How to transform your fitness class using positive words and actions

When women are searching for a good class or instructor, they are looking to find someone who has a teaching philosophy that resonates with them. Just being good at fitness does not mean you will be good at teaching.

Leading with positive words and actions will create the best possible learning experience for your class. Women who are new to fitness will appreciate this approach—and it may be the reason that keeps them coming back.

In this article, I will walk you through transforming your class into a positive-based approach to teaching.

What is a positive approach to teaching?

The words and actions you use will build the vibe of your class. When you’re being mindful to keep these positive, you’ll foster a community of women who do the same for each other!

Positive-based classes will:

  • Build confidence
  • Encourage better movement, making members feel like they aren’t good enough
  • Invite women to increase their intensity leading to a feeling of empowerment
  • Teach women to accept the challenges rather than feel like they aren’t making progress
  • Keep your members coming back for more!

Why should you care?

Remember 30 years ago when teachers in school didn’t hesitate to use methods like public humiliation or fear-based warnings to control the classroom? Read Psychology Today to get a better understanding of positive reinforcement and its history. Today, we are more mindful than that. 

Using a positive-based approach to teaching is a method that will build confidence and inspire growth and change. We don’t need to use fear and punishment. 

Using negativity or fear-based methods will:

  • Make women feel like failures
  • Encourage a space where other members in class compare themselves to others and build resentment
  • Create distrust
  • Keep your members from coming back

Here’s how to transform your class into a positive-based approach to teaching in 5 steps

  1. Reframe your words
  2. Use progressive cues instead of a less-than modification
  3. Remove the word “no” from your vocabulary
  4. Use humor to be relatable and lighten the mood
  5. Keep your before and after conversations positive

Reframe your words

One of the best ways to start change is to observe the language you use now. There isn’t an exact list of words to use and not use, but here are a few general comments to avoid using:

  • You can’t
  • Don’t do this
  • No
  • Hate
  • Stop

Here’s how to reframe some common statements:

  • Example: If you can’t do a push-up, you can hold a plank.
    • Change to: Hold a plank. If you’re up for the challenge, try adding some push-ups
  • Example: Can I do squats with my back injury? — No.
    • Change to: Can I do this? — Doing this might not be the best for your back. I would try doing this instead.
  • Example: I know you hate doing burpees.
    • Change to: Let’s challenge ourselves with a small set of burpees today!

Use progressive cues instead of a less-than modification

There is a wide range of abilities in every class, and modifications are necessary. How you offer the modifications means everything.

The common practice is to offer an alternative if a member can’t complete a movement as requested. The problem with this method is that it can make members feel less capable than the others. 

Challenge yourself to offer progressions of movements instead. Here’s how that looks:

  • Start with the lowest level of the movement, for example, a low plank from your knees. Cue this to your class.
  • Offer a progression to those who are ready and up for the challenge. “If you’re comfortable, try rising off your knees to challenge yourself.”

This form of teaching will help your members feel like they can achieve what you’re requesting and only if they are up for the challenge do they need to do more. 

Make a list of standard movements and the levels of progression. This list will help you better understand the exercises and how to elevate your member’s skills.

Remove the word “no” from your vocabulary

There are certainly times when the word “no” is necessary. When you’re teaching, reframing negative answers can provide you with more opportunities to share.

You will find this is especially helpful with potential members and off-the-mat conversations. When someone asks a question, see if you can rephrase the answer to provide more value and make the negative a positive.

Here’s an example:

  • Is there space in the next session for your class?
  • That session was popular and has sold out. I have space in my next session which begins next Monday. Would that work for you?

In the second example, you used the opportunity to explain how popular your class is and you have offered a solution. This answer is such a better response than just saying “no”.

You’ll find a lot of articles for alternatives to the word “no”. Check this out—it’s relevant to anyone, not just kids.

Use humor to be relatable and lighten the mood

Humor can be a tricky form of communication. When humor is used correctly, it can make you more relatable and put the group at ease. When humor is used incorrectly, it can add negativity or division in your classroom. 

Avoid these two types of humor:

  • Teasing. Even when you tease someone that you’re comfortable with or someone that appreciates this form of humor, it will leave the others in the group feeling left out. Save that for your private relationships.
  • Sarcasm. This type of humor can be hard to read and you should avoid it.

When you’re using humor, think G-rated dad jokes and funny stories. Laughter is a positive experience!

Keep before and after conversations positive

Remember that your members are always watching you. Women are incredibly observant because they are trying to determine how they fit in the class. 

Keep these in mind

  • Conversations with a co-worker
  • Avoid gossip
  • Stay away from negative news or politics
  • Be mindful that your actions don’t feel too exclusive or cliquey

When you are teaching a class, you are a leader from when the first person walks in until the last person leaves.

There are more ways you can improve your class methodology to be a positive-based one. Get started with these five tips and you’ll be on your way to building a positive community!

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Coach Stacy

Empowering women’s-only gym owners/trainers to build trust, positivity, and profit through mission-driven, ethical strategies.

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