What’s Going Through Your Fitness Instructor’s Head

Your fitness instructor, coach or trainer is there for you day in and day out. Always encouraging, always positive and always full of energy. You know you can count on their contagious energy, but while they’re taking you through your workout, ever wonder what’s going through their head? Well, I’ve always been curious so I’ve enlisted some of Chicago’s (and one from the ‘burbs) fitness elite to let us know exactly what they’re thinking as they kick our asses. So lets meet the squad.


Sunny Ammons – Instructor/Master Trainer/Personal Trainer at Shred415/Lateral Fitness

Sunny has been a Personal Trainer for six years and spent two of those years teaching fitness classes on an international cruise ship. Sunny does all of her Personal Training out of Lateral Fitness, a beautiful boutique training facility in River North. She is a Master Trainer at Shred415, teaching 13 classes a week and is in charge of recruiting, hiring and training all of the new instructors. She is also Lululemon Ambassador and volunteers with Girls on the Run.


Brent Locey – Instructor at Soul Cycle

Brent has been an instructor at Soul Cycle for more than a year and moved to Chicago to open the first studio in the city April of 2015. Originally from the Washington D.C. area, he found SoulCycle while living in New York City and immediately fell in love with the workout not only for the incredible sweat but also for the one-of-a-kind atmosphere and amazing sense of community. Brent decided to become an instructor to combine his love of SoulCycle with his passion for coaching, as he has been involved in youth athletics ever since he was in high school.


Sara Baker – Spin/Row Instructor at Go Cycle/Go Row

Sarah is a second grade teacher by day, spin instructor by night (and early morning!). Originally she’s from Indianapolis, but she’s been in Chicago for almost five years. She got into spin about six years ago as a way to recover from a running injury. GOCycle was the first place she took spin classes in Chicago and knew immediately she wanted to teach there. Recently started teaching GoRow classes (you can find her at 5:15 am Wednesday mornings) and although it’s very different than teaching spin, she loves the energy and intensity people bring.


Raquel Murphy – Trainer at LegitFit

Raquel has a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Illinois and is a certified Personal Trainer from ACE (American Council on Exercise). With more than 10 years of experience in fitness and multiple certifications, Raquel’s training style is a combination of Pilates, TRX, barre, core and strength training. You can find her at LegitFit, the personal training studio she owns and operates in Park Ridge, Illinois.


Ross Read – Trainer at FitPro West

Ross is NASM certified personal trainer and the general manager of FitPro West in Chicago. He specializes in core strength, stability and functional strength. Ross is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a B.A. in print journalism (sports concentration) and has a minor in radio. In addition to training, Ross is also a sports writer and has written numerous health and fitness blogs. 

Michael De Chant – Pilates Instructor at Reform Chicago

Michael received his Group Exercise certification through AFAA and began teaching at Reform Chicago in July 2013. Ever since his first Reform class, he has been a believer in the physical and emotional benefits you can achieve on an Allegro Reformer. He truly believes that doing Reform Chicago Pilates is the only way that he has survived two Chicago marathons and stayed in great physical shape while feeling great about himself emotionally.



So let’s get down to it. When you’re with clients/teaching a class what is going through your head when …

You see someone achieve a long time goal:

Brent: Whenever I see a rider reach a goal or just killing the beat on the bike it is a reminder to me why I chose to become an instructor. Being a small part of others’ success stories and helping them be the best version of themselves is so fulfilling.

Ross: I get excited as if I it were my own personal goal. You don’t get into this business unless you love seeing others achieve. It’s a personal satisfaction.

Raquel: I love that I can help someone get healthier, feel better, look better, be more confident.

You ask a question or crack a joke and get zero response:

Sarah: Well, this happens more often than not … When I ask question and get no response, I often say something sarcastic like “Glad to hear you’re feeling so good!” which typically produces a laugh. My regulars know that I am pretty cheesy and I don’t take myself too seriously, so I can handle when I don’t get a response to a joke or question. It just means they are working too hard to respond!

Michael: I just laugh at my own joke and hope the next one lands. I can never take myself too seriously especially when we’re all trying to struggle through planks series.

Sunny: Standard. You need to be comfortable with talking to a room full of people and getting radio silence. People are working hard and also thinking about a million things going on in their day. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great when people holler back or crack a smile, but I can’t get annoyed if they aren’t hanging on my every word.

You see someone half ass-ing it:

Ross: I like to nudge, but not push. It’s really based on each individual. Each person’s motor is different and you have to gauge it each time. I don’t raise my voice but I have no problem giving a stern “pick it up” when needed.

Sunny: Who am I to say they are half-assing it? Every single person is in my class for a different reason. I cannot project my goals onto them. I often have little or no idea what brought them in that door, or what kind of injuries they are working with, or what is going on at work or in their personal life. Not every client or class participant is there to work to their absolute max every damn day and I am totally okay with that. I can tell you that as your instructor, I am going to bring my 100 every time I’m on that mic. It’s enough for me that you showed up today. More often than not, I can inspire you to push yourself harder than you would on your own, but when I can’t, I hope to at least bring a smile to your face and maybe distract you from whatever real stuff is going on in your day. The only exception to this is when I have clients who have serious and specific goals, repeatedly half-ass it and then wonder why they aren’t seeing results … but that’s a totally different animal.

Michael: I think gentle reminders to adjust form and a modification offered to the entire class helps create an inclusive atmosphere for everyone who may be at different fitness levels. That way the advanced students can take themselves higher while the more intermediate students still feel the burn even if they chose the modification. I love to modify all of my movements because everyone deserves to feel like they worked hard during our time together. I’m never a fan of pitting clients against each other just for the sake of competition.

Your favorite jam comes on (and for fun, what is it) …

Brent: When my favorite jam comes on, it’s go time! I want our whole pack’s energy elevated, riders singing and feeling that song so much that they can’t help but scream as they turn up that resistance. Energy is so contagious and it starts with me. So every rider needs to know I love that song. Song of the Week : Jason Derulo “If It Ain’t Love.” Song of the Year: Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” (3LAU Remix). Best song I’ve ever ridden to : Ke$ha “Blow.”

Sarah: When my favorite jam comes on, I think everyone in the room knows it! Anyone who comes to my classes knows that I always sing and dance on the bike (I learned it from Emmy!). I was in show choir in high school, so get me on a stage with a mic and it’s game over. My favorite song changes weekly, but right now it’s “Working For It” by ZHU and Skrillex. I’m a country girl at heart, so pretty much anything country gets me going, too!

Raquel: It’s great to have a job where music plays a big part. I sing a lot – usually to Pandora’s 80s pop station!

You see someone on their phone:

Sarah: This actually really bothers me! Along with talking in class. There are some clients who come to the studio who I know are doctors or have jobs where they have to take a call right away, and I totally get that! But if you are sitting on your phone or talking throughout class, I will make a general comment like “Remember, you are here for yourself … take these 45 minutes and let go of any distractions!” Luckily, I have never had a big problem with phone users in class, again because our clients come to work their asses off!

Michael: I understand that people have job and family obligations and I give that courtesy to my clients to have their phones in the studio. However, as a consideration to the other clients I always mandate that they be on vibrate and leave the studio quietly if they need to take a call or respond to a text. Otherwise, we’re too busy hustling through push-ups and lunges to be texting friends about brunch plans in my class!

Ross: I hate when trainers have their phones on the floor. I don’t do it so I ask my clients to leave theirs behind (except special circumstances like medical, family, etc) It’s only one hour a day, we can all do without a phone for that time.

You correct someone’s form and they don’t take your advice or immediately revert back to the old way:

Raquel: I like to stress how important form is, not only for seeing results but also for safety.

Brent: I’m really understanding when it comes riders learning correct form. Especially with our unique bike setup and the way we move in class, we are asking riders to constantly engage their core and hone in on muscles that are most likely underdeveloped at first. It definitely takes time to feel comfortable and in control, so I realize I need to coach them and adjust them.

Sunny: Being a Personal Trainer, I understand that it can take hours upon hours to get certain moves correct. Every person may respond to a cue in a different way and you need to learn to convey what you want in multiple ways. In a class setting, I have only a few moments to cue and correct. Of course, I will discourage you from things that will bring on injury, but I don’t expect you to get it perfect right away. I will do everything I can to help you get better, but it’s not all going to happen in one class. The goal is to see the same class participants over and over again and once you get an idea of their imbalances and weaknesses, you can progress them over time, or get them in for Personal Training sessions.


Make sure to check out these AWESOME instructors/trainers and see for yourself how they keep us motivated every day!

Happiness Think & Feel

About Rachel Mitz

The self-diagnosed work-out-a-holic, Rachel Mitz can be found all around Chicago, staying fit when she isn't crunching numbers as a director of corporate finance for a commercial real estate company. Chicago area bred and University of Illinois alum, Rachel works hard and plays hard so her daily workouts are her chance to connect with her mind and body. Rachel keeps it exciting by creating up a lineup of both fun and challenging morning workouts from personal training sessions, to boot camps, to spin classes or runs along the lake front (she just completed her first marathon in October). For fun, you can find Rachel trying new restaurants, traveling, volunteering with her favorite middle schoolers at San Miguel or enjoying a glass of red wine and fro-yo.