My first fitness love and my favorite part of working in the fitness industry is group exercise. I love the rush and excitement that come from standing in front of a room of people working hard and I love encouraging participants work to their maximum potential. I have been a group ex instructor for five years and have accumulated all sorts of certifications. Transferring from the world of dance to fitness wasn’t a huge stretch but it did require a fair amount of research. Being a group exercise instructor is exhilarating and rewarding, and here’s how you can become one.
The most important part of being a group exercise instructor is having strong knowledge base. The first certification I recommend earning is a primary or basic group exercise certification. There are several national organizations that offer a widely accepted certification at an affordable price. Obtaining a national certification will enable you to answer questions and offer advice with factual understanding of the human body. When I started teaching classes, I was approached after every class with a new issue or question that I was not able to answer. Once I earned my primary group exercise certification from AFAA I was able to begin helping participants stay safe and progress toward their goals. In my opinion, the following companies are the most reputable and widely accepted for a primary group exercise certification.
There are hundreds of companies that offer a basic group exercise course but I suggest one of these three. It would be a shame to put the time, effort, and funds into obtaining a certification that is not commonly known. After you have your primary certification, you will be able to choose specialized formats to teach. Some formats offer their own certification courses like, Zumba, Les Mills, and Schwinn. Each format course is different but most ask for continuing education credits or a membership to maintain a current license.
Once you are certified the real fun begins. Start by finding a mentor at your current gym. Knowing someone who has the knowledge base and experience will enable you to seek advice and learn. Take as many classes as you can and start to pay attention to the details within the class. Does the instructor do something you want to emulate or make mistakes that you do not want to repeat? Do you like the music? Does the instructor keep you motivated or do you find your mind wandering?
Start really listening to the music when you take classes and look for music that you might want to use. A great place to look is steadymixes.com. Start to plan sample classes so you can build your class repertoire and be prepared for job interviews. I always have at least one generic boot camp and one spin class on hand just in case I have to teach last minute.
Next begin practicing your cues and coaching. Try teaching your family members or close friends for a fun practice session. Once you feel comfortable, try asking a fellow instructor or a few gym members if they would be willing to take a practice class from you. (Make sure you check with your gym before using any of the facilities.)
Once you feel prepared to start teaching on your own, it’s time to find a job. Begin your search with your current gym and branch out to facilities you would enjoy working at. Before your first interview, don’t forget to scroll through my tips on how to have a successful fitness interview.
Joining the group exercise industry is an exciting and exhilarating career choice. Each day will bring new challenges and push you to improve your skills. As instructors, we are always students and need to continue our education in order to give our participants the most valuable experience. Attend workshops, conferences, and conventions whenever possible. Gain new certifications and explore other aspects of the fitness industry. The more you learn and the more experience you gain, the better instructor you will become.