Knowing your participants as a former participant

Long before I started teaching group exercise, I was a group exercise participant. I was in the trenches with all of you. I joined the gym at about 275 pounds, and over the past two years I’ve dropped to under 200 pounds. I’ve changed my body next to you, sweating, shouting, punching and kicking right along side many of you! I’m one of you.

At some point, I got the idea that I should start to teach group exercise. I went and got the necessary credentials, I practiced for many hours, and I was eventually hired across many gyms. One of those gyms happens to be the gym where I started, and a few others are new ones.

As a participant, and after this first year of teaching, I’d say that I have a fairly good understanding of how our participants think. Especially those who know you as a past participant, or a different format instructor.

There are some people who will respect and admire you for what you have done with your life and health. Some will be in awe about how much weight you lost, and they’ll want to follow and learn from you. Those participants will have no problem with you leading and teaching them after you become an instructor.

Then there will be others who will hate on you. Some of them were already there when you arrived, they were already, and continue to be fit. Those people will think that you are not worthy of teaching them. Their thought process is, “Who does this person think they are to lead me? I’ve been here longer, and I’m better than they are!”

Admittedly, they may be a better dancer, they might have better rhythm, and they could possibly even be in better shape! That could all be true, or they might just be delusional! I’ve encountered a few of those, they put forth no effort, they have zero motivation, yet they think that you are not good enough to teach them. Hah. Delusional. But regardless, none of that takes away from what you have done, or the fact that they can get a great workout in with you. But it is quite likely that those people will never take your class, and that’s fine. Don’t worry about them, their mind was made up before you ever taught, and that’s their loss.

Having this perspective is power, it frees you and me to do just what we do! Having an understanding that those who dislike you have already made up their minds frees you from having to worry about winning them over, and I have zero intentions of trying to change it.

Yesterday, I had a bit of a tough Zumba class. I wrote about why here, but besides the challenges I gave myself, I encountered two students who fit somewhere in the latter category above. When I walked in, one of them said, “Oh no, Angel?” I said, “don’t worry, I”m much nicer here than I am in my other classes.” That person thought I was going to have them doing burpees and stuff, no, this is Zumba, we are going to dance, if that’s what you can call what I do. LOL.

Another person, she was laughing at me right from the start of the class. Now mind you, I don’t mind making people laugh, in fact, I do try to make them laugh, it’s part of what I do in Zumba. I try to make it fun and entertaining. However, this person was laughing as if I was a joke or something, and they eventually left my class. I’m not gonna lie to y’all, that threw me off a bit, and I felt slightly offended, but then I looked at all the remaining people and how much fun they were having fun. I did not allow this person to ruin the class for me and everyone else.

I’m human, and I’m not made of stone, so it did bug me a bit, but at the end of the day, this person is the one who is missing out. We are still getting our workout in and having fun. And if you are wondering why I’m sharing this, it’s to show you that not all days are peaches and cream. Some days will be harder, and frankly, some people are gonna laugh at your ass. But, I did not quit, I will not quit. You on the other hand, have the door about 10 steps away, feel free to use it.

Sometimes it’s better to teach new formats at a place where no one knows you. There are no expectations, preconceived notions, and you only have to overcome their initial “visual impression” of you. When you come from a being a member, to a fitness instructor, and make another lateral move to a dance format, you are bound to encounter some resistance. But it’s all good. If you know how people are, and you know what to expect, you will be better prepared to deal with things like yesterday! Shake it off, and carry on. Odds are those people won’t return, so you need not worry about them further. Focus on the ones who do come back!



Note the date on a post as it may be an old point of view. If you learn that your views are wrong, yet they remain the same, then you are a fool.

The opinions and views expressed are solely those of the author.