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There is nothing better than the rush of teaching an energy filled class! Like nothing.
There is a point in your group fitness experience that you say to yourself “I want to teach this”.
My story started in the back of a Jazzercise class. Here I was, a new mom looking for an exercise class to get back in shape. I found a local Jazzercise studio down the street from my home that offered classes at night. I can remember walking in, beelining it straight to the back row, and giving myself a pep talk that I can totally do this. 30 minutes into the class…I was pretty sure I was dying!
When the last beat of the song drop, I knew that I was hooked. Within 6 months of being the new student, I worked my way up the rows to a total front-rower and then started asking questions on how I could be upfront teaching.
And I haven’t looked back on this decision since.
Fast forward to today and I have gained my Group Fitness Instructor Certification from the Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) and teach multiple formats from dance fitness to strength training.
Have you thought about becoming an instructor? Keep reading.
Steps to become a group fitness instructor include deciding on what type of class or class format you will teach, completing training in that format, and obtaining any required certifications and licenses. Jobs can be found in gyms, local boutique fitness studios, or even online. The average pay is ~$20 per class.
What is a group fitness instructor?
In the basic form, this is the person who leads the group in some form of exercise. This could be any kind of formats. Think CrossFit, Zumba, Dance Fitness, Yoga, Spin class…and on and on.
Group fitness classes have been around for a hot minute and gain their popularity back in the 80’s with Jane Fonda, Richard Simmons, and Jazzercise. The goal was to bring people together to workout out and that is exactly what it did.
There is a difference between a personal trainer vs. group fitness instructor (although a person could do both). A group fitness instructor is teaching to a group vs. a single or small group and will need to be the leader of the room. They are the one to set the tone and energy…they need to be able to light up the room with their personality.
How to pick the right class format
Personally, I feel this is the most important part.
What type of class are you really passionate about that you both want to invest money and time into?
What is a class format that you want to be teaching for an extended period of time?
The fastest way to answer this question is what type of classes are you taking now and enjoy the most. While being an instructor is extremely satisfying, it does bring on hard work. Coaching or leading a class can be very physically demanding and there will be many times that you expend more energy during a class than anyone else in the room.
Unlike a personal one-on-one trainer, a group fitness instructor works out side by side with the class. This is not a statement for all types of classes but is a norm for many.
Where to get training and how much will it cost?
While picking what type of class format you want to do can be extremely challenging, finding training is the easiest of the parts.
Training is going to vary depending on the class you want to teach. This could be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousands. Almost all of the specific classes/training have webpages that include specific information for pricing to obtain the ability to teach that class.
Watch for the “after you complete training” costs. Many of these training sessions will require the instructor to pay a fee to maintain an active status. This fee usually covers new music, choreography, and training.
Check out the list below of current classes that offer training. This is not a complete list but a good starting point. When you decide on your format, head over to google and do a good search.
*** THIS IS NOT A COMPLETE LIST **** This is a great starting point to start your search for the best format and class training that meets your needs. Please note, there are more options for each category that may not be listed.
Barre, Yoga, Pilates
Strength Training, Boot Camp, HIIT, Step
What is the difference between a license, certification, branding, or franchise?
There is no one golden rule on what you need to be a group fitness instructor and opinions do vary on this topic. It is typical for the place of employment (i.e. gym, fitness facility) to set the minimal requirements to teach at their facility.
If you are an active member of a gym or fitness facility, highly recommend asking their group fitness director what is required to teach at that facility. This will set a starting point and also let the director know that you interested in teaching future classes.
For certifications, there is an overarching umbrella that sets the standard of excellence in this particular area and this falls under the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Some of the most popular certifications include:
- American Council of Exercise (ACE)
- American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
- Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA)
- National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA)
For me, I needed a course that had a structured learning pathway to prepare me for the exam. After researching the different available certifications, I went with the AFAA exam. If there is an interest in my experience with AFAA, I will create another blog on my experience on studying for and taking the exam (tell me in the comments if you want this).
I highly recommend getting a group fitness certification as it provides information on how to safely lead a group fitness class. As the person leading the group, you are responsibly for their safety and want to ensure that a certain move or exercise is being performed appropriately. This also includes creating a class that is for the fitness level that is taking the class.
Many of the specific types of classes like CrossFit and Spin will also have their own specific certifications.
This leads us to the topic of branding vs. license vs. franchise.
Many of the very specific types of classes will require training to teach the course. This is commonly seen with Zumba, Dance Fitness, Les Mills, etc. As these specific classes are about branding a certain type of class, they will require training (online or in-person), usually a demo or exam, and continued education moving forward.
Many of these types of classes will have specific choreographed moves that are prepared by the company for the instructor.
How to get your first job
Start with the gym or fitness studio that you are currently attending to see if they have a need for an instructor. Many times, a location is looking to add to their team and they will help with finding a training course (and sometimes even help pay for it).
Group fitness instructor positions are also posted on job boards, facebook groups, and employment type communications. If you are interested in teaching at a large gym (or the YMCA), I would recommend going to their website and reviewing the open positions.
The great thing about seeing a job posting for a group fitness instructor is that you can see exactly what the requirements are for the job.
Create a resume that the main focus is on the specific job that you are applying for. For many, teaching group fitness will be a part-time position and will have a different position as their main source of income. When writing the resume for a group fitness position, re-write it to be specific to the group fitness perspective vs. your main career path.
For group fitness, many of the positions that I have held have been word of mouth and by reaching out to the owner/manager of a specific fitness facility.
I have found that many places are actively looking for instructors and will want to sit down and talk with you. Don’t be surprised if they ask you for a demo video or have you come in to lead a demo class. They want to see your teaching style, method, and if you will be a good fit for their facility.
How much can you make as a group fitness instructor?
I headed over to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to get us numbers on the average pay and the number of jobs. The most current data is for 2019 but it does still give us a quick peek into this industry
|2019 Median Pay||$40, 390/year $19.42/hour|
|Typical Entry-Level education||High School Diploma or equivalent|
|Work Experience in a Related Occupation||None|
|Number of Jobs, 2019||373,700|
|Job Outlook||15% (much faster than average)|
Wrapping this one up!
One good piece of advice that was given to me was to start talking with other group fitness instructors. The amount of knowledge that a seasoned instructor has is HUGE and they will have specific talking points about the class format that you are thinking about.
They will be your best source of information for upcoming trainings, how to get a position at a particular gym, and most importantly, someone to train and learn from.
Is there a certain type of class format that you would like more information about? Tell me below.
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