Emily Cox, Pilates instructor, tells us how she has adapted to delivering classes online.

Going online is a hot topic for instructors right now – keeping classes running during this crisis is a real challenge. Many instructors have worked hard to get their classes online.  Emily, who is also a business development executive at EMD UK shares her experiences with us –

I’ve been a Pilates teacher for 6 years and have built my business through classes and engaging with participants. Now that face-to-face interaction isn’t an option, I had to adapt.

When considering taking my classes online I knew I wanted to have a closed group.  As I already had experience of ‘Zoom’ for online meetings, I needed to think about how it would work as a way of delivering live virtual fitness classes

I had so many questions I needed to answer before I started planning the launch of my virtual classes:

  • Do I run my classes as a one-way or two-way format?
  • Mic on or off?
  • Do I use a waiting room? How long should the sessions be?
  • Do I play music and if so what licenses do I need?
  • How do I make sure the sound quality is good so I can be heard clearly?
  • Does my insurance with EMD UK cover me to teach online and through all methods and style of delivery?
  • Which of my classes would work as a virtual live class?
  • What days and times do I run classes?
  • Will people actually want to join one of my classes?!

Setting my classes up

To answer these questions and build my confidence, I started by connecting with local studios I knew were already starting to take their classes online to see how they were setting this up. Everyone was so helpful, willing to share their knowledge and experience with me. Special shout out to Kirsty at Sweat Studios and Karen/Dan at Northants Pilates who were a great help with this.

I then joined the Facebook group ‘zoom and fitness instructors UK’ – which has some great tips for setting up virtual classes as well as sharing mistakes or things that went really well.  I also tried some online classes as a participant in styles I would be teaching (e.g. Pilates, yoga, barre).

I knew it was important to contact EMD UK to check I was covered for all methods of delivery.  I could then tailor my style of delivery based on feedback from my class participants.  The EMD UK website has some really useful tips and information on setting up online classes. UK

I purchased a Bluetooth mic and a wide-angle lens for my laptop to optimise what participants can see and hear. I then decided to offer friends and family a free trial of my two main teaching disciplines, which gave me the opportunity to explore the Zoom functions. Despite a few minor technical issues, the sessions went really well.  I’d recommend any instructor does some trial online classes prior to launching to iron out any technical problems and to understand what it’s like to deliver online

I surveyed my trial classes and gained valuable insight on their experience, what classes they might like (days/times/duration/fees) – so I could plan my class schedule for the launch week.

Finally, I researched online booking systems and payment options, as I wanted a simple, cost effective and easy to manage process.  Do your research as costs and terms of usage can vary significantly.  All payment systems take a cut of each transaction so try and factor this into your class fees.

How I run my online classes

  1. Prior to any classes I send participants a PAR-Q (Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire) form and start the class with a verbal disclaimer.
  1. I set all my classes up as a one-way interaction format with the camera disabled and all participants muted on entry. I give the option at the start for two-way interaction (camera only) if participants would like some feedback on their form, but also remind them that everyone in the group may be able to see them too (in case they are still in their PJs!). I like to be able to see people but giving them the option builds up their confidence, particularly if they are new to online workouts or the exercises being taught.
  1. I wear a Bluetooth mic and my participants have said they can always hear me really clearly.
  1. I do not need to pay any music licence fees as I don’t play music for my Pilates or Barre classes. Participants can always play their own music if they choose.
  1. Enabling the ‘waiting room’ in my Zoom classes ensures only people who have paid are able to access the class and also allows you to welcome them into the class when you are ready to start.
  1. I usually aim to send my Zoom invite any time between 4 -12 hours before the class starts and then check an hour before class to see if I have any late bookings (not forgetting the PAR-Q form).
  1. I am starting to unmute participants at the end of the class to say hi and also switch their cameras if they wish. This is so I can thank people for joining me and they can start to interact with other participants who might attend the classes regularly.

How have I felt during the process?

Initially I was a bit apprehensive as it seemed like such a lot of work. My brain hurt at just the thought of getting my head around the technology, let alone the insurance and licencing rules! Having taught in gyms or studios for a number of years, I wondered if I could I actually do this as a lone instructor. I do however always enjoy a new challenge and having seem local fitness studios adapt them pretty quickly I told myself ‘if they can do it, I can!’.

Working out the technology continues to give me a bit of anxiety. I wanted to figure out the basics, and speaking to others, reading tips and FAQs from EMD UK and reading instructor forums on Facebook really helped.

I next started to worry if anyone would actually book onto my classes, so it was very rewarding when I started getting bookings.  I have worked hard to set this up and teaching from home hasn’t been as strange as I thought it might be. I love my job as an instructor and during the week I didn’t teach I felt I had lost part of my identity. I am so grateful that we now have the tools to connect with others in a virtual way.  Most of all however, I am grateful to every single person who chooses to spend some time with me by booking onto one of my classes.

Things I have learnt

Just GO FOR IT.  It is new to us all and honestly the best way to see if it works is to get stuck in. I hope long term to make a success of my new online classes as they allow me to increase my earning potential by offering more options and reaching a wider audience.

I’m lucky to have some really supportive friends, family, work colleagues and existing clients who have booked on to my classes and given me the boost of confidence I needed.  I have also been reminded how wonderful it is to work in the health and fitness industry alongside individuals who are tenacious, hardworking and beyond everything else passionate about what they do. It is truly inspiring.

To any group exercise instructors out there who are wondering ‘Should they? Could they?’ this situation could be with us a for a long time and delivering your classes online does have benefits, both now and in the future.  As Emily says, there is a lot of information and help available, plus the Support Team at EMD UK are ready to answer any further questions you may have.

Our new Virtual Instructor Platform could help make the process a lot simpler for you –  it’s free for instructors and personal trainers to use and to potentially reach a much wider online audience.