Happy Mother’s Day blog friends!  I hope you all had a wonderful day and honored your moms and were honored by your kids.  Our moms are both out of the area so we had a pretty low key day.  We were so low key we just had veggie omelettes for dinner.  Fast, delicious, lean protein and an excuse to eat buttered toast at dinner.  Winning!

Is that phrase old yet? Can I still say winning?

I subbed a class this morning at one of my local clubs.  I’ve learned a lot about human nature from working at this particular club.  Generally, people don’t like change.  This is tricky because every instructor is different — especially if the teachers are certified by different companies.  A Joseph Pilates certification will produce a different instructor than a Stott Pilates certification.  A Zumba instructor with a dance background will be different than a Zumba instructor with a strictly aerobics background. If you pinch hit for an instructor who’s out of town or ill, your class will be different than their usual workout and you stand a good chance of not being welcome.

That’s tough to deal with.  No matter how many times great people like Chalene Johnson or Beto Perez remind me to leave my ego at the door when it comes to teaching, I really believe that any instructor who truly loves his or her job cannot completely do that.  Your class is a manifestation of your talent, time, energy, passion and personality.  So if people don’t like it… guess what?  It STINGS.  It’s hard not to take it personally.

For those of you who, like me, had absolutely no background in teaching fitness but got into group exercise instruction because you happened to fall in love with Zumba or Body Pump or Body Combat or Turbo Kick… it’s a different world to adjust to.  You assume if you’re prepared, nice, energetic and friendly people will love the format you offer as much as you do.  Usually, that’s exactly what happens.  But not always.

So here’s what I’ve learned as an instructor about subbing and die hard allegiance to group ex formats.

1.  Get on clubs’ sub list. 

If you want a Zumba instructor job (or any group ex job) and no one is giving you a shot, you need to pay your dues by subbing. It’s an important way to gain experience and prove trustworthiness. Email the group ex director of every club within a close radius and ask if they need another sub on their list.  The answer is YES. They ALWAYS need another sub.  However, you may be able to get a job just by being on the sub list.  My first real instructor job came to me because I asked to be on a sub list and a month after I auditioned and filled out my paperwork, one of their instructors quit.  They put me on the regular schedule immediately — and I’d never subbed a single class there.  Getting on the list is the first step.

Then, obviously, sub, sub, sub!  You will get tons of opportunities around holidays and school events.  Sometimes an instructor will call you directly to sub, other times you’ll just get an email sent to the group.  It helps if you’re an obsessive email checker like me (thank you smart phones!) so you can pounce on the email right away.  First come, first served when it comes to subbing.

Here’s the catch, so listen up:

2. When in Rome, teach like a Roman.

Sometimes, a club will do anything possible to avoid canceling a class. Maybe they’ll substitute a PiYo class in for a yoga or pilates class.  However, PiYo is not like either of those formats.  If you have a class full of die-hard yoginis and you show up with PiYo, you are likely to have very disappointed students.  And if they’re vocal, you will feel awful when they rip you and your format apart.  I confess, I assumed that because I like PiYo better than plain pilates or yoga, everyone else would too.  That’s not the case.  So my choice was to insist on teaching my beloved format that people didn’t like or adjust to their tastes and teach what they enjoyed.  In order to be successful, I decided to honor the “when in Rome” principle.  When subbing, I try to make my class as similar to the regular instructor’s as I can.  In my class, I get to do what I want.

Now, before I sub, I try to find out as much as possible about the class.  What is their fitness level? Are they an easy-going group willing to try new things or do they resist change to the usual class?  What are some of the things they’re working on in class?What kind of music do they like? This is especially important in Zumba — my playlist is almost all reggaeton and hip hop and the over 50 crowd does not care for this much.

The last time I subbed at this particular club, it was… um, not a success.  As in, people yelled at me.  This morning, I stuck to doing things their way and I ended the class with smiles from everyone and several wonderful compliments.  Learn from my mistakes, grasshoppers.