Transitions in Group Fitness - The Roads We Travel
Point A to Point B! Human beings today are very goal-oriented people. We are constantly looking at where we want to go next. This is a “good thing” in order to achieve success in our business careers and personal life. With our daily goals we rarely look at where we ARE (Point A) in comparison to where we want to GO (Point B). That’s because it usually does not matter where we are; all that matters is where we are going. In life this will help you achieve your goal. But in a group fitness class, not focusing on where we are can create a mess. The reason is because in a group fitness class, where there is synchronized movement, it is mandatory to focus on “Point A” BEFORE you plan your steps to “Point B.” So as an instructor, be sure to take a moment and recognize where you are before heading out to where you want to go. This is just like giving driving directions to a friend. You would never give your friend directions to the movie theatre without first telling them where to begin from. Once they know where Point A is, the transition to Point B will make much more sense to them, and to you, as well.
Let Them Figure You Out! Introduce your movements in a way that your students can figure out what you are thinking and where you are going. Most instructors have a fear of boring their students. For this reason they don’t want to be “figured out.” They tend to believe that if the student knows what the instructor’s intentions are before they perform them, then the student will get bored sooner, rather than later. This is not true at all. I tell my trainees to be so methodical and logical in your transition that your students will begin to see where you are going even before you get there. This will help the students follow more safely, perform more effectively, and most importantly as far as I’m concerned, enjoy a feeling of success because they understood the direction of their instructor.
Take it Apart! Someone told me one time that if you want to know how to build anything, then first take it apart piece by piece. At the time they were referring to a car, but the same is true about anything really -- a radio, a computer, a bicycle, and even the human body. When you apply this truth to a group fitness combination, you will improve your transitional skills tremendously. It doesn’t matter what type of combination you are teaching; step or floor aerobics. What matters is that you take it apart piece by piece in order to know how to rebuild it. The rebuilding of it is your transition. All of the pieces taken apart on the floor are Point A, and the finished car is Point B.
What you will find when you take apart a group fitness combination is that it has several types of pieces. You will find a couple Foundational pieces, several Supporting pieces, and a few Creative pieces. Your Foundational pieces are the actual basic leg movements (i.e., grapevine, hamstring curl, basic, over-the-top, knee lift, etc.) Your Supporting pieces are what you do to these Foundational movements, like adding rhythm (singles, doubles, single/single/double, 3 and 1, etc) and adding space changes (moving forward & back, right & left, diagonal, turning circles, etc). And finally, your Creative pieces are what I call the “cherry on top” of it all and are usually the impact (high, low, syncopated, etc.) and style of movement or feel of class (jazz, funky, attitude, claps, marshal art, Latin, etc.).
An effective transition begins by adding the Foundational pieces, followed by the Supporting pieces, and ending with the Creative pieces. This should all be done in an order that is methodical and logical to the students. Your students should be able to figure out what Supporting movement goes with what Foundational movement and what Creative movement goes with what Supporting movement, and so on. There should be no confusion, and that begins with the instructor. Always remember, if the instructor is confused, then they will transition it with confusion. If the instructor is well-practiced and not confused, then they are more likely to be able to transition it with clarity.
Choose Your Speed Well! How fast should you transition into each movement change? In other words, should you add a change every 8 counts of music, every 16 counts of music, or maybe every 32 counts of music? Of course we know that the quicker you change things during transition, the more difficult it will be in both complexity and intensity. Likewise, the slower you change things during transition, the less difficult it will be in both complexity and intensity. This applies to not only the students, but to the instructor as well. So, how fast should you go? Well, that depends on a couple things. First, it will depend on what your class description is: beginner, intermediate, or advanced. Second, it will depend on the teacher’s instructional abilities. Third, it will depend on the students’ abilities.
When I train instructors, I encourage them to think of this process like the roads we travel on with our vehicles. If you have a beginner class or maybe a senior class, I recommend you take the scenic route -- back roads, residential streets, etc. The speed limit is low on these roads and the danger of crashing is reduced. If you have an intermediate or advanced class, I recommend you begin on the back roads and residential roads but then soar onto the highway and freeway to add an exhilarating rush to your students’ experience. Of course, you know that when I say “back roads” I’m really talking about making transitional changes every 32 counts of music or even 64 counts of music, and when I say “highway” I’m really talking about making transitional changes every 4 counts of music, 8 counts of music, and even 16 counts of music.
Choosing your speed of transition is really what determines a beginner class from an advanced class. Your actual finished combinations will determine this too, but not near as much as your transitional speed will. The reason? If you think about a one-hour aerobic class closely you will find that it is 20% combination and 80% transition. With this in mind you can see why good transitional skills are so very important, and without them a group fitness instructor can wreak havoc on an entire workout.
In closing I want to encourage you to work on your transitional skills for not only safety and effectiveness reasons, but for the overall “fun factor” of your class. It’s easy to choose fun combinations and thus get your students to enjoy 20% of your class. The real challenge is to maintain a high fun factor during transition, and thus get your students to enjoy the other 80% of your class, too. If you take the time to pull movements apart and see them in your mind’s eye as separate entities before attempting to put them back together, and then put them back together at a speed that is appropriate for you and your students, then you will have mastered the skills of group fitness transition. From then on you will find that your students will keep coming back for more spectacular exercise, more exhilarating fun, and most importantly, more of YOU.