While many who come to group exercise for the social aspect, there are some who want to hang out in the back corner and not be seen. I am one of those people. While I shine on the stage, I don’t like to have my name called out, massive amounts of attention put on me, or to be a diva while in class. Remember, I am not alone on this. Here are 5 tips for helping the group exercise wallflower be seen but not heard.
wallflower: often refered to as people who are shy and fade in the background; might be the one that no one really knows or pays any attention to, but is smart, observant and super caring. May surprise everyone with skills, talents, and abilities.
Remember your first class.
If you’re a little shy and timid, then you may remember your first class like I remember mine.
You know the one, where after months of watching the class from outside you finally got the nerve to sneak your way inside to hide in the back corner. You desperately hoped no one would notice as you felt like a fish out of water and more than anything you prayed that the super fit and perky instructor would NOT call you out in the middle of everyone.
Or maybe you are the complete opposite of me. Where instead of hiding in the back corner, you ran to the front row in your first class; you had no trepidations about walking into the group exercise room; and you introduced yourself to everyone before class even started.
Everyone is different, and as an instructor, we have to encourage the back-row wallflowers more than the front row divas.
Were you ever the wallflower?
As crazy as it sounds, I often describe myself as the wallflower in the group. In large groups I try not to stand out, I watch and observe, and will only talk once I feel comfortable in my surroundings. I was a shy kid, and this has come with me into adulthood.
I still remember being at a certification one weekend where I really had just stayed to myself, observing and learning. When it came time to present our choreography my “outgoing actor” personality came out. A little while later a girl came up to me and said “wow, you were amazing. I never imagined you would have that personality in front of a group based on how quiet you have been all weekend. Way to shine.”
This simply reminds me that all because I like to stay to myself in big group settings doesn’t mean I don’t have the personality to shine in front of others, it just means I like to observe and get to know my surroundings before jumping feet first in.
My first group exercise class was no different than this certification. I was timid, hid in the back corner, and desperately wanted no one to know I was there. I wanted to be that wallflower.
Support your wallflowers.
My experience in the back corner of the room helped me better understand who to focus on when I’m teaching and how to chat with them. I love my front row divas, but I know they are going to be there regardless, therefore I find it more rewarding to give little gestures of appreciation to my wallflower group.
Next time you see that new person hiding out in the back row wanting so desperately to just make it through the class, use these 5 tips to welcome your wallflowers into your classes:
- If they are early, catch them before class and simply talk to them. Get to know them like a real person, not pushing too much information on them. Help them relax by encouraging them to stay for as little or as much as they can master in this first class.
- In your class introduction instead of asking if anyone is new, give them a little nod when you say something like “if this is your first class, or first class in a while…” and they will know you are talking to them, but won’t feel like you are pointing them out.
- If you walk around during class, don’t go to them more than you would any other person. Help them with the main points, but don’t constantly bombard them with technique details as they have 10,000 things going through their heads and minds. Make sure they are safe and effective but don’t call them out.
- If you stay on the stage, connect with them through eye contact, little smiles, and gestures. The worst thing you can do for a wallflower is call out their name during a class. All of a sudden this makes them the center of attention, which is the last thing they wanted.
- After class, don’t pounce on them! They may have had an amazing time, but want to slip out the side of the room without being noticed. Chasing them down will make them feel like they did something wrong (even if you are just there to congratulate them on an amazing effort).
There will always be new people wondering into your classes, and you will know when you have a wallflower slipping in the back corner. Using these tips will allow you to support these amazing students in the way that they need it.
Oh, and you never know…
You never know, that little tiny girl in the back corner of the room could go on to be a national fitness educator and have her own website all for group exercise instructors!!
Were you like me and want to hide in the back corner or were you front and center during your first class?
Share your stories in the comments below!
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BS: Exercise & Sports Science
NSCA: Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
ACSM: Certified Exercise Physiologist (EP-C)
Yoga Alliance: 200-hr RYT
ACE: Group Fitness Instructor
Balanced Body: Reformer Level 1 Coach
Schwinn: Indoor Cycle Instructor
RRCA: Running Coach