something a group fitness certification won’t teach you

Once upon a time -I’m being vague here because I don’t want to directly call out the company/studio- some blogging friends and I went to take a fitness class as part of an event. The studio knew we were bloggers, were wonderfully kind and accommodating, and made a point to let the instructor know that a group of fitness bloggers were taking her class. She came over and introduced herself, and I was excited to try something new. Even though we were there to potentially blog about the experience, we all laid low (no camera flashing or anything like that!) and did what we could to follow along. 

During class, she made a point to call us out and correct us during many of the exercises, which were new to most of us. Whenever we started on the next thing, you could pretty much guarantee that she’d be there to physically correct our form, tell us how we were doing it wrong, and point us out in front of the class. I didn’t think that much about it at first, but by the end, I knew I probably wouldn’t want to return to her class. Right then and there I also promised myself that I’d do my best to make my class attendees feel the OPPOSITE of how I felt when I left: attacked for being “new” and not really knowing what I was doing. (For what it’s worth, this was supposed to be an all-levels fitness class, so it’s not like we were jumping into something advanced without the proper prerequisites).

Your group fitness cert wont teach you

I’ve only been teaching group fitness for five years, but I’ve been taking classes for much longer. I’ve had the opportunity to watch and learn from many incredible instructors and also pick up strategies on how to motivate my classes, modify or progress according to fitness levels, and create relationships with frequent class participants. I’ll never forget how kind Marilyn (<– my favorite spin teacher in Tucson!) was to me when I took my first spin class ever. She asked if there were any new people in the class during warmup, I shyly raised my hand, and she took her mic off during warmup to come over and give me the basics.

Something she told me that I’ve made an effort to consistently tell my classes:

“Listen to your body. Don’t be afraid to scale back or take a break if you need to.”


She didn’t make me feel badly for pedaling more slowly during the sprints because I was already fatigued beyond belief, for chugging water when it wasn’t an “official” break, or for not knowing the proper positions. She made me feel welcomed, and even though I was exhausted when I left, I also felt successful because I got in a great workout. That is what made me come back, and continue to take her classes until I moved to North Carolina with the Pilot.

So why am I posting this?

I got an awesome email from a reader, and it really got the gears turning in my brain and heart. There are so many “x” factors in health and fitness, and demonstrating kindness have a dramatic impact, especially because we have no idea where someone may be on their fitness journey. 

A snippet of the email (which she gave me permission to share with all of you):

Dear Group Fitness Instructor,

Sometimes, I really need to hear you say it. Your motivation is part of what brings me to your class, and I promise I am trying my absolute best, but sometimes I need to hear a couple little phrases from you.

They’re not “keep going!” or “try harder!” or “this is where the change happens!” or “sweat is fat crying!” or “no pain no gain, cupcake!” in case you’re wondering.


I need to hear you say “It’s OK to take modifications and honor your body.” Or “It’s OK if you need to drop and rest for a minute, just rejoin us when you’re ready!” Or “Way to go! You’re doing awesome! Stay where you are, or add this for more if you’re ready…”

You see, I’m not stopping during your class or leaving out reps or grabbing an extra water break because I’m lazy. I know I’m overweight and not as flexible or strong as most of the fit, awesome looking people in here; I’m here because I want to change that. I promise you I am trying my hardest. But I have some limitations.

I have a cardiac problem. I have bad joints, and a tendency to injure easily. I have asthma. And I am the sole breadwinner for my family. If I hurt myself and I’m unable to do my job (which has physical requirements) I will be in deep trouble. And so will my family.

When I stop for a minute, I’m assessing my body. I’m listening to my joints, and my heart, and my lungs, to make sure I’m just feeling fatigue. Or because I’m feeling dizzy and I need to check my pulse rate (or see if I’m skipping beats). Or because I only got three hours of sleep last night, and I’m debating how much I can push this time without getting hurt. I’m here because I know doing SOMETHING is better than doing nothing at all.

I’m not overweight because I’m stupid… or because I’m lazy. I’m overweight because I worked night shift and went to school full time for several years and I didn’t take as much care of myself as I should have. I knew better, but life can get in your way sometimes until you get enough breathing room to figure it out.

I’m really proud of being able to participate in your class. I am building strength, and endurance… I am starting to lose weight, and my clothes are starting to fit better. You have a lot to do with my motivation; you can make or break a class for me.

When you shout the wrong thing at me, I feel attacked. Or defensive. Or discouraged. I feel like you are pointing me out to the rest of the group, which makes me compare myself to them even more than I already do. “Keep going!” when I’m trying to check in with myself feels like “Not good enough!” I won’t stop coming to class, this time, because I know better… but what about the girl next to me, who’s only been to class twice and is at a point in her journey where she gives up easily?

I know I’m doing overhead triceps instead of tricep pushups. My biceps tendon isn’t agreeing with that today. I know I dropped one set of reps during the squat track. My heart was pounding badly enough I needed to let it settle, so the chest pressure would go away. I envy your ability to power through with twice as much weight as I can handle. Or your ability to dance and look coordinated. Or your ability to lead the class, carry on a conversation, and still be pushing through your workout when all I can do is focus on getting through it and breathing.

Be kind to me, and to the others in your class who are like me. It seems so small… but it makes such a big difference. Acknowledging you see me trying and affirming my taking time to check in with my body makes me feel encouraged, and helps me to grow stronger and stay committed to my goals.



So here’s a little fun challenge for today: show some extra kindness to someone next time you’re taking a class or working out at the gym. Compliment someone on their shirt/sneakers/headband/whatever, give a fellow class participant a high five after class, or just make an effort to say “hi” to someone you see frequently and introduce yourself. A little kindness goes a long way!




You don’t have to be good

Confessions of a group fitness instructor

Confessions of a personal trainer

Getting into group ex

Gym class etiquette 

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  1. Molly I. on April 29, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing this email, Gina. I really agree — those few words of encouragement in the middle of class can make a huge difference. For me, pushing my endurance is all a mental game; one which I frequently lose.

    One thing I love about CrossFit is the encouragement and motivation that is so apparent in the gym — and not just from the coaches/trainers. Everyday I’m working out next to someone, and whether I know them or not, they might mumble, “You got this, girl!” or “Awesome job!” and it really keeps me going. I’ve learned to budget the breath in between reps to return the favor.

    Thanks for sharing your stories and those of your readers. You continue to inspire me to work harder, eat cleaner (my biggest struggle!), and think more positively!

    • Fitnessista on April 30, 2014 at 12:49 am

      thank you so much for reading, molly!
      that is one of my very favorite things about crossfit: the group support and encouragement. i love the diversity within the classes and the fact that every person can complete the WOD and modify as they need to. cross fit devotees are very supportive of each other, and as an instructor, it’s really heartwarming and exciting to see

  2. Krista on April 29, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    I just finished a month long series of Barre Method classes & “calling us out” was one of the things I really didn’t like about it. It was so embarrassing. Towards the end of the class I started feeling like I couldn’t do anything right & just felt like giving up in class. I’m glad I followed through & finished the month but I don’t think I’ll be returning. It’s kinda a shame too because I liked the actual work-out just not how the instructors handled the corrections. I wonder if this is a theme with all Barre classes?

    • Emily on April 29, 2014 at 9:18 pm

      I have been going to Pure Barre 3-5x a week since September, and I can say that this is not common to all barre-type classes (unless you meant just Barre Method, in which case I have no idea 🙂 ) One of the things I love most about Pure Barre is that the instructors make a point to remember everyone’s name. They wear a mic throughout class, and will regularly say “Perfect form, Emily!” or “Great control, Amanda!” or “Awesome shake, Ashley, hold onto it!” which I personally find super motivating. However, for corrections, they’re either given verbally to the entire class as a whole, or physically/verbally to you personally WITH THE MIC OFF. I find this makes it much less intimidating, as you don’t end up feeling like you’re being bashed in front of the class. So if you like the barre workout, I would recommend seeing if there’s a Pure Barre studio near you!

      • Jamie on April 29, 2014 at 11:13 pm

        Pb teacher here and you are spot on! Hands on corrections are important because they keep clients safe and allow clients to get the most from the workout. Verbal corrections should be done in an encouraging manner and “privately”.. Aka “you’re doing a great job!! Just do this and… Great work!” I also teach spin and other classes at a gym so this is the same across the board.. At least that is the way I teach/instruct. So glad you love pb! It is the best!

      • Melissa on April 30, 2014 at 11:35 am

        I was actually coming here to comment in a very similar way. I feel like the PB instructors I’ve had have created a great mix of encouragement and correction when needed. I actually don’t mind having my form corrected–I’m there to get the best workout I can and if I need an adjustment, then by all means please help me! That being said, I’ve been lucky not to ever feel picked on or berated in a group exercise setting.

        I WILL say that I have attended a running clinic or two where the coaches really did NOT know how to motivate or modify for those of us who weren’t “7 minute-milers” (And I’m not exaggerating here, I’m not a “turtle” but I’m not Meb either) I will admit that i was actually kind of embarrassed attending this particular clinic (it was billed for ‘all paces’ but apparently only the speedsters showed up that afternoon). I think this is sometimes where our own instinctual “fight or flight’ can come into play. I’m not talking about where an instructor is truly harsh or brash or disconnected from reality, but where they might truly be coming from an encouraging place, but our own embarrassment translates the actions differently. Don’t know if that makes sense at all, but something that I think translates to “coaching” or “managing” across a lot of different situations (not just group ex).

    • Fitnessista on April 30, 2014 at 12:47 am

      that is the worst feeling ever. it really varies across each method but also within the studios by instructor. for example, i’ve had a couple of amazing pure barre instructors, and one that wasn’t my jam. you really have to experiment and find one you love.
      one things i really like about barre3 is that they encourage modifying and taking breaks if you need them. it’s very refreshing, because i’ve also experienced the barre snobbery in other studios or with other instructors

  3. Vicki on April 29, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    Thanks for sharing this! Being picked out during my first time trying a class is my worst nightmare! Obviously, tell me if I’m doing something drastically wrong that will cause me injury, but otherwise, I’m fine to be left alone. Have had some great instructors catch my eye and just smile that knowing smile of “I know it’s hard, but it will get better” during a first class and that is all I need!

    I’ve got a great instructor who does pump, combat and balance/flow at the moment. She is just awesome and I always want to do my absolute best with her. She always says to honour your injuries, but gives you challenges if you fancy them. She will spend a lot of time wandering around the class and will correct form if people absolutely need it, but otherwise she just encourages you do the best you can. She has a great rapport with the regulars, so when you are new it sort of makes you want keep going and be one of the regulars too!

    On the other hand, have also had a body attack instructor who made me feel bad for sometimes needing to use the low impact modifications due to my knee problems. I wasn’t doing low impact moves because I was lazy, and she made me feel like I wasn’t trying hard enough. I only did her class once!

    • Fitnessista on April 30, 2014 at 12:45 am

      that’s awesome you have such a great instructor! it sounds like you do a lot of les mills classes? (i love the ones i’ve tried!)

  4. Megan @ The Skinny-Life on April 29, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    What an incredibly sweet note! You’re right too Gina. I can’t believe how many times I’ve been in a class where the instructor singles out the new person. I have a spin instructor who is always telling people to put their gear on a 23 and I look around the class at the elderly people (who are regulars) and think how in the world are they doing a 23? I’m doing a 17. I always think to myself how she should be more aware of her class and recommend they be on a heavy gear comfortable for their bodies. As with a lot of things in life, we just need to be more aware and respectful of others.

  5. Rose on April 29, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Woow what an incredible e-mail. I’m totally STUNNED.
    I’m a medical doctor (as well as a fitness junkie) and I feel like this e-mail i could also be directed to me and my collegues. We can be quite harsh on a patient if he or she doesn’t follow our medical advices as stricty as we want them to. Like losing weight, stop smoking, taking pills, keeping a strict diet. Even though there must be a reason for them to slip up. It’s so easy to judge. We all do it… I do it…
    Thanks Gina and thanks, anonymous person for sharing:)

    • Fitnessista on April 30, 2014 at 12:43 am


  6. Erin (Running Tall) on April 29, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Thanks for this post Gina (and emailer who inspired it!). I’m still pretty new to the fitness instructor world so I’m definitely going to keep all of this in mind when I teach my classes!

  7. Ashley @ A Lady Goes West on April 29, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Hi Gina,

    I totally agree that kindness is important and so are options in a class. I teach group fitness and always make it a point to show low options for everyone in the room, even if no one decides to take them.

    Everyone wants to feel successful, and it’s a group fitness instructor’s job to let members get a little taste of that accomplishment just for showing up.

    In the cool-down, I usually take the time to thank everyone for making it to class and caring about their health. That way they leave feeling good. Just like you said above …

    A smile also helps. 🙂


  8. Sarah (Shh...Fit Happens) on April 29, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    As a fellow Group Ex instructor, with less years under her belt than you, it is always inspiring, motivating, and encouraging to hear other instructors’ and participants’ feedback and advise! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Priscilla on April 29, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    This is such a great post. I actually avoid taking group fitness classes because I am so afraid of being called out by the instructor. I am severely lacking in the flexibility and coordination department, and although I appreciate it when someone gently corrects my form, the thought of someone publicly reprimanding me is too much to handle for someone as self-conscious as I already am.

  10. britt on April 29, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree and the constant “don’t do x, don’t stop, etc” and corrections are why I don’t go to the core class offered at my gym on Tuesday. The Thursday class is marketed as the same class, but the instructor on thursday gets what the tuesday instructor does not. She gets the balance between “push yourself” and “take the breaks you need” she is also great at repeating week to week some common moves, while sprinkling in new things to keep it different.
    The only time I wish instructors gave MORE critique/guidance is in my yoga class. I know I’m not in the right pose, and sometimes I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong.
    If I feel the need to say something (though I won’t actually say it) like “I’m not XYZ because I’m lazy” I don’t go to the class. I give people a couple tries, but if the instructor is that style, then the class is not for me.

    Ironically the class where i actually injured myself due to bad form was the one w/ the over correcting/pick-on- teacher

  11. Susan on April 29, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    Great post! I am also a group fitness instructor and I’ve been thinking a lot about the intangibles of teaching. One of my biggest pet peeves is an instructor who calls someone out and can’t modify for everyone in the room. Hopefully, this instructor will learn over time to encourage and lift all students 🙂

    Thank you for sharing!!

  12. Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat on April 29, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    I love this Gina!!! I’ve been teaching for nearly 5 years now as well, and this was a great reminder. I think as instructors, sometimes we forget about how what seems to just be second nature to us (because we teach it all the time) can be really challenging to other people. I recently started taking another instructor’s classes and I’ll be totally honest when I say that a few of the things this person does made me swear to myself that I’d NEVER let myself be the same way. Thanks so much for sharing this! 🙂

  13. JG on April 29, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    Thank you for this post! I had a very humbling but also sort of sad experience of giving up on group fitness classes for a while after I had a major shoulder surgery. I was cleared to work out and my doc and PT encouraged me to try classes (which I’d historically enjoyed very much) to help with strength and range of motion. They wanted me to work on incorporating what I’d learned in PT into my regular exercise routine, which had been almost exclusively group classes up to that point. Unfortunately it did not play out well in real life. I always felt “picked on” and singled out for not being able to do things (one pilates instructor in particular was really bad). It felt like the instructors were either extremely frustrated with me and my limitations, or worried I was too much of a liability. Having been through months of intensive physical therapy already, I knew very well my limitations, and would have loved to have been able to have a conversation with an instructor about possible modifications– but that was not something that any of them seemed interested in doing.

    I am curious, as an instructor, does it ever make you anxious to have people with previous injuries that they are still rehabing in your classes (even when they are cleared by a doc)? Do you have any tips for people who are clear to work out again after surgery/major injury, but who still have physical limitations, for taking group classes? Or would you say personal training is a better way to go?

    • Jen on April 29, 2014 at 8:40 pm

      I know you are looking for the instructor perspective, but as a PT I want to chime in! Whenever I am sending my patients back into a group class, I always encourage them to go right up to the instructor at the start of class and let them know what is going on. It doesn’t have to be detailed, or long and involved. Just a simple “Hi, just wanted to let you know that I am just coming back from an injury. I know my limitations and may need to modify or sit out some sections of the class.” I would hope that this would reduce any frustration on the instructor’s part about modifications. Being up front and saying you know your limits *should* also reduce some of the fear of liability as well. I would also only encourage people to start back in classes where they are familiar with the exercises and flow so you have an idea of what may need to be modified. We want people to get back into their exercise routines whenever possible!

      • Fitnessista on April 30, 2014 at 12:34 am

        i couldn’t agree more. it makes me feel much more comfortable when someone lets me know they have an injury or limitation. if they know how to modify, great, if they need help, great too. i’m just thankful to know in advance (so i can get my gears going for how i can modify as we go along to provide options) and proud of them for being there!

  14. Kathy on April 29, 2014 at 6:39 pm


    Required reading for any leader or coach IMO. Or human.

    Kindness and compassion are free and easy to give yet so lacking right now I’m finding. Not always – but too often.

    We seem to revel in snark as a sport and judgment as a right. Today I’ve seen so many shares of that Fallon bit where the Yankees fans boo a photo of a returning player who “betrayed” them by spending time playing in Seattle only to find out he’s right there behind it. I guess it’s funny. But I found it so uncomfortable. Really not ok. A sad remark on us right now.

    I love that this blog is a haven away from that kind of stuff and always so kind, compassionate and giving.

    BRAVO and thank you!

    • Fitnessista on April 30, 2014 at 12:42 am

      i hadn't seen that clip, but just reading about it made me uncomfortable. it is sad to see how our culture has started bonding over bringing others down. best thing we can do is rebel and find community in kindness :)

  15. Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs on April 29, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    Great post — I often feel like instructors are just saying the “keep going” and “push yourself” comments mindlessly, when it may not be the best way to motivate.

  16. Haley @Cupcakes and Sunshine on April 29, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    I love this! A little kindness really does go a long way. At the gym, or not! Most of the time, the gym is “me” time. But it is so great to be looking out for others all the time! Thanks for this reminder 🙂

  17. Bethany on April 29, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    Great post! This is cheesy, but I do a lot of workout videos, and one of my favorite ones right now says at the end of the workout “I’m so proud of you for working out in your pregnancy!” This morning when she said it, even though I knew it was coming, I thought, “well it’s just SO nice to hear SOMEONE say it!” 🙂

    Also, I study psychology (I’m in grad school), and it’s pretty clear that most people do things and are motivated to keep doing things that make them feel good about themselves and successful. Making people feel bad about themselves is a guaranteed way to turn them off… to any activity. It seems like some of the comments you/we hear from some fitness instructors are really likely to have that kind of effect. It sucks to walk into a class feeling proud that you made it there, and leave feeling bad that you couldn’t live up to the instructor’s expectations.

    • Fitnessista on April 30, 2014 at 12:41 am

      i totally know what you mean! a little pat on the back when you’re doing something to take care of yourself can always be a nice little motivation boost
      and yes, feeling successful has so much to do with class attendance and consistency.

  18. Carly on April 29, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    Fantastic post! I’ve been a gym rat and group fitness participant for many years (and am a phys ed teacher) and it confuses me so much when instructors continuously yell to “add more” or “go harder” or some terrible comment about fat fleeing. When they start doing this I end up angry and ignore them which totally defeats the purpose of group fitness. There’s almost a fine line between motivational and demeaning… Some have it and some don’t. All instructors should read this post and specifically the email snippet you shared! Thanks:)

  19. Crystal on April 29, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    What a great post! As someone who is on the heavy side, sometimes group fitness classes can be intimidating, especially when I’m new. I am just not as fit as some of the other people in the class. The best instructors are encouraging when I’m in “warrior mode” and kind and gentle when I need to take things a little easier. Every fitness instructor should read this!

  20. Sara @ LovingOnTheRun on April 29, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    Really love this post! I am always nervous going into new classes and I have had several instructors who kept correcting me throughout the class. If it wasn’t already hard enough being the “new” girl in the class it made me feel awkward. I don’t mind people helping me, but not making me feel bad for being in the class. I have never gone back to that instructor’s class.

  21. Michelle on April 29, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Yes, yes, YES! – My thoughts while reading that email. I could never articulate why I feel uncomfortable in many fitness classes, and this is why! When I have an instructor yelling at me “don’t stop!” when I physically cannot do anymore, I feel like a failure. I also feel like the instructor thinks I didn’t give it my all. And that is a really sucky feeling to have, especially when I took the time to do something good for myself.

    However, whenever I take yoga classes that are less “power” based, I feel like a lot of my teachers have been very mindful of modifications and listening to your body. Maybe fitness instructors need to add some of that mindfulness to their teachings?

    • Fitnessista on April 30, 2014 at 12:40 am

      i think that having a yoga background -or at least experience- makes a huge difference in awareness. personally, it taught me how to take a step back and realize that more isn’t always more. teaching at canyon ranch helped exponentially, too, because we have such diversity in our classes and multiple guests recovering from surgery or currently injured

  22. Erica on April 29, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    YES!!! Attack is the toughest class I teach I always make a point to say the goal is tom ake it to the end and there are modifications for a reason!!! Love love love 🙂

  23. Star on April 29, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    I love this post! This should be required reading for everyone. I have been called out by an instructor before and it was so embarrassing. It didn’t help that I was also the heaviest person in the room so I was already self conscious. I think that some instructors forget what its like to not be in shape or not understand the exercises, just because they have done it for so long & its second nature. I also thing that people forget to be compassionate towards others, like the people who snickered when I got called out. I think that the reminder to be mindful & considerate towards others is something that we can all use (myself included!).

  24. Bethany on April 29, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    Loved the email! It completely described why I don’t enjoy fitness classes. I’ve tried a handful of different ones over the years, and have only had instructors that were like drill sergeants.
    I live in a small town and don’t have a lot of workout options, so I end up doing all my weight workouts at home.
    This is the main reasons I lovee Fitnessista workouts! I can do them without worrying about someone yelling at me, and you’re always so encouraging and positive in videos:)

    • Fitnessista on April 30, 2014 at 12:38 am

      thank you <3 it makes me sad to hear that you haven't found an option near you that you enjoy, but i'm so happy you've been enjoying the online workouts! i feel ya on living in a small town. when we lived in valdosta, it was much harder to find fitness options, especially at first.
      thank you for reading and hope you have a great night!

  25. Melissa on April 29, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    Amazing post

  26. Shaina Anderson on April 29, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    I love this! It applies to life in general too…you have no idea where other people are coming from so who are we to judge a book? 🙂

  27. Suzi @ Confessions of a Fitness Instructor on April 29, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    Yes 1 million times over! I am forever telling people to listen to their body and do what works for them. Trying to explain the difference between muscle burn and joint “hurt”. In yoga I often say during poses (like lizard), “You you are silently crying inside you’ve gone too far, please come up out of the pose a bit to make it more comfortable!”

    I also tell them how much it thrills me to see people doing the modified version of an exercise because it shows me that they are paying attention to their body. It takes a lot more courage to do a modified plank when everyone else around you is doing the full plank than it does to do a full plank even though you’re not ready and quite possibly may injure yourself.

    Great post Gina!

  28. Katie on April 29, 2014 at 8:24 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this and for the woman who gave you permission to share her letter. I think this is such an inspirational and important post! I feel like there’s one too many people out there who think they need to be yelled at to push themselves further (or instructors who think that yelling at their students will help push them further), but it’s not the case! People then push themselves too far and hurt themselves. I know I’m the type of person who pushes themselves sometimes too far, but having instructors tell me I’m doing a great job or take a rest if needed is the most important thing I can hear. Because then deep down I know it’s okay! Just listen to my body because everyone’s body is different and can handle a certain amount of stress. And I’m the only one who knows what my body feels like!

    I actually had a Barre instructor (about a year ago) do this to a friend of mine and I during our very first class at this studio (while on vacation so we were also in a strange city) and the entire time she would call us out and yell at us (or what felt like she was yelling at us). It took me until a month ago to finally go to a class in my local town because that class left SUCH a bad taste in my mouth. Thankfully my instructor now is amazing and yes she pushes you, but it’s not pushing it’s encouragement and she smiles at you when you take a breath because guess what she does it too! We’re human and we need to be in tuned with ourselves. I’m mad it took me so long to go back, but so happy to have someone so fantastic now.

    Thanks for posting!!

  29. Jen on April 29, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    My goodness, your reader email could have been written by me, I can relate to her words in SO many ways. Ive been going to group x classes for years, I’m overweight, and I’ve struggled a lot with feeling like I don’t belong and that I’m not good enough to take a slot in some classes. But over the years there have been SO many instructors and fellow gym rats who have been so kind to me. They tell me they see me losing weight or notice I can lift more than I could last class. The instructor sees me slowing down and suddenly gives an extra modification. Instructors tell me how well I’ve caught on to the choreography, etc.

    The truth is, these kind words have made all the difference to me – to make me feel welcome at my gym and to keep going and working through discouragement and intimidation.

    And I appreciate you sharing the email and encouraging your readers to reach out and make an effort to be kind to our group x mates. As always, your compassion and kindness shine through on this blog!

    • Fitnessista on April 30, 2014 at 12:35 am

      amazing to hear that you have such a supportive and kind atmosphere in your gym. we need more like that!!
      keep up the awesome work, and thank you for reading.

  30. kim on April 29, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    gina- i love this post – also, it reminds me why i loved dailey method (barre type class) from the very first class i took. instructors should remember that they have great bodies, they’re experts and all eyes are on them –
    a little – even a tiny bit of encouragement from them goes such a long way.
    thanks gina!
    ps- if you have a chance, i highly recommend dailey method, i’ve only taken classes in SF- not in your hood – it’s the best workout i’ve ever done.

    • Fitnessista on April 30, 2014 at 12:33 am

      i will definitely check it out! i’ll be in san fran in a couple of months, so hopefully i can seek out a class 🙂

      • kim on April 30, 2014 at 12:45 am

        gina- i know you’ll have your pick of great workout places- but i can tell you that the dailey method (mission/castro branch) is incredible!
        the owner- brittany is genuinely nice AND she’s a gifted teacher.
        if you’re interested in a class there, please let me know – i can take you on a guest pass :-)!

        • Fitnessista on April 30, 2014 at 12:49 am

          i would love to!! i didn’t know we had one here 🙂

  31. Tracey on April 29, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. I feel so lucky to have found a yoga home where dropping down into child’s pose is always welcome (and comes with a sweet back rub). Modifications are given and the use of props is encouraged. Each and every teacher is so respectful and challenges in an appropriate and safe fashion. Just the other day the teacher has us trying some insane poses and the abilities of the yogis were all over the place but as we concluded the postures the teacher simply said, “beautiful”. And you knew he didn’t mean the poses, but rather the effort.

    • Fitnessista on April 30, 2014 at 12:32 am

      that gave me the chills. so happy you have such a wonderful yoga home! it makes all the difference

  32. Kate @ NourishedNellie on April 29, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    Thank you for posting this. Absolutely perfect reminder for all of us at the gym, everyone is on their own journey and in need of our support. A special thank you to the reader who so eloquently articulated her thoughts and emotions, beautiful!

  33. Jackie on April 29, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    It was amazing to read your letter because it is EXACTLY why I keep coming back to you….and why I’ve been so successful with your workouts. It’s the sense of encouragement and caring you put behind each video you post. It’s not just you telling me I can do it, but I can feel that you care that I get through it successfully. You have air about the way you train that I’ve never found with the handful of trainers I’ve tried in the past. Even though you’re not in the room with me, I get the same sense of encouragement I would need in person. Thank you 🙂

    • Fitnessista on April 30, 2014 at 12:31 am

      <3 <3 <3 thank you so much! i'm so glad you've been enjoying the workouts and am so honored to be able to virtually work out with you.
      thank you for reading and for such a kind and lovely comment.

  34. Jess on April 29, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    Thank you for this post! Too often do we witness this type of mentality in group fitness classes – sweat harder, go faster, push yourself to the limit. What a nice change of pace, to hear that we can go at our own pace, and listen to our bodies.

  35. Michele on April 29, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    What a great post! I have several medical conditions – fibromyalgia, herniated discs in my neck and lower back and a heart valve problem. To look at me, you would never know anything is wrong but I have such a hard time with things like push ups, tricep dips and planks. I love group exercise classes because that is really the only way I will get a workout done. Last night I took a class similar to Body Pump and I just had to modify it to do what didn’t hurt for me. I stopped when I needed to or changed weights or exercises if I needed to. Luckily it was a great instructor, but I have had some that just made you feel terrible if you couldn’t keep up with them.

    I look at it this way – I’m paying for my membership and it’s my workout, I will do it how I want to without hurting myself. Sometimes I am not sure if those instructors that can be tough think they are helping or if they are just trying to show how good they are.

  36. Tasha on April 29, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    What a great letter! I don’t mind being corrected or pushed to work harder or to keep going, but there’s a line and an instructor’s approach makes all the difference between feeling motivated and encouraged or feeling embarrassed and intimidated. Some instructors are just so full of themselves and forget that they’re there to help the students!

    Bravo to the anonymous emailer for putting in words what goes through many people’s minds!

  37. emily @ emky shop on April 29, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    I know the point of the post wasn’t to give the write of the letter recommondations, BUT, I think this reader may really love bikram yoga if she hasn’t tried already. I’ve been going for years and everything she said she wanted the instructer to do, I feel like I get from my bikram classes. Except they can be kind of strict with water breaks:) Just a suggestion! Great post and great letter!

  38. Mary Ellen on April 29, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    Such a great post! As an overweight 50 year old it was really hard for me to get up the courage to go to fitness classes. It is still daunting at times but was even more so fifty pounds ago! My daughter and I attended one of your last Zumba classes here in Tucson and it was pretty far out of my comfort zone. I just wanted to commend you for “practicing what you preach” because you made me feel so at home even though I couldn’t do many of the steps. We had a great time and I have ventured to a few more classes since. Kindness and encouragement do go a long way!

    • Fitnessista on April 30, 2014 at 12:21 am

      this warmed my heart so much! thank you! i LOVED dancing with you and your daughter (and for the record, you did an AMAZING job!) 🙂 hopefully we’ll get to do it again one of these days!
      so excited to hear you’ve taken more zumba classes, too.

  39. Nicole on April 29, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    I love this post, and understand what the person emailing meant when she was describing what was going on in her life. I have gone to the gym for years, and never had problems feeling uncomfortable, self conscious, or out of place…Then I returned to the gym after an extremely difficult pregnancy and stressful conditions after birth. Needless to say, I didn’t look the same. I was embarrassed. I wanted to wear a huge sign on my shirt that said “I just had a baby,” so people wouldn’t judge me. That experience taught me a lot, I never consciously judged people at the gym before, but now I make an effort to really appreciate the efforts of others, and am inspired by those that are working out that may not be a typical “gym rat.” Thanks for sharing.

  40. Ali on April 30, 2014 at 12:03 am

    I am a fairly new reader to your blog and this post pretty much sums up what I like about your blog. You seem like a kind person who is considerate of other people’s feelings. I bet you are a great fitness instructor. Keep up the good work!

    • Fitnessista on April 30, 2014 at 12:19 am

      thank you so much for reading, ali! i’m so happy you’re enjoying the blog so far <3 thank you for the sweet comment. xo

  41. Polly @ Tasty Food Project on April 30, 2014 at 12:48 am

    I love this post! I think it’s so important not to judge people based on their fitness level or weight. The important thing is that they actually showed up to work on their fitness and are actually TRYING to improve their health! I think getting up and getting started is the hardest part so kudos to everyone that’s working on their fitness no matter what level they’re at!

  42. Laura @ FitMamaLove on April 30, 2014 at 1:17 am

    This is a great reminder as I prep to teach Pilates tomorrow after a week off. I definitely want everyone in my class to know that I think they are awesome just for coming and giving it their best shot. I aim to be as encouraging as possible and let the newbies know they did great and that I’m glad they listened to their bodies.

    What a great email this reader sent you! I want to cheer her on for making the time to workout and take care of herself even with a demanding schedule!

  43. Tiffany on April 30, 2014 at 4:39 am

    What an incredible email and post. This was beautiful, Gina. Thanks for sharing.

    I love bodycombat and take a class with an instructor who pummels me in the best way possible every time. He sees me as one of the stronger ones in the class and whenever I need to take a break and drink water even though it’s an unofficial break, I often feel like I’m being reprimanded. I think it’s great that you’re bringing this topic up. Wish this was something that is implemented during group fitness teaching. It definitely should be! Hoping our paths cross one day and I find myself in one of your classes. 🙂

    All the best! xx

  44. Ilana on April 30, 2014 at 5:24 am

    The moment I decided to just be nice, all the time, to my students, changed my life because it taught me to just be nice, all the time, to myself.

    I tore a ligament in my hip in a teacher training where my teacher was very much about her ego and I was insecure enough to want to try to fit into her narrow definitions. I paid for it with potentially a lifetime of pain (and have received a lifetime of learning).

    I do have a major pet peeve with the water-sipping, though. It’s not the greatest to be chugging water all the way through your workout….if you’re so thirsty that you need to chug water during, you’re dehydrated and need to focus on drinking more water before and outside of class. Personally I can’t even palate water going down during a workout, it literally comes back up five seconds later and that’s just naaaaasty. I’ve taught my students about this in a pretty casual compassionate way and most of them are learning they don’t need it – it’s really just a distraction to take you out of yourself (esp in yoga).


  45. Linda L on April 30, 2014 at 5:26 am

    I will never forget one Bikram yoga class I went to where the instructor was barking corrections at this really old gentleman to straighten his knees. The gentleman must be in his 60s or even 70s! I understand that there are certain “rules” to giving instructions in Bikram (i’m not an instructor), and I understand some instructors being more pushy than ours to motivate, but constantly asking the poor gentleman at a very loud and commanding voice to straighten his knees is uncalled for, I think. I can see that the is trying his best and I think at his age, attending the class itself is highly commendable. Maybe he has some issues with his knees, maybe that as far as the knees can go. Having gone thru extensive knee surgery and 1.5 years of rehab, I know how frustrating it can be to not be able to straighten the knees. Which ironically is one of the reasons I went for Bikram yoga. Needless to say, I never attended this instructor’s class ever again. I walked out once from her class when she sub-ed. Of course she told me I couldnt leave the class, I told her in front of the whole class that her practice and mine don’t jive. I know this is rude, but I have never felt happier walking out from a class, any class!

    Every one has an untold story. The untold story/ies still deserve our respect and honor. Thank you, Gina for this amazing post.

  46. Tara | Treble in the Kitchen on April 30, 2014 at 5:30 am

    Thanks for sharing this!! I always try to showcase modifications that are lower intensity and higher intensity, but this message really puts things in perspective. I can’t wait to teach my new class and hopefully help someone feel a little more comfortable 🙂

  47. Runner Girl Eats on April 30, 2014 at 6:07 am

    Luckily I’ve never had a bad fitness instructor…just less than stellar. I really appreciate instructors that quietly correct form adn don’t call out people. A fitness class shouldn’t be a place of intimidation.

  48. Aisling McCabe on April 30, 2014 at 7:48 am

    Hi Gina. Excellent, excellent post, thank you! It’s a great reminder for all of us to be a little kinder and a little less judgemental every day.

    A little encouragement and understanding goes a long way! I know I love when my instructor thanks us for turning up and points out modifications.

    Off I go to tweet about your post and share the love!


  49. Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie on April 30, 2014 at 8:02 am

    This was a beautiful post!

  50. Katy Widrick on April 30, 2014 at 8:57 am

    I love this SO much (and thank you to your reader for letting you share it!). I’m a new teacher but a longtime student, so having these reminders is so important to me.

    One of the things I stress in my PiYo Strength class is that it’s NOT about perfection — it’s about progress. I also share the things that I struggle with, even from the front of the room! If I wobble in Warrior 3 or dancer’s pose, I tell my class! When I am shaky from push-ups, I tell my class!

    I’m going to bookmark this and re-read before all of my classes.

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