Best Night Out

Seven Practical Steps to Make Your Fitness Class the Best Night Out

by Susanna Kalnes


To some people, there is nothing more to a fitness class than what meets the eye. There’s an instructor in the room, perhaps some equipment and, of course, a lot of physical activity. Individuals attend classes looking to improve their health, get a nice sweat going and leave feeling accomplished. That’s the gym to them—nothing more, nothing less. “Meh!”  

But what if I told you that there are little things—simple things—that you can do as an instructor to take your fitness class from “meh” to “marvelous”? What if I told you that, by following these seven steps, you can create an atmosphere that not only draws your students into classes more regularly (growing your numbers), but also makes your class the best night out of the week? The tips I’ve outlined here are effective tactics I’ve learned from fitness celebrities, seasoned instructors, and many of my own students! Perhaps you practice some of them already…but are you doing them all?

I remember the first time I met fitness celebrity Chalene Johnson. I was out in Los Angeles auditioning to be an Area Promotions Director for her company, Powder Blue Productions (she’s now Master Trainer for Beachbody®). When she walked into the room to teach a fitness class, I was absolutely blown away by her appearance. Her outfit was trendy, her hair was curled and sprayed to perfection, and her makeup was impeccable. I remember thinking, “But you are just going to get sweaty!”

Over time, I realized just how important that encounter was. Johnson explained to me that “fitness instructor” is a profession just like any other. You’d want to look your very best for any job, and fitness is no exception. Her appearance itself made her class start to feel like something bigger than just an hour-long workout. It started to feel like a party. 

We’ve all heard the expression, “fashionably late,” right? But being fashionably late to a celebration is not so fashionable if you are the one hosting the party! All too often, I see fitness instructors roll into the gym 2 minutes before their class begins. They show up looking unorganized, frantic and highly unprofessional. Don’t be that instructor! When you are teaching a fitness class, be the first person to arrive and the first person to step foot in the room. Be prepared, be present, and use the extra time before class to tackle tips three and four. 

If you were hosting a party at your house, you’d spend some time cleaning and making sure that your home looked as welcoming as possible. The same thing goes if you are teaching a fitness class. 

I recently had the opportunity to present at a big fitness conference. When I arrived 30 minutes prior to my class, I noticed all sorts of clutter. Towels, old water bottles and flyers were all over the floor. The space looked messy. So I threw out the trash and eliminated all of the extra towels. A half-hour later when people entered the room, they walked into a very clean and welcoming space, not a messy one. And that’s exactly the impression I wanted to give. 


There is absolutely nothing worse than walking into a fitness room to the sound of complete silence. Am I right? I can almost hear the crickets chirping now…

Let me be frank. When your students enter a silent room, it’s awkward! It’s awkward for them, it’s awkward for you, and it’s even awkward for the crickets—ha! When a fitness room is quiet, people tend to keep to themselves, look down at their phones, or sit in the corner being antisocial. 

When you turn on some great music before they arrive, they walk into a lively room that encourages socializing. Think of it this way: If you were hosting a “night out” with your friends, you’d turn on the music first…so why not do so for 
your class? 

This tip is quite simple but also very important. At a social gathering in your own home, would you greet your guests at the door or leave the door open and meet them in the living room? My guess is the former. So why not do the same in your group exercise class? 

When you arrive at the gym, after tidying up and turning on the music, stand by the door and wait for your guests so you can welcome them as they arrive. What a great way to make people feel welcome and comfortable.

You might have all the friends in the world, but there’s always room for more, especially at the gym. When hosting a party, you’d introduce yourself to new guests. It’s no different in your fitness class. Get to know your students sooner rather than later! 

Once you get to know your students, they feel more accountable to show up. They plan to be there because they know that if they skip a class, you will want to know where they were and why they missed. So when you get to know your students, you end up being a friend and a fitness accountability partner at the same time. And to me, those are the best kind of friends! 

This is perhaps the most important of the seven tips you will read today. Once you know your students, start introducing them to each other. Find common interests, discuss current events, or talk about whatever you’d like to get them to connect with one another. Once your students become friends with each other, they will view your class as more than just a workout. It will become a social hour with their friends. And that, in a nutshell, is how you turn your class into the best night out of the week! AF

Meet our experts

AFM-author-Kalnes Susanna Kalnes, is a freelance writer, TV host, motivational speaker, and AFAA certified fitness instructor based in Chicago. For more information, visit

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