On Corrections in Group Fitness Classes

I am willing to own up to many of my faults.

I’m also willing to admit when I was previously a jerk about something. (Please see: I used to totally make fun of my friends for their healthy habits, because I just didn’t get it and was a super-bitchy, judgy girl.)

When I started getting into working out a few years ago, any classes I took were at New York Sports Club, where I used to be a member. I was new to working out, didn’t see the need for the expense for boutique classes when I had a perfectly good gym membership and, honestly, I felt uncomfortable going to a class like that. I wasn’t in shape like those other girls.

I’ve documented on this blog so many classes where I got corrected and felt embarrassed because I watched my friends get praised by instructors, and I kept getting corrected: Bar Method, Refine Method.


Physique 57.

Dori wrote a great post last year about corrections in fitness classes. Easy for her to say, I thought. She loves boutique classes, goes often and is really good at them.

But as I started loving yoga and was getting corrected at yoga and Uplift, I totally got it.

Those little tweaks an instructor makes to your form can really help. (Duh.) Just opening up a little more in triangle pose makes all the difference, for example.

But letting go and letting yourself be corrected without ego? I’ll admit, it took me a while to get there. And that Dori was right a long time ago.

I’ve noticed lately that the touch makes a big difference, too, though. I took a class at Laughing Lotus the other day with Gena, and both the instructor and her assistant walked around correcting us. Her assistant corrected fairly aggressively, while the instructor had a much more gentle touch that led me into discovering the correct pose myself, rather than pushing me into it.

Moral of the story: don’t be like me and check your ego much earlier in exercise classes and don’t feel uncomfortable if the instructor corrects you, and look for those instructors with the gentle touch and take as many of their damn classes as possible. Also, roll your shoulders back and open them up. That has helped me in 92% of all exercise moves. At Uplift, as soon as I see Steph or Michelle beginning to walk around to make corrections for, oh, anything, I roll my shoulders back.

And you? Are you a jerk like me who took too long to start appreciating being corrected in fitness classes? And what do you think makes a good fitness instructor?

27 comments on “On Corrections in Group Fitness Classes

  1. Dori

    It is so funny, my post from last year (exactly to the day I guess) showed up in my Timehop app today. I pretty much forgot about it. But I am glad you found a class you like enough to realize how important those corrections are. I never minded being corrected though since the exercise always feels so different once I’m doing it right, and I want to get the most out of it.

    ALSO it seems like me or whoever else you take classes with is really “good at it” but we’re not. I get corrected in every Refine class, often on exercises I do all the time and think I know perfectly. Everyone can always stand to be corrected so try and remember that you are not being singled out!

    And YES to rolling shoulders back. In spin, at Refine, it is always the #1 thing to keep in mind because we are so used to being hunched over at our desks all day.

  2. Shauna

    Ahhhhh corrections. A topic so close to my heart.

    I’ve had a similar journey. When I started Dailey Method, I felt like a teacher magnet. TDM is very correction heavy and it seemed like I was being called out and physically manipulated constantly. I felt super conspicuous and embarrassed. As I gained confidence, I gradually became more grateful for the feedback. I always recognized its value but I was too uncofortable with my fitness level to want the attention. Now that I am fit and secure, I rarely get corrections and I miss it!

    In my work as a voice teacher, I give constant feedback along similar lines. When I work with beginners (or any student, really), I often reference the feelings I had in my early fitness classes!

  3. fiona

    I love corrections, especially in yoga. Actually, good corrections in yoga make the pose feel even better, because you start to feel something new in the pose – more openness or lightness, and less force, and you can keep working towards it. It’s almost like getting a taste of a future you. I had an instructor hold my hips in right position in half moon once, assuring me she wouldn’t let me fall, and it was insane the difference in how it felt.

  4. Heather (Where's the Beach)

    I come from a background of ballet where you are constantly corrected. You want it and need it so I learned to appreciate it. I want to know if I’m doing something wrong. But I definitely think it has to be done correctly too. You want an instructor to help you but not make you feel criticized.

  5. Linda

    I actually expect form correction at most of my classes. It’s hard to get the form right in group fitness classes (as opposed to private classes). I found that the form corrections really make a big difference. I’m glad you have come to realize the benefits of the corrections (<– that makes me sound like an old lady patting you on the head, ugh).

  6. Maureen

    There was this yoga class that I went to for about a year and the instructor never offered corrections. Which is fine, it’s just not her style I guess. When I started taking class with other instructors that did offer corrections, it completely changed my practice. I definitely prefer instructors who are more subtle/gentle with their corrections. There was one class I took recently where the instructor was fairly vocal/aggressive, and it actually made me uncomfortable. I haven’t been back to that class since.

  7. Logan @ Mountains and Miles

    I love it when fitness instructors, especially in yoga, are hands-on. Correcting my hip alignment and things like that is SO much easier when they physically show me. I don’t mind corrections – I know it’s just making me better!

  8. Mandi | No Apathy Allowed

    I also used to really hate being corrected in any kind of fitness class — it usually made me feel self-conscious, and like maybe I shouldn’t be there, pretending to be fit. But I’ve noticed lately that those days are gone. Maybe it’s because after practicing yoga for a couple of years at home, where I didn’t know if I was completely doing the poses right, I really welcome being corrected in group classes now. Especially if the instructor has a gentle touch that can guide me into the right place. Magic! Now I actually look forward to her corrections! Funny how that works. 🙂

  9. Naomi

    One of the things I love about group fitness classes is that the instructor makes corrections. I almost feel neglected when they don’t walk over to correct me because I know I’m likely not doing something correctly. I appreciate their guidance and it usually makes all the difference in the world, especially with yoga.

  10. Sarah

    I used to HATE being called out in group fitness classes, and then I realized I wasn’t being “called out”, the instructor was only trying to help. It took me a while too, but now I love feedback.

    My favorite instructors are the ones who really get to know their class. I am moving soon, so I am really sad to leave a few classes because the instructors and other participants have become friends. But I guess choosing a home solely based on a gym is unreasonable 🙁 Hopefully I’ll make new friends at my new gym.

  11. Jen

    While I like corrections when done respectfully, I also have to remind myself that a correction does not equate to a “you suck” and someone else being complimented does not mean I’m failing. I think it goes to the whole, “don’t take things so personally” idea that can be a struggle at times. Especially in a class full of fit, toned women!

  12. Eleonora

    Excellent post! I have to say that there are corrections and then there are corrections. I love going to Barry’s and Core Fusion because instructors there make corrections in an effort to improve form and help the student get the most out of the pose. Those corrections are much needed and much appreciated. When they come around and help you squat lower or lift higher, that is both motivating and prevents you from slacking off in really tough moves! However, there are other places in the city (i.e. Refine Method) where the focus is not really on improving the student’s form but more on just nonstop corrections that seem to be more based on the instructors’ arrogance than anything else.

  13. Tracey

    Until I started doing yoga I had a fear of being “called out” and corrected during group ex classes. I’m painfully shy and have some issues about needing to please and do everything “right” (don’t worry, I’m in therapy for it :)). But when I found a yoga studio that did gentle corrections, both hands on and verbal, I saw the benefit of it and how it deepened my practice. I like to think that I would bring that realization into other classes, though right now I’m just jogging and practicing yoga.

  14. Jessica R

    I tend to be overly sensitive so it took me a while to get over myself in yoga classes whenever I was corrected. I welcome it now because I like getting deeper into a pose and doing it the “right” ways tends to help.

  15. Sandy H.

    You’re totally right! Those little cues and movements make such a big difference in your experience of the pose.

    As a yoga instructor, I always make sure my students are ok with “Adjustments” before I put my hands on them, especially when I know the adjustment is going to be strong.

    Also, we call them “adjustments” and not “corrections” because there is possibly nothing “incorrect” about a pose. A good adjustment can deepen your experience of a pose, no matter if you’re super bendy or as stiff as a steel rod. I’ve taken whole workshops on learning how to use my hands, my eyes, and my words to do this–a really fascinating part of teaching!

  16. Sheena

    If done correctly, I think it’s ok. For me it’s not an ego thing, not wanting them to correct me, but more of a flexibility/injury issue. I’ve had too many instances where a teacher is trying to push or pull me into the pose, but my body just isn’t as flexible as I want it to be (my hips and hamstrings are EXTREMELY tight, so I go as deep ingot he pose as I possibly can, but if they force it more, it’s extremely painful and I’ve strained a tendon before because of it)

  17. Melissa

    Last night, my yoga instructor made some major adjustments/corrections to me during class – in pigeon pose, a pose I thought I was really good at! Turns out, for years, my hips have been misaligned – leading to a really good stretch in my hips/piriformis, but it wasn’t exactly what the pose was supposed to be. It just shows that you never stop learning – and why yoga is a practice, not an art!

  18. Jen Correa @ Mom's Gotta Run

    It’s so funny because when they do correct me, I feel like it’s because I stand out as doing a bad job. But when they correct others and not me, I feel like I’m just so bad that it’s not worth fixing. Hmm, yea. I’m going to work on my group fitness class self esteem now. 🙂

  19. Steph

    There’s are a few Zumba teachers in NY like Ben Byrd at Equinox who love to single out folks near the front with corrections that are somewhere between funny and super-aggressive. Yeesh. I love corrections in yoga as they really help my alignment, but being berated when shakin’ it takes me out of my head and tightens me up. Could be though, as you say, Theodora, so much is in your attitude in receiving, so with that in mind I’ll loosen up and try to flow with it next time 🙂 Great post. Thanks!

  20. Jess

    I totally know where you’re coming from — it’s hard *not* to think a correction is a sign of failure or that you suck at life (haha). BUT if done correctly, a slight adjustment can make the world of a difference. When I correct a client during class, I do so gently, without any fanfare, and in a way that shows intent and helps the client get even more out of the move. I’d never want them to feel like I was picking on them or adjusting them merely to adjust them. I do so with care. I think that’s important as a fitness instructor to always remember -do so with intention but also with care. I even try to make a point of telling newbies that I’m not correcting them or picking on them because they’re new, I correct clients who have been coming to class for months or even years — it’s not just a ‘new client’ thing at all. (wow, long-winded response, woops!)

    1. Theodora Post author

      Oh, I bet you are a wonderful instructor at doing adjustments, and those are the kind of adjustments I like!


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