Tips for Avoiding Group Exercise Instructor Nightmares

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat from a dream so terrifying that it felt real?  Was a vampire chasing you down and trying to suck your blood?  OR maybe you become victim to a group of zombies and was trying to figure out how to escape.  Or maybe it was even worse than that.  Maybe it was so terrifying and so real that you didn’t know how to respond.  You wake up praying that you never experience something that horrible and miserable again.  You keep your fingers crossed the next time you go into teach that your horrific nightmare doesn’t come to life!

Yes, my friend, you were having the group exercise nightmare!  

The Group Ex Nightmare

As an avid horror movie and show lover, sometimes I feel that being chased down by that vampire would be a welcomed distraction or surprise over the stupid and scary group ex nightmares.  Maybe I think this because I know that in all reality a vampire won’t show up on my doorstep drying to eat me for dinner, but those stupid tech horror shows will come to haunt me in my group exercise classes.  And fearfully, more often than I would like…

These include…

  • Broken microphones
  • Screaming over music
  • Ancient stereo systems
  • A host of dead batteries
  • Loose iPod connectors
  • And yucky sweat covered windscreens

As dreaded as these horror shows are, we all face them during our career as a group ex instructor.  The question isn’t how are you prepared if they happen, but how you are prepared for when they happen.  Ask yourself, do you become the…

  • Freak out instructor: running around the gym frantically searching for that one person who holds a bit of tech savviness OR
  • Calm & Collected instructor: ready and prepared with all the essentials you need to help with any problem that could arise?!?

Don’t Freak Out!

Admit it, on more than one occasion you’ve been that “freak out” instructor!?  Don’t deny it.  We all have.  But prepare yourself and you can always be the calm and collected instructor who is ready for anything put in front of you.

I’ll admit that on too many occasions I’ve freaked out.  In my early years of teaching, I found myself running around like a chicken with my head cut off, searching for someone to help with the mic, music, stereo, or some other technical crisis that I had no clue how to fix.  Nowhere in my GEX Certification exams did it teach me how to fix a broken stereo or what to do when a microphone starts screeching in class!

My last straw

I finally realized I had to be more prepared on the day I was teaching a 5:45am BODYPUMP® class at a small club where it was only me and the front desk person << a 75-year-old women who could barely work the computer, better yet fix a broken stereo system.

On this day, I couldn’t for the life of me get the stereo to play any music.  I pushed every button, fiddled with every cord, but after 10-minutes I realized there was just no hope for any music to start playing.  I didn’t have any back-up CDs and wasn’t willing to sing through class, and was not just cancelling class.  So I resorted to sitting my iPhone in the middle of the room and letting the mini speakers serve as our stereo sound system.  Needless to say that wasn’t ideal at all!

Luckily it was a small class of devoted regulars, but it was an experience for us all…a great learning experience!  That day I developed my “Fit Pro Survival Kit”.

Create your “Fit Pro Survival Kit”

To this day, my survival kit comes with me everywhere (even on vacations!).  I’m never sure when I’ll need to jump in and sub a class, and I really don’t want to be left hanging in the event that something breaks on me (again).

Get your “Survival Kit” together today, and avoid some of the dreaded nightmares that come with being a group ex pro!  Keep these seven (7) items on hand to eliminate “oh crap” moments!

Find a small bag that can fit all these items;
  1. Microphone windscreen
    If you get nothing else, this is your one must have item. A windscreen covers the end of the microphone and helps keep you from sharing germs with other instructors.  No one wants to get sick because the instructor before them coughed into the microphone windscreen.  Plus, it is just yucky to accidentally lick a windscreen that someone else has used!  (Discover great ones here.)
  2. Batteries
    Have a sampling of AAA, AA, and 9V batteries because you never know when a microphone is going to die, and you don’t want to run around the gym searching for an extra.  And you really don’t want to resort to screaming simply because there wasn’t an extra battery.  Save your voice and keep backups on hand.
  3. Mic Belt
    Just like you don’t want to share sweat on your windscreen, try to avoid wearing others’ sweat by also having your own Mic Belt. This also helps because you can adjust it specifically to fit you, taking away the dreaded “bouncing” mic.  Using a belt also helps keep sweat out of the battery back and avoid the pack dying in the middle of class.  Discover the type of mic belt you like in our music supplies resources page.
  4. Various types of Music Sources
    iPods die, stereo systems stop working, and CDs skip.  So why not be prepared for any of those by carrying tons of backups.  Have onhand your main source of music (whether it be your phone, iPod, or CD’s), always have that primary one that you love to use.  From there,  have two additional backups, such as CDs & a tablet.  Or tapes and a record player (maybe not your best option if you want everyone to hear, but hey, use what you love)! Whatever it is, have them all ready to go and be prepared in the event one of them isn’t working.  Just ensure if one of your backups includes streaming music that you’re using legit music though and not just streaming from Pandora.  Check out the rules and regulations behind streaming music.
  5. Speaker System
    Find a cheap Bluetooth speaker system that can connect with your electronic device in the event that your sound system blows up on you! At least this will prevent you from signing through the rest of class or setting your phone up in the middle of the room!
  6. Charging cables
    To the above point, if you don’t have CD’s available to you, it is always good to carry an extra charger in case you show up for class and the iPod is flashing red. Having that extra charger is another way to ensure you will make it through class without any music difficulties.
  7. A/V Cable
    Again, you never know when a clubs cable will have grown legs and walked, or developed some crazy connection issue. These are super cheap investments that can really save you some gray hairs.

This may sound like a lot of random and crazy stuff.  Trust me, though, if you carry this small survival kit in your gym bag, you will never have that “oh crap” moment before a class starts!

What other group ex nightmares have you had and what “must have” survival kit items do you carry to avoid them?

Happy Teaching!

Tips for Group Fitness Instructors Survival Kit & Nightmares


Summer N. Sides, M.S.

Founder, GXunited

Summer Sides (MS, CSCS, RYT-200) is a self-proclaimed exercise science geek. She loves exploring human movement and finding ways to help people stand taller, move easier, and perform better. Her training methodology includes a mixture of movement pattern training, yoga philosophies, Pilates technique, and aerobic endurance training.

Her fitness career began almost 20 years ago and has provided her with some great opportunities to train athletes, create certifications and CEC courses, and teach group exercise classes. Most recently she worked as a full time Lecturer of Exercise Science at Metropolitan State University of Denver and is the owner of GXunited.

Summer loves learning and has furthered her career by obtaining an MS in Kinesiology & BS in Exercise Science. She is an NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist, 200-hr Registered Yoga Teacher, ACE Certified Group Exercise Instructor, Balance Body Pilates Reformer Coach, RRCA Certified Running Coach, and holds many specialty certifications.

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MS: Kinesiology
BS: Exercise & Sports Science
BA: Dance

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

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Tips for Avoiding Group Exercise Instructor Nightmares

by Summer N. Sides, M.S. Time to Read: 5 min