“You Have the Most Popular Classes Here?!”

After taking my Wednesday night athletic conditioning class at my gym in San Francisco, an inquisitive new student asked me: Are your classes always this big?

I smiled and let her know that it was the most popular class at the space. Shocked, she shot back: You have the most popular classes here?!

She seemed to be insinuating that I was not that great of a trainer. I awkwardly laughed it off and shrugged my shoulders in similar disbelief. Because she was right.

I am a good trainer, but I am by no means a great trainer. My class is the most popular somewhat because I am the owner. But, mostly, it is because I focus on building connection and community.

What I am great at is using the yogi power of vyana vayu to create a deep connection among myself, the members and their experiences. Trainers and fitness instructors, you can use this force to fortify your training sessions and classes too.

Anyone can bark at a group to do burpees. The most successful trainers and fitness instructors recognize that clients and students are not only seeking their services to receive instruction, but also to receive human interaction.

The Big Yogi, workout community

Trainers and fitness instructors, create opportunities for your clients and students to exercise their individual and collective body with these three principles of connection:

  1. Interaction
    Create an atmosphere that is fun and social. I usually start class with introductions and high-fives all around and end it with partner work to challenge members to get outside of themselves and to get to know one another.Creating a strong, supportive and fun community feels good, and people want to be around what makes them feel good. Life is hard enough. Training and fitness do not have to be dreadful too. They can be challenging and fun at the same time – just like life.
  1. Joy
    I thoroughly enjoy what I do – and I show it. Connecting with my joy for inspiring others to be healthy and happy enables me to be present so that I can initiate the community-building. If I am the leader in the room, the community vibe has to start with me.

    I let members know that I care about their health and happiness by actively listening to them before, during and after class. I also encourage them to interact with one another, as the endorphins from exercise offer them a potentially rare opportunity to experience feeling great while in community.
  1. Service
    The most successful trainers and fitness instructors are not the ones who know everything or are in the best shape. They are the ones who focus on serving their clients and students.

The secret is to not make the training sessions and classes about you. Instead, make them about the clients and students. When they show up, it is their time. Build community around your offerings to it – not around yourself.

A good trainer gets clients coming back for their program. A great trainer gets clients coming back for the community around it. A group of connected people always will be more powerful in creating lasting change in themselves and their lives than a group of independent individuals.

The movement for more connection is already here. All of the popular brands right now in fitness have one thing in common: They build community. They are not necessarily the best workouts or the best classes, but they deliver the best experiences.

Get people in the door by offering what they think they want: a workout. Then, get them to stay by delivering what they really want: connection and community.


Want to learn how to cultivate community in your classes or training sessions? Connect with The Big Yogi to observe a class or to receive private coaching for trainers and fitness instructors.

A Maur Unity collaboration, edited by Maura Bogue

Nick Palladino teaches students and clients how to reduce stress, to increase happiness and to elevate health through yoga, wellness coaching and strength training.
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