NZ Glen : BodyCombat fanatic

Instructor types

Posted on: February 10, 2009

Hey team! You may or may not recall at the end of December I wrote a post stating that I’d done several classes as a participant in Auckland over the holiday period – noting specifically one class that was pretty, ummm, I think the word I used at the time was; “interesting”. I’m not going to name names but the instructor I was talking about  would cue one set of movements and then stop and just wander back and forth on the stage and talk, and at most probably did a grand total of 20% of the class movements. What this meant was that anyone new (and even I found this as a couple of the tracks were very old) had significant trouble following what we were meant to be doing because there was no instructor to follow. The instructor would cue one combination then drop their hands and walk backwards and forwards on the stage talking about anything and everything (Christmas, partying, drinking, specific members – basically everything except the actual class!). The only thing I could put it down to (at the time) was laziness and I’ll be honest it got very frustrating. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one finding this, in fact Raina was there also and to quote her blog “I definitely had a more fun time taking my lead from him [meaning me] and PJ than I did from the actual Combat instructor”. But, in saying that the class was busy and many people seemed to be having a great time – so certainly there were people who weren’t finding this teaching style as frustrating as I – in fact many seemed to be enjoying it.

This got me thinking about the different types of instructors. Obviously because we all follow the key elements/guidelines set by Les Mills, and follow the chorry set by LM there are consistencies from class to class  – but, different instructors have different styles of teaching. Here’s a couple of examples:

The Mongrel: I’d probably put myself in this category. This type of instructor is there to push you to the next level – and motivate you to go harder and further than you could go on your own. They use a tonne of motivational cues and phrases, yell, scream and do anything they can to ensure you leave that class happy yet exhausted. And, in reality they are probably there to get a great workout themselves as well so have a vested interest in pushing everyone in the class to the next level. The work their butts off with you at the same time so the entire class finishes strong and finishes hard. They most likely encourage you to yell and kiai, epitomise the Les Mills’ motto “Turn It Up!” and probably play the music loud and have their mic even louder!

The Entertainer: The “Entertainer” is the instructor who almost puts on a comedy show during the class. Constantly cracking jokes and having a laugh this genre is popular with a certain demographic and their motto to is ensure their participants have a ball during the class. On paper they may be ideally suited to programmes like BODYJAM they can of course can successfully teach any programme. They are great at connecting with their class, and probably tell a lot of stories and know a lot about their members. You may not get the best workout or the hardest workout, but you will have a great time and definitely come back for more! These instructors may  well be full time, which means they aren’t necessarily there to get a great workout in themselves. Their members absolutely love them.

I’m sure there are other types that occur to you right away but these are the two classes that seem to be most common. Now not everyone is one or the other – they may be a combination of both (that’s probably ideal actually) or, they may be different instructors for different people. For example I tend to teach a 6am weekday class much differently from a 9:30am weekday class. Chances are the 6am participant is more hardcore, and has got their butt up that early to get a great workout in – whereas the 9:30am participant may be a mother looking for an hour of fun or an hour for themselves before going back to looking after their children – quite possibly this person doesn’t really want to be screamed at by a crazed instructor! It pays to bare that in mind!

Of course I’m generalising but you get my point.

The danger however, which is kinda where I was going with this post – is when you become too much of one genre and not enough of the other. The instructor I mentioned at the start of this post was definitely an entertainer. They talked non stop – and it was obvious they weren’t there to get a workout in themselves as they spent more time wandering around the stage chatting than they did training. This frustrated me – who was there specifically to get a great workout in. I left feeling a little discouraged and basically thought I may as well have stayed home and done the workout alone in my lounge!

But maybe I’m in the minority here? If you are a participant I’d be really keen to hear what do you expect from your instructor? What elements really make you want to come back? If you’re an instructor what category would you place yourself in? Food for thought anyway…

17 Responses to "Instructor types"

I’m so glad that you wrote this!

In fact, I barely even REMEMBER the instructor, I was watching you and PJ so much; I probably had a better class for it.

Hernan, for example, has both Entertainer and Mongrel in him, though he’s probably slightly more leaning towards the Entertainer, but he’s not lacking in Mongrel either.

On the other side, Olly is more Mongrel than Entertainer, but he’s not so frightening that I’d never go back to his class.

I’ve had a big hole in my Combat participation – a gap of about 1.5 years, and I was only participating for a few months before it dropped off my radar for a while, so I found it hard to follow him when he didn’t cue or demo the moves a few times over – though thre were qutie a few members that really liked his style and were more than happy with the way he taught. As a drop-in participant, it wasn’t the sort of class I’d choose to do regularly, though maybe his regulars have grown used to his selection of tracks (he might have a key set he does all the time, which is why he goes walkabout)

[er… I could rattle on, so I’ll end this now :-)]

And please don’t count the number of typos I made in that comment, I am rather tired 😛

There was only 2 😉

Hernan’s fantastic. I love his classes – some of his sayings are just fantastic. I’ve not done one of Olly’s classes but if he’s a mongrel then maybe I will 🙂

I envy you though – I wish I could forget that instructor as well as you have! lol

Hehheh, maybe you should’ve watched PJ and me!

Or just PJ… I fear my technique may have been a bit shocking, GAH O_O

Hey, cool blog…..

I’d like to think that I’m a mongrel instructor but I have a feeling that everyone thinks I’m too nice to get away with that (covered a step class with combat the other day – hey, it was combat or nothing – and one member said “rob was so sweet I had to stay”).

Anyway, will be passing through Auckland in a few weeks time so will have to say hello…..

We have an instructor here who I’d put into both categories… He is very hard and makes sure the class is yelling and giving it 110% – if he feels the class are not yelling and giving it 110% and he says “If you don’t give me some noise – I’ll start the track again”! – and he has done this on several occasions. so every time he threatens to do this, I always go harder and yell as loud as I can!!
He is quite funny too – makes sure the class has a bit of a laugh as well as working hard!

Yeah I honestly think a hybrid of both is the best. I think as you become more comfortable teaching you move more into the entertainer category.

Last night for example I covered at a gym I don’t usually work at and as such didn’t know the participants so it was a lot harder to “joke” around with them. As a result I just drove them REALLY hard! Hopefully that’s what they wanted haha 🙂 (bit late now!)

Hey Guys… think I know that instructor in AKL there…
Had a great D&M with him… Yep, he has great connection with his regulars. At times puts in exceptional levels of effort as well.
I can understand the frustration with the approach.

You do have a lot of brilliant instructors in NZ though glen.

I like to try to keep myself grounded as an instructor, so go participate in classes when I can… It’s great to check out how others are connecting, and the varied responses they get with different approaches.

There was an approach for a while which was focused on honning the coaching skills of the instructors. It goes along the lines of connect, demo then coach. To emphasis the verbal coaching, you’d have to stop the demoing. It works really well when you’re doing some corrections, but is at it’s best when it’s kept to a minimum.

Although, for fun, here’s a challange for you. Try teaching one track with the connect / demo / coach approach.

It really helps you pick up your real-time communication skills.

Probably best not to go too far off track and chat about the weather though.

The observations I’ve heard about using that approach have ranged from “lazy instructor” to “That was great, and he really let us go off”.
The one down side I’ve noticed is different pockets of the class end up going with their own timing rather than staying with the music.

I teach a class that was taught by an instructor who used the demo / coach approach a lot, and still get the odd occasional participant going off on their own… gggrrrrr!

When you think of it, when you’re working the levels of the track, say power 3, and you really want everyone to get their stuff right, then go wild…
What a great way to demo a change of intensity Nothing -> then insane!

Hope you’re feeling a bit better about eveything now Marshmellow.

Hey Glen –

I know I’m incredibly late to this post but I wanted to comment on what type of instructor *I* am, because I think there is something to be said for stopping occasionally when teaching (in certain programs).

I would consider myself the Coach. I am *not* there for my own workout – I mean… obviously I GET a workout, but it is not my focus at all. It just happens as a side-effect of the fact that I’m teaching a fitness class, you know? I’m there first and foremost to hopefully bring my participants to a level of greatness – and that level of greatness is unique for every single person in the room.

It depends on the program, but for Combat, sometimes I *do* drop my hands so that I can demonstrate something, or really get down and dirty and coach and connect with my peeps. It has nothing to do with slacking off or taking a break. It’s just the way I teach. D&R do it on the DVDs sometimes – of course, they have a few others on stage to keep going while one demonstrates – and I think that that on-the-fly type demonstration and education can be really valuable.

When I was a GFM and was assessing instructors all the time, it used to bug me when an instructor would just go go go go, sort of “one-note” type of teaching (albeit a really intense, aggressively high “note”). I wanted to see that instructor pull back from time to time, drop the intensity, focus on coaching, maybe alter the tone of voice, demonstrate how to make subtle changes to technique…

(This particularly used to bug me with BodyStep instructors who would maniacally fly over the bench for an hour without once dropping it down to relate to the people in the room who can’t even master a repeater knee. It sort of sent a message, I thought, that was like, “Wow, look at me go! Aren’t I awesome! I am incredibly fit and I can jump very high!” And I wanted to clap my hands in front of their faces and say, “Hey! Pay attention! There are 30 other people in this room besides you…”)

Typically I believe that instructors need to bridge the gap between being a role model and being relatable.

Awesome post Erin. Funnily enough as I type I’m in the middle of my pump module (wait, clarify… I’m at home but on day 2 later today… I’m not literally in the module this minute, that wouldn’t be a good look my typing away!) anyway, we discussed this exact subject yesterday and the trainer said the same thing, we’re not there for our own workouts. It’s a great point as outside my classes I don’t exercise anymore, just not enough hours in the day mostly! (i’ve been teaching 2 combats everyday on top of a full time job)

So, I’m off to get a workout in before module today and I’m definitely going to try to emphasize the coaching aspect in my classes, sometimes I think I am the manic instructor you cited in your example!

Hi from Jakarta.
Like Marshmallow, am also a participant.
Have been attending BC classes for 3 months now and ended up with min. 5 classes a week … (very near addicted, I know).
Our instructors here ranged from the newbie to hardcore I guess … and from what I noticed members tend to flow in when the so-called ‘The Entertainer’ instructor is on.
For myself I like a mix of the entertainer & the mongrel, so I could concentrate in pushing myself for action instead of cracking up all the time, and fortunately we do have such well-balanced instructor(s) here 🙂

I’m a fairly new instructor but have been doing Combat for a few years. For me and my group louder is better. It’s improtant thought to make the newbies feel comfortable by cuing moves with good explanations.
Combat is definitely a grueling work out if you make it so…I like the idea of thretening to replay a prticular track…good one.

Hey Glen
you always seem to come up with answers when I have questions about combat!! and seeing as I am in a different country these days and don’t have you or Mel to harrass (you are probably both thankful for that!!) How do you become that sort of instructor? a combination of the mongrel and the entertainer? is it a process that evolves over time, the more you do it? Any words of wisdom you can pass down would be great (Have taken a couple of tracks each in two classes since my module and feeling just a tad lost!! )


Hey Helen – oh look at you reading through the old posts ya little combat junkie!

Well for me personally I think my style is always evolving. Funnily enough doing the Pump module probably taught me more about instructing combat in some respects than the combat module did! I was told that my style can sometimes come off like I’m an army drill sergeant and that I should try to let some more of my personality shine though. Now thats really easy to do when TTing with Mel as one of us is always cracking jokes while the other teaches – but in my own classes I’ve really tried to smile more and pull back a bit on the more fun tracks. It all comes down to feeling the essence of the individual track I think, for example in combat 40 you’d teach track 4a (the power of the mind) COMPLETELY differently to 4b (tubthumping) which is a way more relaxed track in terms of its style.

Hey what tracks did you get for your module – you never actually told me did you?

lol thanks for that, i actually got track 4!!! which was a hell of an experience – my poor butt and legs for about four days afterwards!!
I suppose everyone is different with their styles and the way they teach, my combat instructor who I am shadowing with is very much the mongrel and her classes seem to response well to that, but I suppose its about finding what works for you 🙂 Think its just about practice practice practice and I will get there in the end 🙂

OMG you poor thing – that track is a killer!

Yep it all does come down to practise – mind you the fact you’re already a FANTASTIC pump instructor has gotta make it quite a lot easier! I’m sure you rock already!


aww you such a sweetie, but pump is so totally different to combat, so much more technical – I seem to recall I was a bit this way when I first started in pump so I’ll just have to keep on just doing the practice 🙂 take care and keep in touch xox

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