I have people ask me all of the time about how to become a group fitness instructor. In this post, I include my perspective, as well as the perspectives of a few other group fitness instructors so that hopefully you’ll get some well-rounded advice.
-You don’t have to have a degree to have a job in the fitness community!
-You will only know if teaching group fitness is a good fit for you if you have attended a ton of different classes. If you’re thinking about it, start racking up those class-participant experiences!
-Think about which format/s you would most like teaching (cycle, senior, weight-lifting, hip hop, pilates, etc) and become familiar with the companies who offer training in those formats.
-Think about which gym/s in the area you would want to teach at and try to make contacts with instructors there to get the scoop as to the application/interview/audition process and how they like working at the company.
-Go to classes! You will learn quickly which formats you enjoy and can see yourself teaching, and which ones you can do without. When you look at your gym’s group fitness schedule, which classes are you drawn to? This is a good indication of which classes you will grow to be most confident teaching.
There are national-level general certifications, and there are smaller trainings that certify you in a specific format. You can take either or both. Here’s the scoop:
-A national, general group fitness certification is not required by most gyms. However, if you are thinking of working at a smaller gym, they most likely offer non-branded classes (like a general boot camp class, indoor cycle, senior fitness, etc.), and this might be a great option. It will give you the understanding of anatomy, physiology, and group fitness basics that you will need to confidently instruct classes.
-Even if you are going to get specific format training, having a group fitness certification will help you become more of an expert in your field. It will also make you look more credible. However, if you are taking a specific format of training and are thinking of ever becoming a personal trainer, it would be more advantageous for you to get a national personal training certification. Most of the companies listed below also provide personal training certifications.
-National group fitness certifications include ACE, ACSM, AFAA, IFPA, NASM, NESTA, NAFC, NFPA, etc. Not all will be accepted by all gyms, so make sure you know the standards at your gym before enrolling in these expensive trainings.
-These can take a few days up to 6 months to complete. You can enroll in online programs or live classes. Some colleges even offer certifications through an on-campus class.
-Note that most gyms require you to have a specific format of training. Therefore, decide what you are interested in teaching and discover which format your chosen gym requires you to learn.
-Some companies who provide training include Les Mills, Schwinn, Spinning, Beachbody, Body Training Systems, Zumba, Silver Sneakers, etc.
-These classes take 1-2 days to complete.
-Small gyms can be more laid back, which is great for some and not so great for others. They might not be exactly on time with your pay check, but they are also a lot more flexible with regards to having others sub your class, requesting a schedule change, and adding or dropping classes. Small gyms also have smaller class sizes, which works for instructors who like a tight-knit atmosphere where they can get to know everyone’s names and even form inside jokes with participants.
-Larger gyms will most likely have strict regulations with regards to dress, class start and finish times, and the structure of your class. The gym can be less personal in terms of knowing everyone’s names and personalities, but there is also a higher probability that your class will be full with an energetic crowd without your own marketing efforts. Also note that with larger gyms, there is less communication when it comes to changing class schedules. This can lead to your class being dropped without notice or difficulty obtaining a new class, because of the seniority system.
-Some of the larger, or more “popular” gyms limit you from time off. Therefore, if you commit to teaching a spin class on Monday’s at 5:30pm, they really advise against asking for subs, because they want to keep consistency for their participants.
-Come looking professional, as you would to any other job.
-Come prepared with answers to questions like: Why did you choose our gym? What can you add to our gym? What is your teaching style? How would you describe your personality in one or two words?
-Come with an infectious attitude and ENERGY. How you are in the interview is how they assume you will be in class. Therefore, you cannot afford to show the laid-back version of yourself. Display proper posture, speak with a confident tone, and smile a lot.
-Different gyms have different “personalities”. Find one that you like and feel that you can fit in to. One instructor told me that the feedback she received when auditioning for an indoor cycle class was that she didn’t yell at the class enough. Her style is to use her voice tone and inflection to motivate the class, and she discovered that this gym just wasn’t for her.
-Come prepared to teach a 1 hour class. Some gyms will have you audition by teaching an actual 1-hour class, and some will have you perform a 10-20 minute audition for one or two members of the staff. If you are auditioning for the staff, they might ask you to do part of the warm-up, stop you, ask you to do a portion of the workout (cycle: climb, sprint, or interval; Zumba: your favorite song; Kickboxing: the “Punches” section; weight-lifting: shoulder work; etc.), and then ask you to show part of the cool down. If you’re prepared for it all, you won’t be blind-sided. Most likely, if you’re prepared for it all, you will be so confident that they might only have you do 5-10 minutes for them. Piece of cake, right?!
-Know how to work the stereo system before you audition! Find another instructor at the gym to help you out. If you don’t know anyone, look at the class schedule and show up at the end of the last class for the day. There is a good chance that the instructor who taught that class will be happy to help you out. I did this! If they have a head-set microphone, arrange with the front desk to come in and practice with it when the classroom is free. You need to be comfortable hearing your voice over the speaker system and you need to know how to appropriately adjust microphone volume vs. music volume.
I will post “Group Fitness Instructor 101″ at some point in the near future. This post will include tips on how to create a following, how to connect with members, maintaining your certification, and how to deal with failure.
- How do I get started becoming a personal trainer or group fitness instructor? (gymfitnesshelper.com)
- Top Six Jobs for Athletes (jobs.answers.com)
- Exercise Your Right to Sweat: Fitness Careers With a Two-year Degree (exercise.answers.com)
- Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone! (quobreakerfitness.org)
- Become a Fitness Instructor (afoodiestaysfit.com)