Top 10 Tips For Teaching Live Online Movement, Wellness, and Fitness Class
For movement instructors, fitness professionals, and wellness coaches — the tech revolution is certainly happening.
At Core to Coeur — we’ve built the platform for any teacher to schedule, manage, and teach live-video movement, wellness, and fitness classes. For our team, we believe using new forms of technology to supplement fitness and wellness instruction will unlock amazing things from teachers and students over the next decade.
Today, teachers all over the United States use Core to Coeur’s video and software tools to provide reliable income during unpredictable weather, continue teaching even when clients are at home with sick children, and facilitate new economic mobility — like being able to teach while on the road traveling!
Suffice to say, we’ve learned a lot over the last few years. Here’s our team’s “Top 10 Tips” for teaching live online movement, wellness, and fitness we’ve gathered along the way.
1. It’s all about the set up!
You need to make sure you’ve communicated to your client that setting up before your session is part of the session. Call it a centering ritual, call it a checklist, whatever you have to do, but not setting up the camera and environment will impact your ability to teach a successful class. The best practice I’ve found: ask your clients to sign on ten minutes before their first virtual class to walk them through the technical portion of the service. Not only will you feel more prepared, your client will be able to relax a bit knowing that you can see them beforehand.
Another pro set up tip — dark clothing makes detailed movement difficult to see on camera. Adding bright leggings or a workout top to your teaching wardrobe can make the difference between an enthusiastic “Yeah!” and a quizzical trailing “…Yeah…” after you ask your class if they understand what they’re doing after your demonstration.
In 2019, our team at Core to Coeur started a partnership with women-led apparel company Handful to sponsor some of our live classes. We realized their colorful workout gear offered the perfect solution to our dark clothing dilemma. They have incredible bright teal leggings we can’t wait move in!
2. We don’t know if you’ve noticed, but a service online is different than one in person.
Don’t expect it to be the same. It’s too easy to notice the negatives — yes you do not have your hands to guide the participant. Sometimes there can be short video delays depending on your (and your student’s) connectivity.
Our team is always grappling with how best to safely and effectively teach exercise online — keeping these two concerns in mind. However, we recognize the benefits for people who struggle to make a regular practice out of exercise.
Here are some of the benefits to teaching online:
- Virtually guided exercise encourages clients to take full responsibility of their practice. They have to refine their own movements, feel their way into dynamic alignment, and learn how to self-cue.
- Listening to the instructor is a necessity to mastering online exercise. We’ve generally found our clients on Core to Coeur to be more introspective than when I’ve taught clients in person.
- A private environment relieves clients out of a pressure to perform that so many experience at a fitness studio.
- The convenience of working out at home is a game-changer, allowing for increased consistency in exercise. Where clients would skip the gym after a long day of working or child caring, our clients just need 50 minutes and a mat-length space to achieve their fitness goals for the day.
When you are doubting yourself remember that many people will prefer working out at home. In fact, being able to will change their life for the better.
3. Observe the space in your client’s designated workout room.
Before our teachers start class, many of them take inventory of the student’s surroundings:
Which direction is the light coming? Is she/he/they in the living room or bedroom (or even the kitchen when it’s the only option)?
Making references to their environments is a wonderful way to enhance your clients’ spacial learning.
4. If your client has props or equipment, be sure to put them in the frame.
It is easy to forget what props a client has with her if they aren’t visible. Ask the client to lay her props out alongside the mat so you can have a visual reminder of them. Not only do they provide their conventional use of adding variety, they additionally serve as a feedback tool in place of touch.
And if you’re looking for the best, most eco-friendly props around, we recommend our partners in health, Rawlogy. They make incredible self-massage balls and tools for self care made out of 100% recycled cork and other sustainable materials.
5. Keep checking in.
Without the aid of hands-on learning, we have to excel at other forms of feedback, specifically through language. Remind the client that working out together online is their time to ask questions and practice speaking up for any pain or discomfort in a safe environment. With new clients working out over video for the first time, they may fear an unfamiliar sensation and resultantly have difficulty articulating it. The pain of a muscle overdue for activation might be confused with a threatening sensation they’ve been told to push beyond in the past. We suggest developing evocative communication that makes sense to a majority of your clients. For instance, when they say an exercise is “hurting”, you might ask:
“Does this pain feel unfamiliar?”
“Does this pain feel dangerous?”
“Can you describe and point to where you are feeling this exercise?”
And then trust what they say. This could be the first time they’ve had the opportunity to ask questions about their body if they’ve been taking crowded group fitness classes.
Showing this kind of humanity is what we believe separates the good movement practitioners from the exceptional ones, establishing a trusted bond between client and practitioner.
6. Anticipate demonstrating your exercises more than in-person sessions.
I’ve found this method of teaching ideal for visual learners. But be prepared. In my experience, if a client can’t understand a movement when you verbally cue them, they will turn their faces toward the camera and stare at you expectantly. So while you’re talking, also demonstrate the exercise.
7. Curate your space.
One of our co-founders recalls teaching her first private client over Skype. She was traveling around Oregon quite a bit at the time, always teaching in a different location. At times, the rooms she stayed in were so small the only free space to teach was on the bed! Finally, she secured a room where she could teach her weekly sessions. Her client remarked enthusiastically — “Wow this looks so much better!”.
Moral of the story — teaching over video is very much a visual medium. We can enhance the enjoyment of their sessions simply by elevating what our students see on their screens.
8. Be prepared to adjust your pricing.
Today — there is certainly a perceived difference in value of teaching in person versus over live video. While the results can certainly be the same — if not better for a variety of reasons — that’s just the way many people view video fitness right now.
Believe me, we get it. We know how difficult it is to lower rates when you’ve worked your whole career to be able to raise it. We offer this reality — while we are skilled teachers, we are not yet experts in guiding a movement class over video. As you have most assuredly gained insights and increased somatic knowledge throughout the years, developing expertise teaching virtually will also demand acquiring new knowledge.
9. Anticipate technology going awry and have a plan to fix it.
In the early days of building Core to Coeur— we learned that anything that could go wrong with technology…would eventually find a way to go wrong.
That’s okay! Communicate with your students — and try your best to accommodate in the moment. You can prepare for these errors by practicing with the technology in your spare time.
And if you get caught bumbling through an error during class?
For our team — we believe graciousness goes a long way. Acknowledge the fact (to your students) that tech problems may have had a negative impact on their experience. If your internet connection gets lost for good, or if your client can’t figure out how to log back on — refund the session, or refund the amount of minutes lost on the session. Our team is happy to work with you on these rare cases.
10. Patience is everything — for yourself and for the client!
I’m guessing if you’re a Pilates or yoga or movement instructor — you’re probably not spending your free time coding.
With that said, I recommend carving out time to at least deeply understand the software you’re using. You have to learn to crawl before you walk, and so will the client. Many of you will likely learn alongside your client, and it’s important to remind them of that. I believe our clients want to see our own vulnerability, and if we model it, both of you can become savvy exercise buddies traversing this new frontier together.
Interested in learning more? Check out what we’re building at www.coretoceur.com