To take a leaf out of the food industry’s book, we’re always searching for ‘the bliss point’, the perfect ratio of salty and sweet and without exception finding the right group fitness instructor is what keeps us coming back for more. The ones that are able to strike a balance between charisma and competence are the ones that leave us energized after each session. Undoubtedly, the right instructor is key to the satisfaction of clients in a group class, and the connection with coaches is one of the biggest reasons why people show up consistently to classes. New research by MINDBODY showed that one in five people (20%) say that PTs or fitness instructors are the most important factor when it comes to sticking to a new routine, but just 4% claim to have found their perfect instructor. This article dives into the main reasons why clients leave their trainers based on our research,  in hopes that it would reveal the traits of the elusive group fitness instructor who has the right combination of know-how and personality.

Reason 1: Personality was off-putting

Contrary to popular belief, the classic on-screen instructors with loud and over-the-top personalities seem to be disfavored over charismatic ones with warm personalities. Research shows that the biggest contributing factor to overall satisfaction with a group fitness instructor was ‘contagious energy’.Our research shows, 27% of respondents said that what matters most in a great group fitness instructor is a friendly personality. Unanimously, it seems that clarity in communication and a charisma are traits to look out for when it comes to choosing the right instructor.

Reason 2: Failed to understand their specific needs

People show up to a group class wanting different things from it, so trainers are expected to be effective problem solvers. Everyone likes a bit of personalized attention, and there’s no exception when it comes to finding a group class trainer who takes interest in each individual and is able to gauge their exact needs. When it comes to finding the right fit, 22% said that the key characteristic of a good instructor is someone who can wear many hats; which implies that they can play different roles and act as a friend, accountability partner or even a counselor if need be.

Reason 3: Lacked a sense of professionalism

In an attempt to persuade clients into taking more classes, trainers can fall into the trap of getting too personal with clients. A successful group trainer is highly qualified and recognized in the fitness industry as well as among clients for being a professional who commands respect. In fact, punctuality, preparation and professionalism were ranked as the most important trait by 14% of the study’s participants.

Reason 4: Clients felt judged/shamed

The ability to motivate shouldn’t be conflated with the tendency to push people and make them feel inferior for not being able to keep up with the group. Group class trainers should be able to assess the diverse fitness levels in a class and have respect for each one to institute a routine that will push their limits without risking injury. Unsurprisingly, 12% said that patience was the most important trait, so the ability to meet members where they are and have empathy for their needs, is crucial to client retention.

Reason 5: Exercise routine was boring and repetitive

Although it’s important to bring expertise in a narrow field to the table, trainers who create routines that strictly adhere to a single style have low levels of fulfillment, as their classes are found to be too restrictive and monotonous. According to the study, 10% said that versatility was a key factor in determining how engaged they felt in a group class.The best teachers are learners, and are also the ones that are able to judge which routines will resonate with clients and which will not. Coaches, who are well-informed in diverse styles of training, are able to keep a finger on the pulse and switch things up when necessary. Ultimately, the ones that seek to constantly up skill despite having many years of experience in the industry are the ones that are able to tweak their craft to create something brand new.

The research claims that traits that customers look for most in a group fitness instructor include a friendly and approachable personality, energetic presence and professionalism. However in today’s ever-changing consumer landscape, a fit and strong body combined with a successful social media presence seems to be attracting more clientele than integrity.

The only way forward is craft more personalized and targeted offerings and stay on top of the game, by consistently testing out different strategies and measuring engagement with clients. Ultimately, it comes down to the way coaches are able to build trust with their clients, and trust is built through two things: competence and character.

The question remains, competence or character: which is more important?