How to Become A
Group Fitness Instructor
In addition to being personally rewarding, a career in fitness gives you flexibility and independence in a growing industry. Getting started can be a bit overwhelming though, especially with more than 300 certification programs on the market. To ease that burden, we put together these six steps to help get you started.
Group Fitness Instructor Career
1. Get Acquainted with Your Craft
Attending different group fitness classes will help you decide if the career is right for you, and perhaps even give you an idea of which direction you’d like to go. Try taking a mind-body class, an aquatic class, a bodyweight training class, strength training classes that use both traditional and newer equipment, and maybe a dance fitness class. You’ll learn what works when it comes to instructional techniques, the habits of a good leader, and what’s hot in the industry.
2. Choose a Certification
Before you start teaching classes, it’s important to earn a reputable certification that gives you the knowledge and skills you’ll need to deliver safe and effective exercise to class participants. Too often, group fitness classes are led by inexperienced instructors with inadequate education and training. And when it comes to participants, no one wants to attend a class if the instructor doesn’t know their stuff. When you’re shopping for a certification, only consider programs accredited by an independent, third party that specifically provides accreditation for certification programs like the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). You may also want to consider if the certification is approved for use in other countries. The ACE Group Fitness Instructor Certification is the only one of its kind from the United States to hold accreditation by the European Health and Fitness Association (EHFA). Holding a certification from an NCCA-accredited program will give you a distinct employment advantage as many employers use it as an easy way to identify a qualified candidate from an unqualified one.
3. Find a Mentor
Either while you’re studying or just after you earn your certification, choose someone in the industry you admire and ask if he or she can serve as your mentor. Go with someone who teaches the class modality you’re pursuing, and of course, someone who has a loyal class following. Learning from someone who teaches the type of class you’ll eventually lead can help you discover moves you can incorporate later and more importantly, the elements of a great teacher. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice either.
4. Get a Job
ACE professionals work at gyms, hospitals, workplace wellness departments and universities in 83 countries worldwide. To help you begin or continue your career, we have also secured agreements from several leading health and fitness clubs, which have guaranteed interviews for ACE Certified Personal Trainers and Group Fitness Instructors who apply for qualifying positions. If you’d rather work on your own terms, that is always an option as well. Just make sure you get your legal documents in order. You should have documentation citing the type of entity you own (ie: sole proprietorship, partnership), your business name, business license and liability insurance.
Be sure to network within your community, calling gyms in your area and asking if they employ group fitness instructors. If they say yes, find out if they have any available jobs and the procedure for filling out an application. There are several other places you can teach classes as well – country clubs, hospitals, universities, community centers, cruise ships or corporations. No matter which route you choose, you’ll find most clubs prefer their group fitness instructors to hold an NCCA-accredited certification as well as liability insurance.
5. Market Yourself
Once you earn your ACE certification, it’s time to get your name out there. Research shows the most effective marketing tool in the fitness industry is word-of-mouth, so start spreading the word. Set up a social media account for your business, make some flyers, create a newsletter and buy business cards. Start with the people you know or the places you frequent, and move outward from there. Offering free classes is a great way to get exposure and attract new clients. Keeping your My ACE Account profile current is also a great way to connect with people using the Find an ACE Trainer tool at ACEfit.com.
6. Stay Relevant
The fitness industry is always changing. Research is constantly being updated, new products are always being introduced and last year’s hot trends most likely won’t stay around for long. It’s your job to stay up to date with continuing education, which is not only vital to your relevance as a group fitness instructor; it’s a requirement for your recertification every two years. Many organizations, including ACE, offer continuing education designed to help you stay ahead of the curve.