Everyone can work in fitness, but how can you go the extra mile as a fitness instructor and really stand out in the crowd?
Well, luckily, I’ve done the job myself and can tell exactly what you need to do so that everyone in your club knows who you are and always comes to you for advice.
You want to be the best? In this article, you are going to find out how to do just that.
Ok, before we start explaining the ways you can go the extra mile, we need to establish the bare minimum that most fitness instructors are offering so we know what we need to improve upon.
Fitness instructor duties
- Demonstrate and educate members on the correct use of gym equipment
- Teach gym floor classes
- Write exercise programmes for new members
- Organise and deliver exercise review sessions to encourage progression
- Tidy and organise the gym floor
- Maintain member retention
Above is just a small list of the main duties that you will be expected to carry out on a daily basis as a fitness instructor or a fitness coach as some people call it.
The cool thing is, a lot of fitness instructors really do try to get away with the bare minimum when working this role, as a lot of the time they see the job simply as a stepping stone up into personal training, which is where they would rather be.
This makes it super easy to stand out against a bunch of trainers who quite frankly look like they want to go home pretty much as soon as they start their shift.
Let’s crack on with what you can do to stand out!
How to go the extra mile as a fitness instructor
- Be proactive
- Deliver outstanding classes
- Become famous in your club (for the right reasons)
- Give the members WAY more than they expect
- Talk to members as often as you can
- Remember what people tell you
- Have high energy
- Ask for feedback
1. Be proactive
This might sound like something you would expert fitness instructors to do anyway right?
Well, you’d be surprised how many instructors you will see standing behind reception talking to other members of the team and not going out of their way to help people.
Remember, to a lot of people, gym staff are intimidating, they are often in much better shape than them and they might be ashamed to ask what they might think is an obvious or silly question. Because of this, they will come in day in day out, doing the same workouts and hoping no one notices them.
These are the people that you should go out of your way to help!
Go and ask them if they have any questions or would like any assistance rather than waiting for them to come to you.
I’m not saying fitness instructors are lazy (far from it), but a lot of people (in any job actually) will try to see what they can get away with without being shouted at whilst still picking up a paycheque each month.
Don’t be one of these people, go out on the gym floor, if the free-weights area is messy, start tidying it, even if it isn’t your designated time to. Go and have a chat with a member who looks like they are struggling but might not ask for help.
2. Deliver outstanding gym floor classes
I’ve written about how teaching gym floor classes was one of the ways that I substantially grew my business as a personal trainer before on this site, and when you are working as a Fitness Instructor, teaching classes will be one of your daily duties.
You can very easily stand out in a crowd here by teaching next-level classes.
What do I mean by this?
Well, some (not all of course) instructors will teach the classes they are given by looking at a booklet, teaching them exactly as they were written each week, quietly explaining the exercises, watching their stopwatch for the entire time, or even worse looking at their phone.
What’s wrong with these classes?
Make some noise during the sets, move around the class to show you are interacting with everyone who is taking part, shout encouragement so that other people in the gym can hear it, it’ll get the other gym members curious about what is going on in that part of the gym, and soon enough you will have packed out classes.
Remember the people who attend your classes regularly, encouraging them by shouting their name makes a huge difference, and I can guarantee you, there will be several people in your club that love taking classes, so they will probably be at all of yours.
Learn their names and make your classes exciting!
3. Become famous in your club (for the right reasons)
Becoming famous in your club will probably occur naturally if you follow all of the steps outlined in this article, but there are things you can do to speed the process up even more.
A super simple thing to do is to make sure that everyone knows your name.
Sure, you will probably be wearing a name tag, but people are going to forget that if you rely on it. Instead, every time you give an induction, tell the person your name, let them know they can always come to you for help, and shake their hand. At the end of each class, thank them for working so hard, say what your name is and let them know they can always come to you for help.
You can even stand at reception and help hand out towels and welcome members into the club. Every little thing like this helps to get you recognized.
Hopefully, you are seeing a pattern here.
You want to make sure that every member in your club knows you by first name, that way they can ask for you personally if they are looking for help. I think it would look pretty great to any manager if they could see that members were asking for a specific trainer to help them out on their next exercise program review, wouldn’t you?
It’s a huge advantage if you are planning to move into personal training at some point too, after all, who do you think a member will decide to train with, the guy that’s been teaching them amazing classes and programs that they are on first name terms with, or some person that just walked up to them and started trying to sell them PT sessions?
It’s a no-brainer!
4. Give the members WAY more than they expect
When a member comes to a gym induction that includes a program card being written up for them, what are they expecting?
Probably a bunch of simple exercises that they could probably have already worked out they needed to do themselves and being handed a card they will probably never look at again by a disinterested trainer.
Instead, treat this session as if you were giving a pt session to a film star. Give them the exact amount of attention to detail that you would an A-list celebrity.
This doesn’t mean giving complicated exercises, but it means not just using cookie-cutter workout plans that everyone would be bored of in a week. Make it personal and really make sure you ask enough questions so it’s the perfect workout for them that takes into account any injuries and really helps them reach their goals.
After I gave a member their workout card, I would also give them my business card with my mobile number and email address on it so that they knew they could contact me if they had any further questions about their training or nutrition.
Not everyone needs to do this, and I understand that a lot of people wouldn’t want to, but it’s just an example of something that you can offer that others wouldn’t.
5. Talk to members as often as you can
Something good about being a fitness instructor is that you will be wearing a uniform that clearly separates you from personal trainers. This is good because you won’t get the immediate “no thank you” that you would get if you were wearing a PT uniform.
You see people aren’t silly, they know that a personal trainer is (usually) only approaching a member so they can try to sell them something. As an instructor, they know you aren’t going to do this.
Something I used to love doing was simply going up to people that were working out and chatting to them. Importantly, it wouldn’t always be about fitness. I wanted to know how their day had been, if they were doing anything interesting at work or if they had any hobbies they could tell me about.
People love speaking about themselves, and when they can see you are clearly not trying to correct their form or sell them something, you genuinely want to be friendly and get to know them, they will really appreciate it. It’s one of the small things you can do to make yourself stand out as a great fitness instructor.
This is something that a lot of fit pros don’t do, because, for one thing, they probably aren’t being forced to by their manager, and for another, they won’t make any extra cash from it.
Give it a go though, it’s a really fun way to spend the quieter parts of your shift.
6. Remember what people tell you
This point leads directly from the previous one because small talk can be a really good way to build rapport, but do you know what’s even better at building rapport?
Remember what people tell you!
Asking a member about what plans they have for the weekend is easy, you just ask and then listen to the answer, but you will be amazed at the reaction you will get from a member when the following week you ask them about how their camping trip went (if that’s what they said they were doing. If they said they were tidying the garden you’re going to look really silly).
The very fact that not only did you ask them about themselves in the first place and actually engage with them on a personal level, but you took the time to remember what they had said and followed up on it, well, that’ll just about blow them away!
It’s not easy to do this, of course, you can’t remember every persons’ plans for the weekend or the tiny details of their life, so I would suggest trying to remember a single member’s plans and then asking about it the following week. As a cheat, you could even write down what they had said to you the previous week, by doing this, you could really remember as many people’s plans as you wanted.
Even easier, is to just do your best to remember people’s names. Everyone loves the sound of their own name, and when you are greeting someone to the gym by using their first name (and not looking at their membership details as they swipe in) you can really make someone’s day.
7. Have high energy
Time to fire up the espresso machine, because if you really want to stand out and go the extra mile as a fitness instructor, you are going to need to be high energy!
People are tired, they are tired when they wake up, they are tired when they go to their 10am meetings and they are tired when they go to the gym. You are going to need to wake them up!
Remember when you were in school and you had certain teachers that were your favorites?
Why were they your favorite teacher?
Was it because they were energetic, full of enthusiasm for what they were teaching, and kept you engaged at all times, or was it because they had their eyes half-closed whilst they slowly read out of a textbook to you for an hour?
Pretty obvious right?
Be high energy, show the members that you love what you are doing and your energy will become infectious. Give everything you have when you go out on the gym floor, see it as if you are an actor going out on stage.
Wake them up!
8. Ask for feedback
Who is going to know the most about how well you are doing as a trainer? Your manager? Or maybe the owner of the gym?
The best people you can ask to see how you are doing and to make sure you are giving them what they want are the members themselves.
There is absolutely no shame in asking the participants of one of your classes or inductions how they felt about it.
Did you give the members exercises they think they will be comfortable doing on their own? Is there anything else you could add to the program that they would like? Did your class think it was challenging enough? Would there be any areas they would like you to cover in more detail? Would they like less rest between exercises to increase the intensity? and so on.
The point is, if you think you are doing everything perfectly then that’s fine, but it might not always be the case. Ask for genuine feedback from your members and you can improve on your services each day.
This is a step that most trainers wouldn’t even consider doing, but it’s what could very easily make you stand out as one of the best!
If there was one thing that I would say that you can start doing today to go the extra mile, it would be to start asking questions and listen to the answers. Whether it’s showing a genuine interest in the member’s lives outside of the gym or asking classes for feedback. Completely engaging with the members is something that the vast majority of fitness instructors don’t do, so just by making this one small change, you are automatically going the extra mile.
However you decide to use this article, I hope that very shortly you will start to get a great name for yourself in the gym, which will set you up for life if you are planning to go into personal training, or just make your work-life a whole lot more fun if you want to stay an instructor for a while.
Go get ’em!
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