the best way to get over it is just to dive in!

  6. August 11, 2015 / 5:58 pm

    I was listening to the Happier podcast, and Gretchen suggested for each new “thing” (fitness class, blogging conference, whatever) to aim to make 3 new friends. As a Type A introvert, this is the stuff I love.

    This could really also be the introverts guide to life. Ha.

    (If you haven’t guessed – totally an introvert)
    Ange @ Cowgirl Runs recently posted…Race Recap: Pure Protein Night RaceMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      August 17, 2015 / 12:43 pm

      Yeah, thats a tough thing to do too. I try and introduce myself to someone new each time 🙂

  7. August 11, 2015 / 7:25 pm

    These are great tips, Erin! I tested as an extrovert for Myers Briggs, but feel like I go between ex/introvert. A tip for me when I first started teaching was to just DO IT – similar to your “fake it till you make it” tip. The more I hesitated and second-guessed myself, the less confident I was to myself and to others.
    Jess @hellotofit recently posted…Link Love #29 and wine o’clockMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      August 17, 2015 / 12:43 pm

      Yes, exactly. They see you as the expert, so even if you are feeling shaky, just talk with authority and soon you’ll be back on track!

  8. August 12, 2015 / 12:00 am

    “Do one thing a day that scares you” — it’s a mantra that really struck a chord with me and I try to do as often as I can. This reminded me of it! And it has really been on my mind lately as I consider teaching group fitness. I relate a lot to your struggle (if that’s even the right word for it).
    Lauren @ ihadabiglunch recently posted…Guess who’s back!!My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      August 17, 2015 / 12:44 pm

      Oh yes that’s a good one. Usually things that scare me are adult things and that means I actually need to do them!

  9. August 12, 2015 / 10:10 am

    Great tips. I’ve dipped my feet into coaching this past spring and have always been thinking of possibly getting into teaching. Especially since i need something flexible as I start grad school. I always think I’m too quiet or introverted for it, but maybe I just need to find my niche!
    Lauren recently posted…Work it Out Wednesdays #4: Internal Dialog of a Beginner YogiMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      August 17, 2015 / 12:44 pm

      I think that would be great. Once you find something you are passionate and knowledgeable, you’d be surprised at how easy it becomes

  10. August 12, 2015 / 9:49 pm

    Thanks for these great tips! I am totally an introvert and I just started teaching group fitness. I love it, but it can be a little challenging to connect with people. I have also found that the more excited I am about a class, the more willing I am to making those personal connections. It just seems easier to me.
    Heather@hungryforbalance recently posted…WIAW: all chocolate, all the timeMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      August 17, 2015 / 12:45 pm

      Me too. Like if I have a new outfit or an awesome new playlist then I am pumped about teaching! (it’s the little things)

  11. August 13, 2015 / 6:23 am

    I’m definitely not an introvert BUT I am a fitness instructor and I know that it’s nerve-racking even for people who thrive off groups and being the center of things! These are REALLY great tips, seriously. I can say that from experience! 🙂
    Erin recently posted…Intuitive Exercise FuelingMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      August 17, 2015 / 12:48 pm

      Thanks girl!

  12. August 14, 2015 / 3:53 pm

    I loved being a group fitness instructor but you are right it can be so daunting. I remember everytime I would teach at a new location I would be on pins and needles until the music started!
    Sam @ PancakeWarriors recently posted…Cardio Plank WorkoutMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      August 17, 2015 / 12:59 pm

      I was like that too when I started at a new place!

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