How to Give Constructive Feedback to a Fitness Instructor

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Some people say that those who can't do, teach. But in reality, those who can't teach also teach! If you've ever taken a fitness class or invested in a personal training package, you may have encountered a bad fitness instructor or personal trainer. Sometimes they play weird music. Other times they call you out or embarrass you in front of others. And occasionally, the workouts they lead are just plain bad, boring, or downright dangerous. Poor experiences like these do more than ruin your workout session—they affect your wallet and your motivation to go back to the gym again. Instead of stewing about it or vowing never to return to that 6 p.m. Spinning class (despite the fact that it's the most convenient class for you), I have a five-minute fix that can help.

It's simple: Offer feedback. It only takes a few minutes of your time, and it helps you deal with the situation directly. You don't have to be mean or malicious, either. I've worked as a personal trainer and a fitness instructor for several years and the constructive criticism from my students and clients helped shape me into the instructor that I am today. I always welcome feedback. In fact, I tell everyone at the end of every class to come to me if they have any questions or general feedback to share. And even though it's not always what I want to hear, I still appreciate and respond to the concerns of others. After all, I get paid to lead a workout for them, and I want them to enjoy it and be successful. Like any employee, I want to improve and do a good job.

Now, you might be nervous about providing feedback, especially if it's negative. No one likes confrontation. So I'm going to share with you a few tips that will make the conversation go more smoothly, so that both you and the instructor/trainer can feel good about it.

  1. Speak privately. If you're giving feedback to a class instructor, do so after the class is over and be somewhat discreet. Introduce yourself if you haven't already and be friendly.
  2. Start with the positive. Begin with something nice, no matter how small. Say that you like the music, the workout variety, or even the instructor's energy or attitude. Then move into the rest of your feedback.
  3. Be constructive, not critical. It's all about framing your feedback in a way that sounds helpful and suggestive, not angry or condescending. If the music bothers you, let the person know that you like the class, but would appreciate a little more variety in the music. Be as specific as you need to be. "I don't like rap lyrics," for example, or "Sometimes the music is so loud that I can't concentrate or hear what you're saying." If you're confused about whether you're doing something correctly or not, ask a specific question, but mention that sometimes the instructor isn't very clear when it comes to describing the moves. If segments of the class are too easy or too hard, ask how you can modify them to suit your level, and mention that you'd appreciate it if the instructor let people know about those choices during class, too.
  4. End on a good note. Thank the instructor for the class and for listening to your feedback.

If you make your concerns known, but don't notice any changes, I suggest bringing it up one more time before you talk to the group fitness coordinator or training manager at the gym. Chances are, you might not be the only person who has had a bad experience. But unless you—and others—speak up, no one will ever know that you're unhappy, confused, or bothered by a class or training experience.

That said, I also recommend that you provide positive feedback, even if you don't have anything negative to say. It's positive reinforcement for an instructor to hear that you enjoy their classes and teaching style. And if you have a stellar experience, tell the manager, too. That will ensure that the instructor or class you enjoy stays put, and increase the chances that they'll add more like it to the schedule.

No one—especially a paying gym member—should have to suffer through classes or training sessions that don't meet their needs. Next time you have an opinion, whether good or bad, speak up! Five minutes of your time could result in big changes that help you get fit, stay motivated and have more fun in the process!

Have you ever had a horrible experience in a fitness class or personal training session? Have you ever confronted an instructor or trainer and told them what you really thought? If so, what happened?