This post is sponsored by Instructor Insider. As always, all opinions are my own.

Yesterday at work, I was chatting with two of my co-workers who are part of a local Weight Watchers program. They told me about their group leader and how awesome she is. They raved about her energy, how she always makes everyone in the group feel welcomed, and how she truly makes their experience enjoyable. They also admitted that when this leader has a sub, they leave feeling like they just didn’t get as much out of their time. I found that I could definitely relate to this in the group exercise world. We all have instructors who we are obsessed with and want to be truly make working out awesome and fun, and then there are those who we might feel meh about or just don’t mesh with.

This got me thinking about some of the qualities I look for in a fitness instructor to determine if they are the right fit for me, and I want to share these with you today! Remember that an instructor who’s a good fit for your friend may not necessarily work for you. Everyone is different.

Finding a Fitness Instructor Who is Right For You

Here’s what’s important in my book:

The instructor is welcoming. The instructor greets as many participants as possible, introduces his or herself right off the bat, explains what the class is and what’s in store for the next hour, and makes people of all fitness levels (especially newbies) feel comfortable.

The instructor is high energy. I’m not talking about yelling loudly or giving old school whoops, but a successful instructor in my mind creates the energy in the class, even if there are only a few people in there. Life stories aren’t required, but an interesting instructor sprinkles in personal tidbits and a few jokes here and there to keep things fun, engaging, and positive. From my own teaching experience, this isn’t always easy to do, especially at 6am!

The instructor has a great playlist. I’m sorry, but the music or breaks it for me. If an instructor’s music never changes and plays only as background noise (unless it’s a yoga class), I just can’t handle it. It needs to match the movement and the vibe of the class.

The instructor educates me. I like instructors who don’t just count me through reps, but ones who actually teach me something while in front of the class. A really qualified group fitness instructor should be cuing form AND imparting valuable information for me to take out of the room with me, whether it be why the exercise we’re doing is beneficial, what part of my body should feel sore tomorrow, or something inspirational.

The instructor is organized. Can the instructor cue the same amount of reps on the right as they do on the left? Are they on the beat of the music if that’s the kind of class it is? Does their class format make sense or is it all over the place? A good instructor should be mindful of these things, and the class participants shouldn’t look completely lost.

The instructor challenges me, but makes class doable and safe. At the end of the day, a class has to be worth my time. If I didn’t feel challenged, I won’t be back. At the same time, challenging doesn’t have to mean insane. A great instructor needs to use safe exercise principles and offer modifications not only for beginner fitness levels, but for more advanced folks as well so they don’t get bored.

red white and blue two a day

Any instructor who teaches with themed playlists and prizes is pretty awesome in my book. Just saying…

There are also a couple of other signs that usually indicate I WON’T be back to a class. Some of these red flags include:

  • When an instructor cares more about getting their own workout in than about helping the class get theirs. These are likely the same instructors who don’t ask for feedback from their class members. A good instructor should always welcome constructive comments so they can keep improving!
  • When an instructor creates an environment of comparison or competition. Of course friendly competition is fun if incorporated appropriately  but nobody should ever leave a class feeling like they aren’t good enough, shamed, or inadequate.
  • When an instructor uses motivation that’s more about physical appearance than health, energy, happiness, etc. I hate when instructors say we need to finish our squats so we can look good in our skinny jeans. I think I used to be guilty of this. No. Just no. We need to finish our squats so we can improve our athletic performance. Or carry out our daily activities more efficiently. Or FEEL good about ourselves while rocking whatever outfit we are wearing on Friday night.


That said, I do recommend trying a class or instructor at least twice to see if you really like it, because nobody should ever be judged by just one class! Everyone has off days, and often times instructors teach different types of formats from class to class. Going a couple of times will help you determine if an instructor’s style really matches what you are looking for. Also, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to the instructor if you’re new, ask them questions (including what their credentials are!), or ask other people what instructors they recommend and why.

I also find it helpful to poke around online to get a feel for what different instructors are like. Stalk their blogs or social media sites for video clips and to see if their clients/class members are posting feedback on their pages. Check out reviews of the studio. There are also some sites out there completely dedicated to reviewing instructors. For example, my local audience might be interested in checking out the Instructor Insider. It’s a new review site that was recently started by a group of five friends living in Boston who wanted to create an easy way for people to find the best fitness class that’s right for them.

Here’s how Instructor Insider works:

First, select the studio you want to review, the instructor, and the date of the class you attended.

Instructor Insider

Next, use a sliding bar scale to rate the instructor/class on motivation, clarity of instruction, soreness, choreography, attendance, and music.

instructor insider 2

I like the sliding scale method because being all the way to the right or the left might actually mean different things to different people. For example, maybe someone prefers a packed class, but someone else might like it better if it’s not as crowded. I’m not sure I’m a fan of the how sore will you be tomorrow verbiage because I don’t believe that soreness is a good indicator of how effective your workout was, but this is an example of how these categories can be interpreted differently by different reviewers. I’d look at that question more along the lines of how challenging the class was. 🙂

Finally, when rating an instructor, you can also choose to leave free text comments with further feedback, answer a couple of yes/no questions on friendliness and recommendation levels, and then leave an overall rating.

instructor insider 3

Right now the Instructor Insider website only houses reviews of Boston based indoor cycling studios, (Flywheel, Handlebar, Pursuit, Velo-City, Recycle, and SoulCycle), but they hope to expand this list soon.

Interested? Head on over to the Instructor Insider and leave a review!
The team is offering any F&F reader that writes a review between now and next Thursday 4/23 a one in ten chance of winning a free class to an indoor cycling studio of your choice from their list. Just make sure to use the code F&F in the promo code field when you submit your reviews. Each review gets entered, so feel free to leave as many reviews as you’d like! As long as they are thoughtful, valid, and aren’t duplicates, they will count for the giveaway. I will announce the winner next Friday. Good luck!

Readers, let’s chat! What qualities do you look for in a fitness instructor? What are red flag signs you won’t be back to a class? Class members, what feedback do you have for me!?