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3 Classic (and Hilarious) Types of Fitness Instructors

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I’ve been to a bunch of group fitness classes since I started taking an interest in my health about a year and a half ago. They range from Belly Dancing in Saint Petersburg, Russia, to Pilates for PE credit at school, to the intense full-body “Power” class I’ve been attending lately (along with the greater Princeton area’s middle-aged moms and college kids—all way fitter than me).

Having sampled so many classes, I can usually tell fairly quickly if an instructor is for me or not. That is, I’m fluent in the language of Fitness Instructorian.

Fitness Instructorian a la Nina*

1. The Perky Pixie. It is readily apparent that this fitness instructor, weighing in at about 5’2″ and 100 pounds is a veritable ball of energy. She smiles all the time, even when leading you through squats in the bottom half of your range.  Her butt-length hair bounces around while she tells you, in crazy fitness language, to “walk the curb,” or “clean and press,” leaving the newbs of the class confused. And she doesn’t hesitate to put the cheese on when she peeps, “Alright! Memorial Day Sunday! You are here for YOU! Not anybody else! This is the only time of the week you can say that! Let’s all cheer! WHEEEEEEEEEE!”

2. The Untouchable. Not that any fitness instructor has a less-than-enviable body, but the Untouchables are just pure gods and goddesses. You notice their lack of sweat while being aware of every drop beading on your own forehead or seeping through your clothing in embarrassing locales. They might poke a little goodhearted fun at those who try to take a stealthy break. Untouchables use extra risers. Extra weights. They do the tougher variation the whole time. Sure, they’re fitness instructors, but they’re also superhuman. You consider voicing your admiration after class, but you just can’t seem to get near them without choking up. Or maybe you’re just embarrassed about how broken you are after their class.

3. The Cool Sibling. Yeah, this instructor rocks the bod and walks the walk, but does she talk the (fitness) talk? Sort of. Usually you find yourself laughing when taking a class with the cool sibling because she’ll be making jokes about the techno version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” that accompanies your lateral lunges. You don’t feel as self-conscious in this class because you can imagine that your instructor was a fitness misfit like you once, but somehow this often translates to you not working as hard… so you Facebook stalk your instructor when you get home to show your devotion and mask your guilt.


I can’t say that any one group is my favorite, although I do tend to stay away from Perky Pixies. Somehow, anyone who smiles their way through an entire song while doing push-ups seems a tad masochistic to me. But some perkiness is definitely in order—it feels great to be praised after the end of a  long workout when you’ve put in the effort. I definitely appreciate instructors who are “real” and who show their sense of humor to the class, breaking down that superhuman aura they exude. I guess this means that, to me, the perfect instructor exhibits qualities of each group—the Goldilocks of instructors, if you will.

What’s important to note is that an instructor who isn’t hip to your fitness jive shouldn’t reflect on your overall group-fitness experience. Group fitness classes were how I was introduced to working out, and I still rely on them to give me extra motivation (and fun!) a couple times a week. What’s your ideal group fitness instructor like? —Nina Jankowicz


*If you’re a fitness instructor, don’t worry, I’m only stereotyping you for the amusement of my readers. You rock my world! No matter which group you fall in…

Nina Jankowicz is a 22-year-old grad student in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at Georgetown University. Russia and Eastern Europe may seem an odd companion to the health and fitness world, but in fact, she joined a gym for the first time while studying abroad in Russia. Her Russian weight-gain/overeating in the name of culture was a big factor in leading her to pursue a healthier lifestyle. Nina’s health and fitness interests include: group fitness (particularly Pilates), running (training for her first 5k coming up in November!), eco-friendly lifestyles, healthy home cooking and organic/local foods. Follow Nina on Twitter (she’ll actually be hosting the #FitBlog chat tonight!) and on her blog Sweating It.

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1 Comment
  1. Billy Blanks is the greatest fitness instructor of all time. He gets his own category.

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