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How To Deal With a Bad Fitness Instructor/Class

  • May 14, 2013
  • By Brittany
How To Deal With a Bad Fitness Instructor/Class

Have you ever walked into a class, all pumped up for the workout only to have it begin and feel that dread come over you that the next 50 or so minutes are going to be a waste of your time? Or have you been to a class and been totally having a great time when all of a sudden the instructor says or does something that completely puts you off?  We’ve all had these experiences, where the instructor or the class is just not what you thought it was going to be.  I count myself lucky because I’ve heard horror stories of what I believe to be pretty offensive treatment, but I’ve never experienced anything truly offensive.  Nonetheless, a bad class or instructor can be disappointing and feel like a waste of your time.  Here are a few tips to deal with a bad instructor or a bad class so you can resurrect your workout!


Scenario 1- Help!  The usual instructor is out and this sub has NO idea what he/she is doing.

O.k. breathe.  This happens all the time.  Let’s assess the situation.  Did you know there was going to be a sub before you signed up for class?  On a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being this nut doesn’t understand the word group fitness to 10 this instructor may not be my taste but actually knows what she/he is doing), how do you rate the class so far?  Do you think it has the potential to improve?  If you knew there was going to be a sub before you started the class, I say stick it out if you can unless you rank them a 1 or a 2.  If they are a 1 or a 2, quietly excuse yourself from the class when there is a natural break and you won’t draw too much attention to yourself.  If you can give them a 3 or higher, stick it out because you knew beforehand the usual instructor wouldn’t be there and you took on the risk of a new person when you signed up for the class.

If you leave the class early, go to the desk and tell them why you are leaving.  Some studios/gyms have strict policies for leaving class early but at the end of the day, it is YOUR money and YOUR time.  Go explain to the front desk your issue and why you feel it is necessary to leave.  If you didn’t know there was going to be a sub, politely suggest to the staff that it would be beneficial if you could have this information before class so you can accurately assess your time (and money) commitment.  If you were aware of the sub, provide the gym/studio with feedback.  Most likely they strive to provide quality classes and want their customers to be happy.  Try to be constructive and explain why the instructor wasn’t working for you (i.e., “The instructor didn’t follow the correct format for the class.” Or “The instructor was not providing enough verbal cues.”).  Don’t just bash them (i.e., “The instructor was an idiot!”).  Even if you don’t leave early, you should still provide the front desk with this feedback so they are aware when staffing the class in the future.

You may wish to request a refund in the form of another class if you feel you did not get your money’s worth.  Don’t be shy about asking for a refund but remember, always be POLITE and NICE in this situation.  It is not the front desk’s fault and there is no need to abuse them over a bad class.  The old saying, “you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” is definitely applicable here.

Scenario 2- The class was going great until . . .

Maybe you thought the class was awesome but then the instructor did or said something that either made you uncomfortable, offended you or just generally made the class less enjoyable for you.  In this situation, you need to assess what the offending action was and come up with a remedy plan.  Usually speaking to the instructor privately after class is the best course of action because it is the most direct and it will not escalate the issue.

For example, if the instructor touched you (to correct your form) but you don’t enjoy being touched, go up to the instructor after class and politely let him or her know that in the future, you prefer verbal cues only to correct your form.  A good instructor should be aware that not everyone is o.k. with physical contact and he or she should react professionally to this feedback.  In the event they don’t, it is always o.k. to let the front desk or manager know.

If the instructor said something to you or about you that you perceived as offensive, again, talking to the instructor after class is probably the best course of action.  Let them know what they said offended you and why it offended you.  Ask them, in a non-confrontational manner, why they chose to say that particular phrase.  Again, hopefully the instructor will react professionally.  In the event they don’t, again speaking with the front desk or group fitness manager is ok.  A gym or studio can’t run without participants so providing feedback is important.  Just avoid accusations and try to explain calmly why what was said was offensive to you.

Scenario 3- The instructor is fine but this class is just not my style.

Sorry to say, but you should try and stick it out to the end of class.  It’s frustrating to feel like you are wasting your time with a workout you don’t enjoy but it is generally rude and disrupting to leave and I don’t recommend doing so unless scenarios 1 or 2 above occur.  If you want to provide feedback to the studio/gym, you should but in this case, I don’t think it is essential.  Not everyone is going to love the same type of workout or class format but unless the class was dangerous, it is up to your discretion whether you want to bring your dissatisfaction to the management.  That being said, studios/gyms do want to please their customers so letting management know your opinion is not a bad thing!

Hope this helps you deal with your next bad class/instructor.  Readers, have you been in a situation where you had to deal with a bad class or instructor?  What did you do?

By Brittany, May 14, 2013
  • Holly
    May 15, 2013

    Sounds like using patience and having self-awareness! What about others in the class who interfere with your experience?

  • FitBritt@MyOwnBalance
    May 15, 2013

    Good question! Depends upon how they are interfering with your experience. If, for example, they are being disruptive by talking, using cell phone, etc, it is perfectly o.k. to say something (nicely) to them. Hopefully the instructor will say something but if they don’t, go right ahead. If they are “in your space”, the best thing to do is move away from them. If they are just generally annoying and trying to draw attention to themselves, just ignore them!

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