Career Guide for Future GFIs (Part 2 of 3)
The previous post addressed how to become better acquainted with your craft as a future Group Fitness Instructor (GFI), from understanding your career options to preparing for the exam. Now we'll discuss how to truly hone in on your skill set as a newly certified ACE-GFI with these 8 additional tips:
Tip 9: Follow a mentor
In the first 8 tips, I suggested you get a mentor. At that time it wasn't important if that person was someone who taught the class modality you were pursuing or not. This time, however, you'll need to find a mentor specifically in your discipline who can watch you teach occasionally (either recorded or live) and give you feedback that helps you grow within your craft. It's important that this person really understands all of the nuances within your discipline, so choose carefully.
Tip 10: Earn your certification
You've studied hard and now it's time to take your ACE certification exam. If you don't pass the first time, remember some of the leading fitness presenters of the world experience the same thing. Don't let it discourage you from your passion! Schedule your examination on a calendar to help you plan your study course of action and take advantage of all of the great study tools and resources at your disposal, including ACE's free Study Coach program.
Tip 11: Take classes
Making a plan to take at least two group fitness classes per month from different sources is key to help stay abreast of what others are doing in the industry, especially in your local area. Just as instructors attend conventions to see what is current on a large scale, so too is it imperative to stay current with what's transpiring on a smaller scale in your surrounding area. Attending classes will help connect you with other practicing group fitness instructors, and will also help build your professional network, which may include occasionally pairing up with other instructors for special event classes.
Tip 12: Ask for honesty
When you're teaching, ask for honest feedback. Not every class participant feels comfortable telling you where you need to grow, so also offer people the opportunity to make comments through occasional surveys, in-person immediately following class or online. Violet Zaki, an ACE-certified Group Fitness Instructor for Equinox in New York City, always finishes her experiences telling her clients, "Once again, my name is Violet, and if you enjoyed today's workout, please tell your friends. If you didn't, please tell me. I'm always available for questions and comments."
Remember, no one grows from praise. Whenever people tell me they enjoyed a session, I always go to colleagues I trust to find out how I can GROW. We all love praise, but it doesn't make us grow in the same way that honest, valuable feedback does.
Tip 13: Purchase liability insurance
Upon earning your professional certification, purchase professional liability insurance, which you can do at a discounted rate as an ACE-certified professional! Having liability insurance can help protect you no matter where you teach, whether its in a gym, a church or outdoors at a park.
Tip 14: Hone your message
I consistently ask my mentorees "what is your message?" Rarely do they have an answer. Your message is not what you like to teach or the catchphrase you say over and over. Your message is not the theme you create from class to class. Your message is your mission: what you find yourself saying to all people as a true teacher, regardless of equipment or class discipline. My message is "wellness without walls," which doubles as my mission statement on my website. To be successful in today's competitive industry, you should have a message that you can incorporate into all aspects of fitness that you do. Knowing what your message is – and following that message – will also help you make good choices throughout your fitness career by allowing you to ask yourself with each decision you make: "does this bring me closer to my message or push me further from it?"
Tip 15: Script yourself!
Write out and memorize your initial start and final phase. Regardless of class discipline, try to develop a script for your unique style as an instructor. The best actors do not invent their lines on the spot; they memorize tone, gesticulations and eye contact that accompany wonderful scripteds. Use your notebook to gather sayings from other instructors that may also apply to you and incorporate those into your openings and closings. Write out the requirements in words that match your personality that sound authentic, and then try to memorize your script.
Tip 16: Practice teaching
Practice cueing and coaching your classes verbally, visually and kinesthetically. Far better than sitting in the subway or driving in the car and mentally "going over" what you plan on doing with your classes, you have to discipline yourself to stand up, get the equipment you need, play the actual music you'll use in class, open your notebook to the script you created following the previous tip, and run through the entire class at least three times. First, practice just the things you will say and rehearse the best way you want things to come out of your mouth. Second, practice moving through the exercises silently, both to practice visual cueing and your own efficacy in the movements. Third, put the first two steps together and cue verbally and visually, adding mentions to how movements should "feel," incorporating the words "sense" and "imagine" for the kinesthetic learners. The more you practice your classes, the more professional you will become.