I am an huge believer in the power of groups. The right group makes it easier to show up, keep showing up, try new things, and get results. All the research on motivation, willpower, and behavior change has pointed to the benefits of community support with behavior change, and we can even see it throughout human history: groups have always outperformed individuals trying to change their behavior. Even the ancient Greeks noted, “light is the task when many share the toil.”
But as great as the right group is, the wrong group can really set back your efforts to make lasting behavior change. I’ve taught classes for 8 years, and I consult with gyms all over the world to help them create stronger communities to get their clients more results.
A great class should feel:
- Welcoming. It should feel like when Norm walks into Cheers. People should be hugging and high-5ing and asking how each other are doing. Especially how you’re doing!
- Doable (even if it’s challenging). The exercise selection should make sense (someone should explain why you’re doing squats) and not feel insane.
- Well led. You shouldn’t feel lost and if you are, someone should jump in to help you.
- Invested in your success. If you leave feeling like these people have your back, you’ve found a fantastic class.
But here are some signs to look for that a group class might NOT be right for you.
- You think the instructor is an idiot. If you do not respect the instructor, leave and never come back. You will never believe them and you will never take their advice and there’s too many awesome coaches to put up with a dumb one.
- Anyone makes you feel bad, guilty, shameful, or inadequate. Research has shown that people get more results from coaches who make them feel positive, empowered, and competent. A lot of bad trainers use words that make people feel that way because they think those feelings motivate people. And they do motivate people… to quit.
- Anyone uses the words, “insane” or “confusion” or “elite.” All workouts should be sane and understandable. And frankly, if someone is elite, they’re not in a 6AM Booty Camp class, they’re in the Olympics. Get away from anyone who thinks differently.
- No one welcomed you or gave you a high-5. A strong community shows it by being welcoming and encouraging, not acting like Heathers. They should introduce themselves to you and be excited to tell you why the class is so awesome.
- There’s people in the class that are REALLY negative. This stuff is hard enough without a Negative Nancy bringing everyone down. You want to find a class where people are positive and excited to share with you.
- You have no idea what the point of 80% of exercises were. A good instructor will tell you why they’re suggesting you do the exercises. They don’t need to justify every movement, but it’s not too much to ask they give you an overview of why they designed the class the way they did.
- At the end of the class, no one asked you what you thought. A great coach always wants feedback. A great community always wants to get better. They should care what you think.