HOW TO TURN UP THE ENERGY FOR PHYSICALLY DISTANCED CLASSES
by Sarah Shortt
While many Instructors are celebrating a return to teaching as coronavirus restrictions begin to lift and gyms reopen, it can be disheartening to experience the reality of teaching in the “new normal”. Physical distancing will likely result in fewer numbers in class, while the need to maintain distance between people can affect the energy in the room.
Accepting that your Monday night BODYPUMP® numbers have now halved due to the pandemic can feel demoralising, but it doesn’t need to be that way. Try these simple tools to change your perspective and embrace the opportunities for growth offered by fewer participants in class. As Les Mills Ambassador Reagan Kang says, “It doesn’t matter if you’re teaching one, five or ten. You’re still teaching and you need to step up every time.”
Celebrate those who did show up
Acknowledge the effort people have made to attend your class, especially when getting to the studio may be more of an effort than in pre-COVID times. Remember: commenting on the lack of people in the room can set a less-than-positive tone for the workout.
“The only people who matter are the ones in front of you,” says Instructor Julie Corbett. “It’s their workout and they showed up for it. They don’t care how many people are beside them. So 2 or 32... you always bring your best.”
Fellow Instructor Tara Taylor agrees. “I never say, ‘Where is everyone?’ I feel like that demeans the folks who DID show up. I usually will say after class how proud I am of them for making it in.”
Adapt the class to your participants’ needs
Quieter classes allow you the opportunity to really look at who’s in your class and adapt your coaching to the room.
“I recently covered a BODYBALANCE® class at 3:10pm on Saturday,” says Creative Director Kylie Gates. “It was super, super quiet and the members asked me to turn the music down a little, so I took the opportunity to help give them a more 'quiet yoga-feel class'. I was coaching more to breath, giving more technique correction and alignment focus, and teaching from a more ‘inclusive’ place – less of a big stage focus and more personal.”
“I go back to what my trainer said: ‘It’s not about what you say, it’s about how you make them feel,’” says Instructor Erika Jeanne Foster. “As Instructors, we often feel like a packed, high-energy class is the ultimate measure of success. And while that is definitely great and fun and motivating, it’s not the only thing. When a member can get more specific coaching and really feel like you were helping and connecting to them directly, they walk out of that room more excited and motivated than if they were just one of many in a crowd. They feel seen.”
Teach with the same energy as if the class was packed
Fewer bodies in the room means that there’s even more onus on the Instructor to deliver the energy and create the vibe.
As Les Mills Ambassador Ben Main notes: “It’s only you facing out towards the floor and can see how many are in your class! Everyone else is facing you, so teach with the same energy you normally would. The members still want an epic class.” Fellow Ambassador Reagan Kang agrees. “It doesn’t matter if you’re teaching one, five or ten. Focus on whoever’s in the class and give it all you have. I used to regularly teach a Friday night 9:30pm BODYPUMP® class to two people!”
“Firstly, I imagine I’m about to present to an audience the size of a massive stadium,” adds Instructor Leigh Garner. “That amps me up for the performance factor. Then when I start teaching, I imagine the room is full to the brim to keep the energy high, before finally embracing the small numbers and engaging with them to give them a more boutique one-on-one experience.”
It can definitely feel disheartening to see your numbers decline or fluctuate, but remember there are many factors that can affect the numbers in class.
“As a novice Instructor, your level of confidence increases in correlation to the rise in class attendance, and can decrease in the same way,” says Les Mills Program Director Rachael Newsham. “When this happens – remember what it’s like to be a participant and what they actually come to your class for. Each person will have different needs and come for different reasons. I have the pleasure these days of teaching to all types of classes, and let it be known, that bigger isn’t always better!”
Ambassador Marlon Woods says, “Remember why YOU do what YOU do. If numbers are low just remind yourself why you decided to teach in the first place. Some people’s WHY has to do with being on stage, or big numbers, or getting attention. That won’t keep you going. Dig deeper. If your WHY isn’t clear, use those smaller classes to connect with the people in front of you and really try and figure out why you do what you do.”
“Remember why WE do what WE do. When people get upset about low numbers it’s because they have forgotten why we instruct. It’s not about us or our ego, it’s about the people in front of us. Remember why we do what we do. It’s for a fitter planet; not so we can brag about our class numbers.”
“You never know who’s in your class. You never know what people are going through. Whether it’s 1 person or 100, they showed up because they wanted to be there with you. Respect their time. Show them how much you appreciate them taking the time to make themselves better.”
See it as an opportunity
Quieter classes are often the ones that really help us grow as Instructors, as they challenge us to experiment with motivation, personalised coaching and lifting our energy.
“The best advice I got was got teach your smallest classes the best you ever possibly could,” says Instructor Eva M Geier. “You want those few people leaving there and talking about how great it was, which in turn can only grow it!”
Instructor Ali Cramer suggests you “Make a strong connection with those members and build your team! If you build it, they will come. I started my LES MILLS GRIT™ class two months ago with three people. It’s 5:30am, and there’s bootcamp and spin at that time. GRIT is new to my club, so it’s been an uphill journey. I have taught/worked out with only one other. Now there’s five dedicated regulars, and last week two new women showed up. They told me how special they think it is that the five of us are so close. They came back again this week.”