I recently signed up for a Zoom exercise class at a new facility. I don’t know the instructors because I haven’t attended any classes there before. Is it ok for me to “show up” for a virtual class while keeping my video off? I feel uncomfortable having my video on when I haven’t previously met any of the other participants. Is that insulting to the instructor? What’s the best practice as far as etiquette in the workout webinar space?
You asked an excellent and timely question, and to provide you with answers and insight, I spoke to 8 different exercise teachers and guides. These instructors lead barre, yoga, and other types of fitness classes all over the world.
Here’s the bottom line upfront: Your teacher won’t necessarily be insulted, but you might not get the most out of your class if you don’t enable your video. Ask your teacher before class.
The most prominent theme in responses to your question was the desire expressed by all teachers to connect with students.
A few instructors said they would only find a lack of video awkward if they didn’t know the client already. Reaching out to the teacher ahead of time allows you to start a conversation with them and build a rapport before jumping into the class environment.
“It doesn’t bother me, really (when a client doesn’t turn on their video in class). I think it’s probably because I almost always know the clients. If I wasn’t aware of a new client, and if they didn’t share their name or camera, then that would definitely make me uneasy,” one of the instructors said.
Having clear expectations before beginning a new exercise program is always helpful, and exchanging a message or two with the teacher before class can help you have the proper equipment and mindset available.
One of the guides told me she thinks clients that don’t turn their video on during yoga might have a “lesser experience,” because she generally provides guidance based on visual cues. “But I understand that people (may have hesitation) showing themselves over the Internet,” she said.
“I personally don’t mind. I think people have a personal relationship with Zoom. Yoga can be a vulnerable practice," another guide said.
"Being on video is draining, and this is a self-care space," another instructor told me.
That's the key: you signed up for this class for your personal well-being, and you're planning out how not to offend anyone while remaining comfortable, presumably in your own home, while taking the course.
Do yourself a favor: write out a message to the studio (if you don't know who will be leading the class) or the instructor. Explain your concerns. Ask if there's anything you need to know before logging on to Zoom. Then drink a glass of water and be grateful that you're taking care of both your physical and mental health during such a challenging time.