American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise

Passing the ACE Group Fitness Instructor Certification Exam is a great achievement that you should be proud of accomplishing. Of course, it’s only the first step of a long-lasting and fulfilling career in fitness. You probably know of someone whose career you’d like to emulate, whether that involves teaching a dozen classes per week at a local YMCA or becoming a sought-after expert who presents exciting programming at trade shows around the world. One thing that makes the fitness industry so exciting is that you have the opportunity to follow countless paths—or even forge your own unique path—to success.

Follow these five steps to help you determine where you are headed and to prioritize those actions that will get you started in the right direction.

Step 1: Connect to a Network

Connecting with seasoned instructors and professionals in the industry—and in your community—will be invaluable to the progression of your career. Having a well-established network will help you develop and improve your skills, stay up to date with industry trends and gain access to resources for career success.

There are several important ways to jump-start your professional network: get to know instructors in your community, take advantage of virtual support through Facebook groups or other social media, and consider joining professional trade organizations (e.g., IDEA, WIFA) who provide formal and informal networking opportunities.

Step 2: Attend Other Instructors’ Classes

Regularly attending other instructors’ classes can be a source of great inspiration for newly certified instructors—and this can be done either live or virtually. By participating in multiple formats—some of which you may already be interested in teaching and others that might be new to you—from an assortment of instructors, you will expose yourself to the many options and styles found within group fitness.

To optimize your learning experience, be sure to observe classes through the lens of an instructor rather than a participant by focusing on sequencing, cueing, motivational strategies, etc. Also, capture your observations by taking notes, being sure to highlight things that you found effective or beneficial, as well as those you thought could be improved upon.

Step 3: Consider Your Options

As a group fitness instructor, you have the option to work for yourself or an employer. Working for yourself might include providing virtual classes directly to participants, leading classes in the park or opening a studio. If you choose to go the employee route, you would be scheduled to teach in-person, online or a combination of the two and the employer would handle the access to, and scheduling of, your classes.

Another consideration centers on the type of facility in which you want to teach. Opportunities for fitness instructors extend far beyond the local club in your community. Remain open minded and think outside the box to find places where you can get people moving!

You’ll also want to consider the types of classes you’re interested in teaching and your preferred delivery method (e.g., in-person, virtual or hybrid). As mentioned above, you can explore these options while taking other instructors’ classes to get a feel for where your talent lies.

Step 4: Practice Teaching and Solicit Feedback

There is a big difference between having the knowledge required to teach group fitness and actually leading group fitness classes. It requires time and effort—that is, practice—to develop these new skills. Set aside time to practice alone, move on to inviting family and friends and, finally, invite peers to a practice session if you can. Self-evaluation and feedback from others will provide valuable information regarding your class design and delivery. It can also help you prioritize your development and future practice sessions.

Step 5: Commit to Being a Lifelong Learner

While passing your initial certification exam lays the groundwork for what you need to know to safely and effectively teach group fitness, continued career development is achieved through lifelong learning. The most successful instructors actively seek out opportunities to learn and grow far beyond the basics or minimum requirements for recertification, and their desire to explore these opportunities usually begins right away. Investing in your professional development doesn’t need to cost a fortune, as there are numerous budget-friendly opportunities, including free ACE webinars and quizzes based on ACE Certified™.

When the time is right for you, begin to branch out and explore more comprehensive opportunities to develop your skills and broaden your expertise. These options include in-person or virtual fitness conferences and workshops, specialty certifications and specialist programs.

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