Looking down from her own exercise bike, Senior Liv Mitchell encourages her participants, reminding them of their strength.
A group exercise instructor at Elon University since her freshman year, Mitchell is passionate about the community she creates in a workout class. The most normal of days feel special, she said, knowing that her students take the time to come work out.
The motivation goes both ways — on a day when she was feeling down, her students were her inspiration.
“Everyone was definitely uplifting my spirits and made it a lot easier for me to teach,” Mitchell said. “It was just such a party and we had such a good time. So many girls came up to me at the end and they were like, ‘That was so much fun.’ It just completely changed my day.”
The group exercise classes — also known as Group X — are Campus Recreation and Wellness programs and change every semester according to their popularity and students’ instructor preferences, according to Elon senior Emma Scott Singletary, a yoga and pilates instructor.
While Group X instructors direct a workout class, they understand the fine line between fostering a safe environment and pushing participants to reach their full potential.
Singletary said she often studies YouTube and IGTV workouts to diversify her routines each week.
“I would describe planning a workout class like a bell curve,” Singletary said. “You start slow, work your way up to the peak, and then your peak is your hardest challenge.”
Even though she comes to class with a routine prepared, Singletary said she will reassess her plan if the participants have a request for what they want to focus on that day.
Some classes are easier than others to lead on the fly.
“With practice comes more consistency, and so my yoga classes, like a normal yoga flow class, I just pull that out of thin air,” Singletary said. “That’s because I’m so comfortable teaching.”
Mitchell has learned an instructor’s attitude is just as important to creating an engaging class as the ability to teach on the fly.
“You can teach how to teach a class, or you can teach technique, but it’s way harder to teach that kind of charisma and spunk,” Mitchell said.
The key to keeping her class upbeat, Mitchell said, is her music choices. The majority of her weekly planning is researching new music and making playlists.
As a more rhythmic teacher, Mitchell believes it’s important that the beat of the song is sustainable so her participants aren’t at risk of falling behind. If Mitchell herself falls behind, she feels it’s much better to unite the class over a small mistake than try to cover it up.
“I really like to show humility when I have made a mistake,” Mitchell said. “Just because I know, as a participant, you know, watching an instructor make a mistake, it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s OK if I mess up too.’”
The instructors’ efforts have not gone unnoticed. Last semester, Singletary gained a following, teaching a full class with a waitlist every Wednesday. Singletary said she was able to create lasting relationships with many of her frequent participants.
“Those students will come up to me after and be like, ‘What are you teaching next semester?’ or, ‘I loved your playlist, could you text it to me?’” Singletary said.
For senior Alex Pirsos, the social element of a Group X class is almost as important to her as the physical element of the workout. With her social life limited because of the pandemic, getting to know other regular attendees and becoming familiar with her favorite instructors provides community.
Reaching their goals as a group, she said, is much better than working out alone in her room. Pirsos appreciates how her instructors are engaged and willing to receive feedback.
“I just logged on the other day, and they have some HIIT class, and they have some new strengthening classes,” Pirsos said.”It’s nice to see from their perspective that they’re pushing themselves to try out new things as well.”