Ashley Artese by Ashley Artese

The hours of studying and preparation have finally paid off with a passing score on your ACE Group Fitness Instructor Certification Exam. So where do you go from here? While you now have the background knowledge necessary to lead a safe group fitness class, putting that knowledge into practice requires a whole new set of skills that need to be learned, practiced and perfected. These skills include counting, cueing, mirroring, layering, instructing movements and combinations, and creating choreography.

For newly certified instructors, the most challenging part of this process is determining how and where to learn these necessary skills. Here are a few tips for developing your in-class group fitness instructional skills once you become certified.

Attend Other Instructors’ Classes

By attending a variety of fitness class formats that are led by different instructors, you can gain insight on teaching strategies and cueing techniques as well as obtain ideas for choreography and exercise combinations. When attending a class, be sure to:

  • Observe the instructor: Observe the instructor’s teaching strategies and pay attention to how the instructor engages with participants, provides encouragement and motivation, delivers verbal and non-verbal movement and safety cues, structures the combinations and designs the overall class.
  • Observe the participants: Observe the class participants to determine what teaching strategies are most effective in helping participants stay motivated, safely perform the exercises, move together as a group and learn complex choreography.
  • Observe how you feel: Pay attention to how you feel as a participant in the class. Is the instructor providing you with enough instructional cues to make you feel successful as a participant? Determine what teaching strategies were helpful to your success as a class participant and what additional approaches could be utilized.
  • Take notes: At the end of the class, write down your overall class impression, effective teaching strategies that were helpful to you and the other participants, and specific strategies that needed improvement. Then, identify ways that these strategies could be improved and determine the teaching techniques you plan to adopt when leading your own fitness classes. (Note: Only take notes after the class is finished as taking notes during the class can be a distraction to both the instructor and participants.)

Find a Mentor

After attending a variety of classes and reviewing your notes from each class, identify a few instructors who you feel have the most effective teaching strategies and ask them if they would be willing to serve as your group fitness mentor. Ask if they would be willing to:

  • Meet every so often to help you further develop your teaching skills, provide feedback and assist you with creating new choreography.
  • Allow you to teach a portion of their classes. It can be helpful for new instructors to teach smaller portions of a class before leading an entire class from start to finish. Therefore, ask your mentors if you can teach the warm-up in one of their classes and then a small portion of the cardio or strength section on another day to get your feet wet.
  • Discuss potential professional development and continuing education opportunities such as conferences, workshops and other certifications. Instructors who have experienced various continuing education opportunities can provide you with insight regarding the types of sessions or conferences to attend, especially if they have a similar class or specialty interest. 

Gain Feedback

Ask other group fitness instructors, friends and class participants for feedback about your teaching. This can help you determine your instructional strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for change and improvement so that you can continue to learn and grow as an instructor. It can also be helpful to have someone take a video of you teaching your class so you can personally evaluate yourself and reflect on what instructional strategies worked well and what strategies need improvement. If you plan to record your class, be sure to request facility and participant consent to do so.

Seek Out Professional Development Opportunities and Resources

Reading articles, attending workshops and conferences, and taking online courses are great ways to further develop and refine your communication, teaching and leadership skills. In addition, you can focus on a particular class format of interest or learn about working with specific populations through specialty trainings and workshops. Also, stay up-to-date with current exercise science research and the latest fitness trends. For a list of continuing education workshops, webinars and online courses, check out the Education section on the American Council on Exercise website.

Interested in expanding your client offerings to include Behavior Change principles? Become an ACE Certified Health Coach!