Where You Lead, Will I Follow? – 4 Tips for Every Group Fitness Instructor

Four tips for any group fitness instructor to guide you in becoming the best version of yourself - Love. Learn. Listen. Lead.

As a group fitness instructor, you should always be looking at how to improve and be better. It’s not enough in this field to simply get our certification and be content. Becoming the best leader is a lifelong process. There are four things that every group fitness instructor should be doing to become the best they can be.

Where you lead, I will follow.

Carole King made a bold statement in the lyrics to her song, “Where You Lead.”

Where you lead, I will follow. Anywhere that you tell me to.

But would you? Really? Or maybe you’re like me and will turn that bold statement into a question: Where you lead, will I follow?

You should also turn that question on yourself. Will people follow YOU?

Or, perhaps more importantly, should people follow you? As an instructor, are you safe? Are you effective? Are you current? And how do you know?

If you want the answer to be, Yes!, there are 4 things you should do:

  • Love
  • Learn
  • Listen
  • Lead
Love what you do!

American entrepreneur and Apple legend Steve Jobs said, “the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” And he couldn’t be more right.

Being passionate about what you do is the best way to ensure a positive and contagious experience for your class participants. And being genuine and sincere is the best way to create connection.  

“Connecting with the members is one of the most important things you can do,” offers Doris Thews, VP of Group Fitness, Innovation and Motivation at In-Shape Health Clubs. “They need to know they are not just a number to you.”

So be passionate. Be authentic. Love what you do and care about who you do it for so that you can create that contagious connection and lead people to live a life inspired.

But how do you stay inspired?

Continue to LEARN.

In this ever-evolving fitness Industry, it’s safe to say the only constant is change. So how do you keep up? And how do you know what know what will be a trend, not just a fad? What will actually be an influence in the Industry and not just something that attracts the population short-term? While it is not always easy to know this at first, we can at least stay up to date on what ACSM highlights as the top trends for the year, attend conferences to see new ideas, and evaluate everything with a critical eye.

The process of learning is one that should be ongoing. It’s how you establish your credibility and enhance your identity as a fitness professional.

Being engaged with education will also help keep you ahead of the curve. Thews recommends attending at least one fitness conference or convention every year. “There’s nothing like the experience of a live convention,” she states.

And that’s what we here at GXunited are all about – we want to show you educational resources to help elevate your knowledge! (Have you checked out the educational directory – listing over 1000 different educational courses and conferences.)

Just remember that while there is a lot of information on the internet, we can not always ensure that a YouTube video or your favorite Instagram account is showing safe and effective technique. So don’t use this as your main form of continuing education.

To be the best, you have to learn from the best.

Be willing to LISTEN.

You can learn so much from those around you. Listen to what your members say. Listen to what your mentors say.  Even listen to yourself.

Listen to Your Members

“Members will give you information on how to motivate them and that is so important,” says Thews. Different member populations have different interests and experiences. While it’s great to push boundaries and introduce your members to new things, not every format or coaching style will work with every group of members. You will only know what resonates with them by listening to how they respond to your classes.

Similarly, everybody learns in different ways. The ways you coach and cue techniques may not be effective for all of your participants. You may very well have to find new ways to communicate with participants (are you coaching to all types of learners), but the only way to know is by listening to their feedback. And sometimes that feedback isn’t just verbal – it can be the physical feedback in achieving proper technique or the facial expressions they give to satisfaction or discomfort. Did you know that sometimes you need to just shut-up and show someone what to do

Are you guilty of common coaching faults that may be impacting your members experience? Are you focusing too much on performing, and not enough on really coaching your members in their workout experience? Maybe it’s time you focus on how to elevate yourself to the next level of coaching with these 7 tips.

Everything from cuing, a positive mindset, music playlists and content can be crafted to create a better experience for all involved. And it all starts by listening. 

Listen to Your Mentors

Whether you’re brand new to this Industry or have over a decade of experience already, I encourage you to seek out a mentor. Having a mentor could make all the difference in teaching you how to swim. But having the right mentor could make all the difference in guiding you through the open waters and teaching you how to swim with the sharks.

Mentors can also give you valuable feedback. For some, they’re the best resource you can have.  Learning from someone who has been there and can provide insight from experience is often times invaluable. And there are 

Don’t have a mentor yet? Don’t worry! There are plenty of educated fit pros in the Industry willing to share.    

Shannon Fable, co-founder of GroupEx PRO, recommends connecting with other professionals “on a daily basis.” Listen to what like minds in our field have to say and build your network. From Facebook groups to your local gym, there are fit pros everywhere who you can connect with (including a group of great pro’s here on GXunited).

It’s also great when you are just getting started as you can team teach and ease your way onto the stage, versus jumping in feet first.

Listen to Yourself

Finally, you likely already have an untapped well of experience to pull from to improve yourself. If you’re like me, you’ve been to classes that were amazing and classes that fell flat. If you can recognize this in others’ classes, you can recognize it in your own.

Not sure how this might work? Try recording yourself teaching and then listen to the playback with your eyes closed. Thing about what you hear not as an instructor but as a participant. Would you be able to follow you? And more importantly, would you want to? Ask yourself, who would you follow? And why?

Getting feedback is a critical part of growth. Digest the information you learn and are given, and then listen to the feedback for how you can develop and incorporate it.

Because the more you Love what you do, Learn from the best and Listen with a purpose for growth, the better you will be able to LEAD.


It’s not enough to just be passionate or to go to a convention or to listen to your self recordings.  It’s what you do with all of that that matters. You still have to create an experience that is both valuable and contagious..

In Fable’s own article, LEAD or Get Out of the Way, she writes, “Sure it’s important that they can understand your cues and feel successful in your workouts, but what about educating and inspiring participants to continue their fitness journeys?”

And isn’t that what we’re about, after all? Igniting our passion into the lives of others?

Being a fitness professional, and especially a group exercise instructor, is about leading people to make a positive change in their lives. It’s about providing motivation to go to the gym when they may not want to. It’s about teaching them how to be more effective in their workouts. And, most importantly, it’s about supporting their journey and pushing them to reach their fitness goals.

So, as Fable also writes, “reflect on what an important job you have, and look for opportunities to improve. You’ll be rewarded by big changes in the lives of those you encounter.”

If you can do all that – if you can Love, Learn, Listen and Lead – you just might have your participants singing, “I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna follow where you lead!

How are you implementing these tips into your professional growth and development? Share your story in the comments.

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