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The Power of Themes in Group Fitness Classes

Imagine your participants walking out of your next group fitness class not just sweaty and tired, but also inspired, uplifted, and deeply connected to the experience they just had. Your class wasn’t just any workout—it was a journey … an experience … a story brought to life through movement.

That’s the magic of themed fitness classes.

Themes Create Purpose

Whether you’re channeling the fierce determination of Olympic athletes or the whimsical adventure of a galaxy far, far away, themed classes turn ordinary workouts into extraordinary journeys.

I love a good themed group fitness class.

Whether it’s …
✨ going all out for a holiday/event,
✨ creating a special playlist to bring awareness to mental health, or
✨ simply using a song lyric to inspire my coaching cues

Themes create purpose. They give movement the power to create change. To be fun. And to help individuals connect.

Fitness Has the power to create change

I’ve seen firsthand how a theme can inspire change. One of my most memorable classes inspired by Project Semicolon, an organization dedicated to mental health awareness and suicide prevention.

For this ride, I carefully curated a playlist filled with songs about resilience and hope. During the ride, I shared the story of a dear friend who had lost his battle with depression.

It was 2016, and the first time in a public forum that I was willing to discuss mental health and suicide. For me, and all those in the class, it was a moment of vulnerability and connection.

I didn’t just teach another cycle class that day. I gave us an opportunity to pedal through the darkness of despair and emerge into the light of hope. Much like the semicolon itself—a pause, but not an end.

While theming had always been part of my class design, after that class, I knew they had the power to create change.

Teaching Beyond The Movement​

In the book, Teaching Yoga Beyond the Poses (by Sage Rountree & Alexandra Desiato): “A successful theme functions like a motif in classical music. It is gently but definitively introduced toward the beginning… explored in various contexts over the course of the piece, and authoritatively revisited at the end.”

When we approach theming a group fitness class this way, it turns a simple workout into a powerful, meaningful experience. It becomes an adventure that can deeply resonate with participants.

A themed workout isn’t just about exercise; it’s about creating an experience. It’s about taking participants on a journey.

Research tells us that novelty in exercise routines can significantly boost adherence and enjoyment. Studies show that participants are more likely to stick with workouts they find fun and engaging. And that novelty enhances memory and enjoyment, making themed classes memorable and effective.

The Power of Themes in Group Fitness

As group fit pros, we’re always looking for ways to keep our classes fresh and engaging. A theme allows you to go beyond just the movements. It gives you the power to create a compelling narrative that keeps everyone engaged.

Whether it’s a simple theme like using song lyrics to inspire your coaching or going all out with decorations and costumes, themed classes add an element of fun that both you and your participants will love.

The Essence of Themed Group Fitness Classes

Themed group fitness classes revolve around a central idea or concept that sets the tone. This could be anything from a pop culture reference, like Harry Potter Yoga, to a seasonal celebration, such as an Independence Day Yoga Class, or a simple song lyric that inspires your coaching cues.

Why Themes are Beneficial

One of the biggest challenges for fitness instructors is keeping classes from becoming repetitive. Regularly incorporating themed classes can help prevent monotony. It keeps your participants coming back for more. A well-chosen theme can transform a standard workout into a memorable experience.

Themed classes offer several benefits that enhance both the instructor’s and the participants’ experience:

  • Increased Engagement: Themes make workouts more interesting and enjoyable. When participants have fun, they are more likely to stay engaged and put in their best effort.
  • Enhanced Retention: Memorable experiences encourage participants to return. A well-executed themed class can create a loyal following eager for your creative sessions.
  • Community Building: Sharing a unique experience helps build a sense of community among participants. They bond over the shared adventure, fostering a supportive and friendly atmosphere.
  • Creative Outlet for Instructors: Themes allow YOU to express your creativity and break away from routine. This can reignite your passion for teaching and inspire new ideas.

Themes Tell Stories in Group Fitness

Themes are an opportunity for you to be a storyteller in group fitness. They allow you to weave a story throughout your class. They take your class from a series of exercises to an immersive experience.

For example, when I created a National Parks class series, the theme naturally directed me towards creating classes based on different parks. I used the terrain and history of the park to pick exercises and create flows that were different for me. Then I used that to weave stories and coaching cues that allowed participants to feel like they were at the park. This took me outside my normal flow – creating a unique and fun experience for everyone.

Impactful Simplicity

Themes don’t always have to be elaborate. Sometimes, a simple theme can have a profound impact. One week I was inspired by the lyric “all fearless and young.”  This theme guided my coaching cues, encouraging participants to explore their limits and embrace their inner strength in a combination of yoga, pilates, and barre classes.

The class followed a standard yoga flow, but the theme provided a fresh perspective and new motivation, making it a powerful experience for everyone involved.

Building Community and Connection

Themes can also help build a sense of community among your participants. When they share in a unique themed experience, they bond over the shared adventure. This was particularly evident in my 9/11 Tribute class.

The room included a subtle banner with the NYC skyline, and the playlist told the story of the day through carefully chosen songs. The yoga flow was choreographed to this music, and my coaching cues honored the strength and resilience shown during the events of 9/11. Sharing stories of heroism and unity made the class a poignant experience, leaving participants feeling connected and inspired.

Bring your next group fitness class to life!

Are you inspired to plan your next class around a theme, but not quite sure where to start? That’s why we created the GXu T.H.E.M.E. Framework – a simple guide for helping you create themed classes for purpose and focus.

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