Common Mistakes Group Fitness Trainers Make (And How to Avoid Them)

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You can spot a superstar group fitness trainer a mile away — they’ve got that certain confidence and charisma, people line up before their group fitness classes start to get a good spot and linger long after they’re over, and their Instagram feed is packed with devoted fans and followers.

Those new to personal training are easy to spot, too, because they’re going through the process of mastering their new craft. If you’ve ever taught a group class, you know the experience. No one starts out flawless, and mistakes are part of the journey. But–as the saying goes–”practice makes perfect.” To help speed your learning curve, here are six slips newbie fitness trainers should steer clear of.

1. Rookie Move: Not Engaging Before Class

“This is my absolute biggest pet peeve — if you’re hanging out by the PA system or on your phone and not greeting your class, meeting new people, or asking about injuries, you’re doing it wrong,” says Webb Travis, a personal trainer and group fitness instructor for Equinox. Break the ice with new faces by introducing yourself, check in on how everyone’s day has gone or tell a quick story if it’s a shy crowd — it’s best to consider your ‘on’ time as 10 minutes before class starts and 10 minutes after it’s over.

2. Rookie Move: Showing Off

“It’s one thing to be a rock star instructor and another thing to be a showboater. Just because you can do a single-handed pushup with a twist, it doesn’t mean your class is interested in seeing or trying it,” says Travis. Get credit for the long hours you clock at the gym by showing the crowd a picturesque squat or down dog to copy, and save the peacock (pose) for after class.

3. Rookie Move: Starting Late

Nothing against stragglers (most people are rushing in from somewhere) but your class should begin on time, every time, with no exceptions. “If the class starts at five, there needs to be music on and some engagement happening when the clock strikes,” says Travis. Ending late is just as big of a faux pas: “You’ve got to leave time to clean up the sweat and let the room cool down again before the next class starts,” says Travis. And your trainees don’t want to get stuck any longer than they have to be, either.

4. Rookie Move: Singling People Out

Cueing the whole class while giving individualized attention to anyone who needs extra instruction isn’t an easy balance, but do what you can to keep the solo nudges discreet. “Most people don’t want to be the example for the entire class, especially if you’re correcting their form, so don’t forget to take the mic away from your mouth or put it down for a hot second while you help them out,” says Travis. Smart group fitness trainers can just make a physical adjustment without any verbal instruction that would cause a break in the class flow.

5. Rookie Move: Adding in Surprises

Your trainees like to know what’s coming — it’s why we count down from 10 instead of up (otherwise everyone would be thinking, ‘crap when is this over?’) Don’t forget to let people know where they are in the workout and what’s coming up. “If for some reason you’re switching up the format or subbing for someone and changing up the usual game plan, let people know ahead of time, too,” says Travis.

6. Rookie Move: Burning the Class Out

People love classes that leave them drenched in sweat like spin and boot camp because they feel like they’ve gotten their money’s worth. But hold back from pushing people over the edge, especially with resistance training. “Don’t forget that 60 percent of America is overweight, and most people are sitting at a desk all day. You’ve got to warm them up properly and offer modifications, otherwise people could end up getting injured,” says Travis.