While the first post in this series prepared you to begin the journey of becoming a Group Fitness Instructor and the second post provided you tips to get your career started, this final post will discuss how you can continue to advance your knowledge and skills and take your fitness career to the next level!
Take continuing education courses
Whether you travel to continuing education workshops or opt to explore e-learning (online courses and webinars), it's your professional responsibility to keep your fingers on the pulse of the constantly changing industry landscape. For example, just a few years ago static stretching in the warm-up for group classes was the norm following most fitness standards. Now, recent research has found rhythmic, limbering and active dynamic stretching much more appropriate and safe as part of the warm-up. If an instructor were certified years ago and did not take the professional responsibility to stay abreast of the evolving science with relevant continuing education (which is required to maintain your professional certification), he or she would be teaching outdated information.
Attend a professional fitness convention
A live continuing education event, such as the ACE Symposium, not only offers CECs toward the renewals of your certifications, but also helps you to:
- Explore how fitness presenters around the world design classes that work
- Stay abreast of current choreography, muscle movements and fitness jargon
- Shop for new music, equipment and information, sometimes only available at such events
- Connect with other fitness professionals in your area of expertise locally and globally
- Participate in an exciting event with contests, social media and recognition programs
- Attend proven class formats to take home to your clients
Using social media is a must for today's fitness professional, and not to mention creating a Facebook page and Twitter account is free! Share creative tidbits and teasers about your classes that are informational, inspirational and motivational. Alternate between past and the future examples – post something about a class that passed, and then post a teaser about the future, and so forth. Try to develop a variety of posts, from ones with text only to those that contain pictures or video. In addition, create your professional resume and portfolio and post it on LinkedIn.
Purchase a professional DVD or download
Whether you use the ACE website, or other sources for purchasing and downloading DVDs like www.findLawrence.com, ordering a professional training DVD from a reliable source can help you develop professionally. Whether you choose an immediate download or a hard copy DVD, filmed class or workshop, they help you:
- Earn CECs at your pace
- Explore examples to incorporate into the classes you teach, including those outside of your comfort zone like new exercises and movement patterns and new program designs that surprise your classes and keep experiences fresh
- Focus on the personality of the presenter as well as the educational value of the content
Note: More important that the professional quality of the DVD, consider the authority and expertise of the source of the information and the nature of the content being presented.
With an iPhone, smartphone or digital camcorder, have a friend or colleague film 9 minutes of your work at least every month when you're starting out your career. The first 3 minutes should include a portion of your warm-up, the next 3 minutes should include a portion of the conditioning segment of class, and the final 3 minutes should be from your final phase. Watch each clip three times, taking notes on your need for improvement – watch it with the volume muted so you can interpret your visual cueing abilities; watch it with the volume turned up and your eyes closed to see if you can follow everything based on what you hear; and finally, watch it for the total kinesthetic approach to your clips, jotting in your notebook your need for improvements.
Formulate your classes
Based on what you take away from watching and learning from others coupled with ideas from all of the other tips in this series of posts, it's time to formulate your own classes. Immediately after you take classes from other instructors, jot in your notebook the format of that class, such as "chest, lunges, arms, squats." That will not only help remind you that particular instructor followed alternating upper-body, lower-body movements, but it will help you get ideas for your classes. If you fail to do it immediately, you likely won't remember what format the instructor used. As you also explore class design ideas, especially online, remember that just about anyone can post anything anywhere and there are a good deal of both qualified, quality instructors and instructors who share unsafe and nonspecific movements. After you take enough classes, you'll be able to formulate on your own. Ask your mentor to view your class design conceptually to ensure that it's "sound". In addition, consult sources like the ACE website for pre-made classes that work.
In addition to filming yourself at regular intervals in an effort to grow from watching yourself cue verbally, visually and kinesthetically, take one page in your notebook and divide it in half. At the top of each half, write either the word "popular" or "professional". Now, under each, write what YOU are doing that helps each column with a "+" sign, and then write ways (suggested throughout all of these tips) that would enhance your professionalism and popularity with a minus sign. For example:
+ growing class
+ got first certification
- need more students as Facebook friends
- need continuing education
+ opinionated students post
+ following the ACE Code of Ethics
- need to grow my noontime class on Wednesday
- need to renew my CPR
Ask your boss for tips
Go to someone higher than you in the hierarchy of fitness for advice. Different from your mentor who provides you with ongoing, periodic feedback, a group exercise manager or director of a facility usually can provide unique insight into your talents regarding what you can bring to the "fitness party." Show your resume, which includes a write-up of the types of classes you teach, and ask for feedback. Many times, doing this with another professional in the industry whose job it is to look at such things can help open your eyes to new professional possibilities as you continue to grow in your career.