Group fitness is, for some, the best part of the day. They look forward to lacing up their sneakers and completing an inspiring workout. For others, group fitness classes are seen as daunting and, therefore, best avoided. Our goal as fitness instructors is to create a welcoming and inclusive environment that fosters success and positive energy around movement for people of all abilities. Here are some things you can do to help make your classes more inviting and make everyone feel at home, regardless of experience, fitness level or identity.
First Impressions Matter
An inclusive environment starts from the moment the participant begins to contemplate attending class. The first experience a potential client may have is likely online, so make sure your class description is clear and helps prospective participants know exactly what to expect. Focus on the goals of the class, the format of the instruction and the experience you will provide. A specific statement that welcomes all levels and abilities is also a good idea. To a potential participant, this inclusive statement alone can reduce fear and help them decide to try a class. If your class is more advanced, be specific and state that as well.
Create a Welcoming Space
You have the ability to create a welcoming space in the fitness studio, which is often the club inside the club. Make it a point to arrive early, set the mood in the room and distribute smiles at the door. If someone looks confused or intimidated, provide some relief by helping him or her select equipment or by explaining what to expect in class. Assure the new participant that you will provide many options for the exercises and that he or she can choose the version that feels most appropriate. This step alone can reduce the anxiety associated with the fear of embarrassment often associated with uncertainty.
If you notice participants who might need special considerations, such as an individual wearing a brace or assistive device, a pregnant woman or any other concern, take time to ask them about any precautions their doctor may have provided and even walk them through a couple of modifications that they can utilize during your class as necessary. Do not be afraid to adapt or change the exercise all together to allow everyone to continue to participate in some way. You can even utilize props like ballet bars, chairs, walls