With a class full of fresh faces who’ve never been to your studio before, as well as your favorite regulars, it can be difficult to manage the needs of each student. Different levels require different attention, and Chris Marhefka of Body by Boris in Gainesville, FL has tips to share on how to guarantee a good experience for all students.
BE CLEVER WITH MODIFICATIONS
Variations are key, and it’s important to offer three versions of an exercise: easy, medium and hard. Marhefka advises against that language though. “Nobody wants to look like the newbie,” he says, “so don’t make them feel like one.” Try different phrases like “light” or “scaled” so people feel more comfortable modifying.
HOST A NOVICE-LEVEL CLASS
Intro level classes are great for both welcoming new clients and easing in those who may have never even tried your type of exercise before. Again, using phrases like “Foundations” instead of “Beginner” helps take away that feeling of being new and instead focuses on welcoming them to your studio and your method. You can even customize sign ups to only offer introductory classes for new clients to ensure time and care in explaining the exercises. Those with more experience can call ahead of time to explain their background and sign up for a more advanced class.
PROGRAM TO YOUR MOST FIT PERSON
“Our philosophy is to program for your most fit person and then scale down and coach to your least fit person,” Marhefka says. “So when you’re drawing up for the day, you start with something that’s going to challenge the most fit person and then you offer scales and adjustments.” Be sure to showcase those adjustments in order to help clients set realistic expectations. “There’s nothing worse than killing 10 beginners in a class because you’re scaling it up.”
If you notice that your class is a mix of experience levels, let everyone know what to expect upfront. Then, if there’s a client or two whose athleticism is much more advanced than others, Marhefka suggests letting them know one-on-one a few modifications they may want to make. “I’ll just tell them on the fly, when I say 10 reps, you do 20 or when I say light weights, you use heavy,” he says. “It’s an individual coaching thing.”
INFUSE YOUR BRAND INTO VARIATIONS
Don’t forget how your environment and brand communicate what your workout is like to new clients before they even set foot inside your door. Whether you host a hardcore boot camp or a fast-paced vinyasa class, Marhefka says it’s about making clients feel good about what they can or cannot handle. “It’s on the owner of the studio first to set that as an expectation,” he says. “I think it’s all about the way you set up the class.” Encourage newbies to push themselves to your standards–but to not ignore the fact that it’s their first time and to go at their own pace.
MOVE THE MIC
Personalized attention and adjustments can go a long way towards helping new clients feel more comfortable. It also makes modifications more useful. That being said, you don’t always have the room to give each person your undivided attention. “It’s tough if you have eight people doing an exercise well and two not so well; you don’t want to put those two people on the spot,” Marhefka says. “It usually comes down to praising the eight publicly and correcting the two privately.” Move your mic to offer corrections while using the people with good form as examples, which will in turn, offer an inspiring standard for beginners that doesn’t intimidate.