Is Discipline Important in Group Fitness?

Having been a dancer, dance teacher, choreographer, creative director, athlete, and currently completing further group fitness/personal trainer study, I definitely feel qualified to open up this topic. Somewhere along the way in our pursuit of a variety of options to choose from to be physical and get fit, the notion of discipline seems to have lost its central role. Discipline now sits at two opposing ends of the spectrum, those being either, all work and no play, or all play and no work.

I find myself in many group fitness classes where I am not being corrected, and I look around and see the majority of the class performing exercises incorrectly, many are just a major injury waiting to happen at any minute, others are contributing to lifelong problems with posture, hips, knees, ankles… Not only is correct form and technique not being addressed, many instructors are so busy trying to use their multiple technologies, perform the exercises, stay connected to working microphones, while verbally instructing, motivating, and encouraging, they are not even observing their students in order to correct them. There may be slightly less of an obligation placed on a group fitness instructor over a personal trainer to correct form and technique, but any time an instructor notices incorrect form and technique, as part of good service and discipline, it should be corrected. During a small break, or even at the end of the class would be fine.

Add to this, a competitive market where we all want to feel included (and rightly so), in this respect, organisations seem to be backing off on correcting people, possibly in order not to upset people or lose clientele. I understand this from a business model perspective, I really do. I do not understand this from an ethical, safety, health, effective instruction, ‘discipline’ point of view.

If you are avoiding correcting people to save them from injury or illness and to improve their results, in order to keep clients coming no matter what, fitness might be the wrong business. If people didn’t need discipline, correction, encouragement, or motivation, it’s highly unlikely they would be seeking the services of a personal trainer or a group fitness class.

While I appreciate and understand many people come in social groups to a group fitness class, and this is a great way to motivate each other when managed effectively by the class leader, it seems that much of the required discipline to effectively participate in, learn from, and start seeing results from, is left on the side with the towel and water bottle. What I mean by this is, the ‘social group’ continues during the class with off-topic chatting, talking, giggling, and even time-out sitting down to discuss personal things in class time.

This makes learning and progress for yourself very difficult. This contributes to the whole class being affected by the ‘demotivated’ bug, once one person starts slacking off, it’s like a contagious wave, it spreads across the class. Everyone’s group fitness class becomes 10 times more difficult when dealing with a lack of discipline in class time. Further, it’s disrespectful to other class members and the instructor.

On the flip side, there are a few group fitness classes out there, so hard in their discipline (think army training level discipline – which I have absolutely no issue with, and think is critical for the formation, development, and maintenance of long term discipline, once a student has learned the ropes, so to speak) they scare off newbies in five minutes, never to be seen again.

It seems you can either choose a half-arsed effort as an uncorrected participant in a bodyweight group fitness class, or be hit over the head with 100kg worth of plates and 1000 burpees. Personally, if I’m paying for or investing in classes, I expect to be watched by an instructor periodically for the purposes of being corrected. I expect to be shown how to execute exercises. I expect to be given some quick one on one advice if I am obviously struggling with the move/exercise. I expect to develop my motivation and technique. I expect to see results. I expect if another person stops the class for selfish reasons (talking, checking phones etc.) that they are reminded to get back on track during class time. I expect consequences for my actions, good or bad. I expect each person in the class is spaced evenly to give each other the required space, and failing this, I expect the instructor to show people where to stand to achieve this, to avoid half the class being forced to exercise up the wall or in a corner.


1.Class is organised and set up to start on time, and the instructor provides a strong, positive, and informative welcome

2.The class is not overcrowded, and people are evenly spaced

3.Warm up

4.Exercises are explained, special attention is given to new starters

5.Incorrect form and technique is corrected to avoid injury and illness

6.The instructor glances over your performance several times during class

7.If music is involved, as it mostly is in indoor group fitness classes, the instructor must be able to count bars of music, and know where the bars start and end for changing combinations

8.Instructions are clear, understandable, and delivered with enough time to change the combination/exercise effectively

9.Options are given for differing fitness abilities and/or due to injury or rehabilitation

10.Lack of discipline (as mentioned in the above blog) is addressed, the instructor maintains control of the class

11.The instructor motivates and encourages

12.Cool down and stretch

In other words, I expect to be disciplined! And you should be too. Be open to learning and improving!! If your group fitness class is missing the above, find a new class. Let’s get on it team, balanced discipline is the name of the game here. We can still have fun, albeit discplined fun! And after awhile, you’ll be able to play with the 100kg weights and do 1000 burpees easy-peasy. Motvation and discipline equals progress and results.

Here is a great resource, at a great price for you: Discipline Equals Freedom: A Field Manual

Photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels

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