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If you’ve taught in a variety of time-slots, you’ll know that there are subtle differences in how you need to approach your members. Marie Anagnostis explains exactly how you can adapt to both your early risers and evening energisers!

We are taught to teach to the class in front of us… but have you ever been taught to teach to your time-slot?

The Early Morning Class

Common traits of Early Morning class participants:

Bed hair, possibly inside out/back-to-front/mismatched garments, lack of cognition and/or coordination.

How to teach the Early Morning class:

Participants are delicate beings first thing in the morning, some haven’t had coffee, others are seeing light and hearing sounds for the first time that day, some may not be dressed appropriately.

Our job as the early a.m. Instructor is firstly to not judge (as if we are awake enough anyways for judgement – lest we judge our own inside-out singlet), but to ease our partially-comatose and/or dressed participants into the workout. This means music and mic volume starts a few decibels lower than usual then gradually building them up to a p.m. level (see below) – timing here is key – leave the volume low for too long and you send your participants back to sleep – hike it up too early and you’ll startle them… have you ever been woken up abruptly in the morning? What kind of mood did that put you in? Now multiply that by 50 and that’s the class you’re trying to win over.

So now we’ve got the delicate senses of our participants covered, let’s talk cognition and reflexes. It’s fair to presume IQs start 50 points lower first thing in the morning and reflexes are akin to a cat. A lethargic/dead/dying cat. Simple coaching language in the fewest words possible is therefore key – early mornings are not the time to experiment with new cues. Your pre-cues need to be on point, because if you want your pre-dawn class to react to the next move, on the beat, you better be pre-cueing them 8,000 counts earlier than usual.

The a.m. Instructor needs a thick skin figuratively and literally. The mornings can not only be freezing (in some parts of the world) but also incredibly… unresponsive. Best to presume that any questions you ask are rhetorical and if you do happen to get a response – well that’s just an anomaly, so enjoy.

It’s not you. In fact, it’s not them. It’s the time-slot.

You are the real heroes. All of the above cannot apply to you. You have to be awake. You have to remember things, say them in plenty of time, appear happy, energetic and alert and not care that no-one is acknowledging your existence. We applaud you.

You have to remember things, say them in plenty of time, appear happy, energetic and alert and not care that no-one is acknowledging your existence.

The Lunch Class

Common traits of Lunchtime class participants:

Full face of make-up, running in with four seconds to spare, leaving class five minutes early.

How to teach the Lunchtime class:

Lunchtime classes are all business and time-pressured to the extreme. Your participants are often attempting the impossible: getting to the class, setting up, getting changed, doing the class, packing up, getting changed, going back to work – all in the space of a one-hour lunch break.

Our job as the Lunchtime Instructor is to be All. Business. And. On. Time. There is no time for lengthy introductions and pauses between tracks because your class had better start exactly right on the dot and preferably finish 30 seconds early.

The Lunchtime Instructor challenge is this: communication that would normally take place pre-class and post-class, now all has to be achieved during class (see: running in with four seconds to spare, leaving class five minutes early). New person comes in? You need to set them up, connect with them, make sure they aren’t injured, learn their name, ask if they are new to group fitness, where they got their tights and discuss the weather all while you are teaching the warmup. And forget about any connection/chats you hope for post-class, you’ll be lucky if 10 per cent of your class is still there for the cool-down.

The demeanour of your class will likely be solemn and business-like as they struggle to switch their mindset from desk to deadlifts; don’t be afraid to snap them out of it by changing your introductions from week-to-week and experimenting with new coaching and different kinds of motivation. Not only do you want your lunchtime crew to have had an amazing physical workout, but a mental break from their job so they finish your class feeling both physically fab and mentally refreshed.

Message to the Lunchtime instructor:

Out of all the time-slots, you have the most work to do in the shortest amount of time. Add to that it’s likely that you too are time-pressed to get to your class in your own lunch break.

Thank you for making the sacrifice so others can escape their day momentarily – and know in your heart of hearts that you have contributed to their productivity for the rest of the day (Well. Not all of it. Because: coffee).

Thank you for making the sacrifice so others can escape their day momentarily

The Evening Class

Common traits of Evening class participants:

Mixed bag of happy and sad faces. May be missing an item of clothing they forgot to pack that morning.

How to teach the Evening class:

You’re working with a real dichotomy of motivation here: half your class is super chill and stoked it’s the end of the day and ready to cut loose, have fun, woo-hoo and smash themselves. The other half have been talking themselves out of coming to the gym all day, but here they are and will likely be limp and sad.

The good news is you treat both these groups exactly the same: with enthusiasm, personality and volume (program appropriate); and in a further twist of good fortune, the energy of said enthused participants is highly contagious, infecting the limp and sad – essentially they are doing your job.

So far you have done nothing as the Evening Instructor.

The challenge of the Evening time slot Instructor is to not get too infected by the highly contagious enthusiasm of participants. Hear me out: when we get totally carried away by the energy of our classes we tend to become yell-y, forget to layer our coaching (if we remember to coach at all outside of the motivational layer) and teach our classes from start to end at the same off-the-charts intensity and volume; this is not only boring for your participants, but after five minutes, frightening. You need to show some restraint in order to think clearly.

Your job as the Evening Instructor is essentially to facilitate the energy of participants (a Shepherd of Energy if you will) and this is as simple as: curating a killer playlist, crank the volume and coach more than one layer. Boom.

Message to the Evening Instructor:

It’s cruel and unusual punishment to have to restrain your energy in a class. Arguably one of the best feelings as an Instructor is getting lost in the energy of participants. But not you Evening Instructor – you need to be the designated sensible one, sacrificing the absolute high that group fitness can offer, to a kinda high – which is the max level of high-ness that still allows your brain to think with logic and clarity. Evening Instructor – you are a martyr. For your personal sacrifices, we thank you.

Thanks to Marie Anagnostis for the use of this article.


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