Thursday, May 3, 2012

How to Become a Group Fitness Instructor

This post is long overdue! Here's my (brief?) step-by-step guide to becoming a group fitness instructor. There's NO OFFICIAL "step-by-step order" to this process, it's just a list of everything that I've found helpful over the years. When I got started, no one really told me how one becomes group fitness instructor-- just had to figure it out :) So here I am today to share it with you!

1. Take out a small loan. 
Just kidding around about this step, but seriously it takes a good chunk of money to start out. You eventually get it back through teaching classes, but most people don't realize how much it actually takes to get into teaching fitness. Be prepared to spend about $200-300 right off the bat.

For me, group fitness is a part-time "self-sustaining hobby." I know people who make a decent living working in fitness, but they really do work HARD. Before you decide to make group fitness (or personal training) a full-time career path, be sure to consider  the amount of time, resources and training that you are going to be putting in before making an investment.

 2. Get CPR Certified. 
You will need this before you can get Group Fitness Certified. It's a requirement for most fitness certs and gyms, and not only that--it's absolutely useful! You never know when you might need to save someone's life! Most hospitals/workplaces offer CPR courses for an affordable rate.

3. Get Group Fitness Certified. 
Some gyms and health facilities will let you teach without a general cert, but MOST reputable places will want you to have a general group fitness cert. Plus, it helps you understand the history, mechanics and safety cues for leading a successful fitness class. You can attain this from many organizations, but I recommend two major organizations--ACE or AFAA. I recommend the AFAA general group fitness certification because it's an all-day, hands-on training where you learn, and get tested by, a real-live person. The ACE one is a computer test--no live people.

 For the AFAA cert there are two portions--a practical part (where you demonstrate a safe warm up and cool down, moves, etc.) and a written part (100 questions where you identify muscles and bones, and calculate heart rates and stuff). I recommend studying your a** off whether you take ACE or AFAA. Lots of people fail the written part, and it costs extra $$$ to re-take it.

 4. Go Teach! 
After you get Group Fitness Certified, you are ready to go teach basic classes at any facility. With the basic certification, you can teach any format that does not involve a specialty license--Step, Weights, Boot camp, Cardio Blast, Basic Kickboxing, etc. Two tips for success--patience, practice and confidence. Have patience that your classes will build. The more you practice cueing your moves and music the more confident you will become. I think my next post will be "Tips for New Fitness Instructors" :)

There is no official "pay scale" for fitness instructors. Initial pay varies--your geographic area and experience/expertise will determine that number. For example, when I moved from Charleston, SC to central Illinois, I went from making $25/class to making $15/class! But I know some people in Chicago who are making like $40/class. Crazy how big that difference is!

 5. Get a Specialty Cert! 
If you know you want to teach a special format (R.I.P.P.E.D., TurboKick, Zumba or Yoga, for example), you will need a specialty certification in addition to your basic one. Specialty certs cost more money, but they are usually a day-long and usually do not involve a written test (except for Yoga and Pilates certs, where the process can very involved). You sign up for these through the specialty cert. company's website (e.g. You need continuing education to keep your general fitness cert and specialty certs are a good way to both get credits AND learn new formats!

Other tips/tricks: 

-Every year, AFAA runs a special where they offer their certifications for $99. These $99 classes are a good deal, but are generally PACKED, so if you would like more individualized attention, I recommend taking the course at regular price at your convenience. You can get a discount if you take an AFAA cert at a gym where you are either employed or a member.

 -You can get a specialty certification first (e.g. Zumba), but as I said, most gyms and facilities require the basic, so I would shoot for that first.

-Before getting hired at a gym, they may ask you to audition--this is totally normal! Be yourself--that's what potential gyms are looking for!

 Some links: (Free routines and resources for instructors--be sure to peruse the bulletin board--lots of good info on there)

 Let me know if you have any other questions at all! This is my passion and I NEVER get tired of talking about it!