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What Fitness Instructors Think of Their Students

7 Things Your Fitness Instructor Wishes You Knew

Are you a back-of-the-classser? A front-and-center student who's featured on the studio's Facebook page? A ClassPass drop-in student who's still trying to navigate the specific culture of each fitness establishment that you frequent? Whatever kind of gym rat you are, you've probably wondered what your instructor thinks of you at some point, and if you're getting it "right." Wonder no more — here's a round-table discussion with answers to your many questions with three fitness instructors: indoor cycling instructor Francesca Corti, yoga teacher Heather Roussos, and me, Anna Quinlan — I teach the Lagree method, a high-intensity Pilates-based workout using a megaformer.

Prep and Mindset

How should students prepare for a great class?
Anna Quinlan: Commit to giving it your all. If you want a full-body workout in 40 minutes, you need to really dedicate that time. But you can enjoy the work — I want my students to work hard and play hard in my class. And always tell me if you have an injury!
Francesca Corti: Being hydrated, being willing to let yourself go, looking a little messy, and having a can-do attitude. You have to show up and think, "I got this," even if you're faking it a little.
Heather Roussos: Courage, humility, faith, and A LOT of water!

What's the best mindset for a student to have as they come to your class?
FC: Being open to whatever is about to happen and being ready to work hard. I want them to get out of their heads and into their bodies. Time is supposed to fly in my class!
HR: You have to be willing to try things even if it's new or unsure. I always say thinking you can one day is the first step to learning the crazy big postures. And always be gentle. I see so many students force their way into things before they're ready. I see people gritting their teeth, veins bulging in their neck, eyes about to pop out of their skull, and I'm like, "Why?!" It's not a race or a competition; that's why yoga is called a practice.
AQ: Yes! The best students are the ones who aren't afraid to be vulnerable, to go into modified exercises when they need to so that they're working at their own maximum effort, not just trying to look like the strongest student in class.

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Finish this sentence: I wish my students would always . . .
FC: Work as hard as they can, but still try to have fun. They didn't pay all that money to come in and not whoop it up a little. The more willing students are to raise their energy level, let loose, and put themselves out there, the more other riders will be willing to do the same. Then the whole class wins because it becomes like a crazy dance club on steroids in there.
AQ: I've been to your class and definitely felt like I was in a dance club — a really sweaty dance club!
HR: Meet themselves where they are instead of forcing themselves to where they think they should be.
FC: Word.

Teacher Pet Peeves

What's your biggest pet peeve about student behavior in your classes?
FC: Sacrificing the intensity of the workout for vanity, like holding back and not pushing hard just because you want to look good during your workout. I hate to see students refuse to increase the resistance on their bike because they just want to stay on beat or look good. It's a waste of their money and their time.
HR: Students who make a practice harder without purpose. Every class I teach has a purpose to it. Every posture in every class is there for a reason — I'm building to a peak posture or sequence from the very beginning of class and then deconstructing it all the way till the end. If you don't need to be led or aren't interested in following the structure of a class, stay home and practice there where I don't have to worry about you hurting yourself.

Finish this sentence: I wish my students would never . . .
FC: Give up, not push to their maximum ability, or say "I can't." When they do that, they undermine their physical fitness and their mental/emotional well being. I want students to leave class and feel like a strong motherf*cking badass!
HR: I wish my students would never doubt that they are worthy. You are enough. Right now, as you are, you are perfectly imperfect and I love you that way.

From the Instructor's Point of View

What's something your students would be surprised to know about your job?
FC: How long it takes to find music and make playlists! I have never used the same playlist twice, and I rarely use the same songs in different classes within the same week. It's time consuming, but worth it so riders don't get bored on the bikes.
AQ: I look at who's signed up for my classes and design a routine specifically for that group of students. My classes are limited to 10 students so it's pretty intimate. I want a class with a lot of beginners to feel just as energetic and encouraging as a class with my fittest, most experienced students, and I need totally different routines to achieve that for those two groups.

What's the most rewarding part of your job?
HR: Oh man, there are so many things! Witnessing people beginning to believe in themselves — watching a fire get lit inside their heart — it literally makes me tear up every time. No matter how challenging this work can be, I wouldn't change it for the world. I get to see inside peoples' souls! It's like each student is a book I get to read page by page, practice by practice, and that unfolding of the heart and spirit literally feeds my soul like nothing else I've ever experienced.
AQ: I've been a student in your class and I can attest to getting that fire lit inside my heart! I love to see my students resist the urge to quit. Some of my classes have nearly 20 minutes of lunges in them, and I see students' legs shaking — they're sweating and grimacing, and I know they want to quit. But I tell them to look at themselves in the mirror and make up their mind to finish strong. When they go a little deeper into that next lunge, really digging deep — I love that. They think they're there to get a stronger body but I really want them to leave with a stronger mind.
FC: Connecting with riders, being part of a community that is extremely positive and encouraging and hearing riders say they have reached some sort of fitness goal, whether that's losing weight, achieving a certain percentage of body fat, or feeling strong throughout a class. Oh, and the high fives I get when students leave their bikes and exit class — I really love that. For some reason, it just makes everything seem so badass!

So there you have it. Drink lots of water, don't worry too much about what you look like or how impressive your form is, and believe in yourself. That's all we want you to know! See you in class.

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