Dealing with member feedback in group exercise

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When we first start a job, it is extremely important for us to do a good job. We are scared, vulnerable, and we seek to please everyone. Beginning a career in group exercise is no different, except that by trying to please “everyone,” you are know trying to please anywhere from 20 to 80 different people at one time.

Let’s first understand the magnitude of that endeavor before we proceed. Some of you have children, friends, spouses, partners, etc. How difficult is it to keep any ONE of those individuals happy with you all of the time? If you are a person of reason, you would think that there are many factors that come into play. For instance, how their day went, are they hungry, was their boss rude, are they having a moment, and so on. Any one thing you say or do can become a problem when dealing with humans. Now, multiply that by 80 different people, 80 people that may or may not even like you on a personal level, and you might have an idea of what I’m saying here.

When I first started, and even now, I welcome member feedback. FEEDBACK and criticism are two very different things. Semantics I suppose, but I perceive feedback as someone telling you the truth, based on objective information and perception. Criticism is someone sharing their opinion, based on their own likes and desires.

During one of my earliest classes, a member asked, “Can we remove the jumping jacks from the warm up, it felt a bit challenging for me that early in the workout.” This was great feedback, because I was thinking that the jumping jacks were a bit too much in the beginning as well. For me, it is easy, but I realize that this is not the case for everyone. That’s amazing feedback, and correlated with what I was thinking. For that feedback I was grateful.

More recently, I had a member come up to me, in the midst of the majority of them coming over to say thank you, shake my hand, and take a picture, this one member said, “You play too much Spanish music in Zumba, you need to play a lot more Soca and less Spanish music if you want to do well here. Maybe one or two Spanish songs, but the rest should be Soca, this is our feedback to you.”

I looked around, and I was in the midst of receiving compliments, and smiling faces, and this member claimed to speak for “the entire group,” yet what she was saying, and what the group was saying, were entirely different.

“I love your music, Angel! You have such an amazing playlist!”

“Your class was so much fun! What days do you teach here regularly?”

“Doesn’t this company recognize how good you are at this? Everyone loves you, why are you not on a permanent spot on the schedule?”

When I was clocking out, the front desk told me, “Angel, a few of the ladies came to ask for your name, and when you were on the schedule. Whatever you are doing, keep doing it.” I’m not sharing this to show off, it’s to make the point about those troublesome critics!

Okay, so all positive feedback, meanwhile, this one person claimed to speak for everyone, and she didn’t want Spanish music. “You know I tell it how it is, these people don’t tell you the truth. But you know I will.” That’s when a few other members came over and interrupted her, “Great class, Angel, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, you are amazing!”

I looked back at this ONE person and said, “You were saying?” To which she replied, “Whatever, if you keep the Spanish music no one will come to your class.” LOL. Silly goose, I think she needs to look around and take stock of what’s happening around her. Those are happy people. Also, I think that she needs to get educated about what Zumba is! I love soca music, and I use soca music, but this is Zumba, not a Soca class.

Being completely honest with you, the few people like her got to me the first few times back when I started teaching the other formats. I asked for “feedback,” but instead of genuine, helpful feedback, I received their preferences. They provided detailed descriptions of exactly what THEY want me to do in MY class. I quickly learned that though it is okay to welcome feedback, many of the ones who are quick to offer it are just selfish and want the class tailored to them.

I remember how I had one member say, “Your class is not challenging enough, Angel! It’s so easy, you really need to step it up!” At first, I felt kind of hurt and embarrassed. I questioned whether or not I was good enough to teach. This person had me doubting myself. I had put so much practice into my training, and I really tried to create a balance of challenging and fun. But apparently, I wasn’t good enough.

The next week, I made the class even more challenging, and I tried to tailor the playlist to the member’s taste. Even so, at the end of the class, they were still not satisfied. Also, I noticed something that I hadn’t picked up before!┬áThis person put forth practically no effort during the class, they barely moved, and they had few intentions in making the workout count. This wasn’t about the quality of my work, or the level of my class! This person didn’t sweat cause her lazy ass didn’t even try! It was not cause my class is not intense enough, she’s just wasting her time and then trying to blame it on someone else.

I learned my lesson that day. So now, when this person, or someone like her tells me, “You should do this, or you should do that,” I smile and say, “Next time.” LOL. Get out of my face with your lazy ass and unsolicited advice. “We know how it works, Angel! You really should listen to us and you’ll succeed.” That’s interesting, YOU are the only one talking, while everyone else is training and loving what I do! Did you not see all those people who came over to thank me, take a picture, and shake my hand?

“I won’t take your class if you won’t do what I want.” Okay, I understand that not every instructor is for every person. By the way, just for your knowledge, if you want more or less intensity, you can control that! Saying that my class is not intense is a joke! It’s intense for me, and you are nowhere near my level of conditioning, so you are simply not trying. I watch you, you do know I can see you, right? Also, you might want to consider getting an AFAA certification and teaching the way you want. That might work for you too.

Listen folks, welcome feedback, such as the point about the jumping jacks. But also know when to filter out member and instructor non-productive noise, because if not, they’ll make you quit and end up hating that which you love so much!

And yes, I said instructors too. I had one tell me, “You do too much jumping, you need to make it more like so and so. Do what they do in class.” Uhm, no way! I don’t think so. Never clone or imitate someone else. You must do what YOU do, how YOU do it. ┬áLearn from others, definitely! I am a byproduct of all my past instructors, ranging from group exercise, to personal trainers, to the military drill instructors, to Youtube instructors! But, I am not a clone, I am entirely unique and have my own style! That’s why they love me! Be who you are, and don’t let either members, or jealous instructors get you to change.


The opinions and views expressed are solely those of the author.

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Also published on Medium.