Does your class programming discriminate?

This post is an open question to the entire fitness industry and will be asked in a two part series. So what could I possibly mean by discriminatory programming? Are you a fitness business who claims they are for anyone? Are you a fitness business who runs a predominate class based offering? Let’s dive a little deeper…

Now let’s clarify what I mean by discrimination in your group classes. I am not talking about your services, how you greet people or who your members are (or aren’t). I am also not talking about something you are (most likely) consciously doing. It is something industry wide, and something many of us are not even aware that we are doing. I believe that this type of discrimination turns people away from the fitness industry in droves.

The discrimination I am talking about is the need to make (most) group fitness classes hard. The need to make them challenging in every way. The need to make people feel like ‘they have done something’. The need to always be pushing, and pushing to ‘give everything you have.’

‘Go as hard as you can!’ ‘Empty the tank.’ ‘Don’t stop!’ Do we ever question the use and the extreme repetition of these phrases in our classes? Do we ever question what it actually feels like to ‘go as hard as you can’? What do you feel like when you ’empty the tank’? If someone was to constantly say ‘don’t stop’ and you absolutely have to, would you feel like a failure?

I love these phrases and motivational cues – when they are used appropriately. If the instructor of a class starts to tell me to ‘go as hard as I can’, and I am only 10 minutes of the way through a class; I am going to question that instructors motives or intelligence. Are they saying that because they think it will motivate me? Or do they actually want me to work as hard as I can 10 minutes into a 45 minute class?

Getting someone to ‘work as hard as they can’ or ’empty the tank’ are as much an instructional cue as they are a motivational one. So do you know when to use them appropriately? Does your class programming match what you are saying? If you are using these phrases repeatedly throughout your class, and you want your class to perform this way for 45 minutes (or longer) then your programming is definitely discriminatory, bordering on dangerous.

Programming your class to match the fittest people (or person) in the room is where most group classes become discriminatory. There is very little skill in making a class challenging. Add some sprints, burpees and pushups with little to no rest and a majority of the class will be blowing pretty hard. The most challenging thing to do as an instructor is create a class, or a sequence of classes, that begins to address the needs of different people on different levels. That allows space for growth, learning and fun. That caters for the majority first and educates people on what may be best for their bodies. That adheres to basic programming guidelines when it comes to work and rest.

The reason I am so passionate about this topic is that I believe as an industry we put too much emphasis on things being hard. A lot of people believe that if they go hard they will get results quicker! It’s all about hard and fast, get to your goals as quickly as possible! A majority of the thousands of people I have seen in my classes cannot do a push up well, can’t squat and most are stressed and in some type of pain. They want to go hard and fast because we haven’t done well in educating them that there are other options, and we aren’t giving them those options.

As a society we are busier than ever, more financially stressed, emotionally scarred from a global pandemic among a myriad of other issues; do we really need to ’empty the tank’? If you were to exercise for 4 days a week at the intensity of ‘go as hard as you can’; how long do you think you could sustain that without either; losing motivation, hurting yourself, or completely burning out? This could be a huge reason why nearly 80% of people across the world don’t engage in gyms! Why aren’t we as an industry asking people to go moderately?

There are more cardiac and muscular benefits from working at 70% intensity than working at 90%? Why? Because working at 90% intensity is inherently risky! We don’t ask many clients in our PT sessions to do a 90% max lift? So why do we feel the need to make each class we teach hard?

Can we make the next saying – Go moderately and make the gym your new home.? I am tired of HIIT. I can’t wait to see more moderate intensity training enter the fitness industry space.

If you want to know if your classes discriminate reach out to us at Exercise to Experience. We are passionate about creating excellent group exercise experiences across the world and can help your fitness facility grow and level up.

Written by Vanessa Leone.

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