Angel Chelik by Angel Chelik

If you’re considering becoming a group fitness instructor, you were probably inspired by one of your teachers, and now you want to create that transformative experience for others. This is exciting! Taking that leap from participant to instructor is a big one—bigger than you might think. When you put the microphone on, you’re taking responsibility for everyone and everything that happens in that room.  

Here are few questions to ask yourself before heading down this path. If you feel ready, go for it! The world needs passionate and dedicated instructors who have a genuine interest in helping others lead healthier lives.

1. Why do I want to be a group fitness instructor?

This is probably the most important question of all. Maybe you love teaching so much that you can’t imagine yourself doing anything other than motivating people to dance, spin or Zumba their way to better health. Or maybe you want to share your passion for fitness with the world once a week after your day job. There’s no right or wrong answer, but knowing your intentions can provide you with some direction as you begin your teaching journey.

2. Do I need to plan classes ahead of time?

Before you get to the gym to teach, there is work to do. You’ll spend time designing your class, selecting music and equipment and determining the best teaching styles and strategies to help your students be successful. Is it a lot of work? Yes? But it’s so much fun! It’s one of my favorite things about the teaching process. You have a chance to craft a workout that can challenge, inspire and potentially be the BEST part of someone’s day. In addition to planning, you’ll also need to practice your lesson—take time to become familiar with your progressions, talk through movement patterns and practice your cueing.

3. Where do I want to teach?

Group fitness classes used to happen inside of a room in a gym. While big box gyms thrive in the group fitness space, boutique studios that specialize in one area of fitness are also very popular. If you plan to work in a big gym, you could teach indoor cycling, yoga and Zumba in one location. However, if you work at a boutique studio you might be traveling all over your city to teach each format. The pay can be drastically different, too. Most often, in big box gyms, the instructor gets paid a flat rate for each class. In boutique studios, pay can depend on how many students show up to each class.

4. What types of classes do I want to teach?

Getting a group fitness instructor certification will allow you to seek employment at various gyms/studios, but each individual location may also require you to take specific workshops in their own branded formats. In addition, you will most likely need to audition for a job. I always recommend that new instructors find mentors in the industry. Ask a fellow instructor if you can observe their classes. Hopefully they can give you some insight into how they design their classes and provide you with teaching tips that will help you feel more comfortable in front of a group.

5. Can I get a workout while I teach?

If you are going to be teaching before or after your day job, you need to make time to attend your favorite classes. Remember, that’s what brought you into teaching in the first place! Instructors can get burnt out from teaching too many classes on consecutive days or even back-to-back classes on the same day. Make sure your schedule is balanced. Teaching a strength training class four days in a row is going to take a toll on your body. While it’s nice to have extra income, you must understand that instructing and working out are not synonymous.

6. Will I need liability insurance?

If you are an employee of a big box gym or an independent contractor at a boutique studio, you may be covered under the company’s insurance. However, if you are looking to start your own outdoor boot camp or if you are going to rent out a space to teach a dance class, you will need to purchase your own coverage. This costs about $100-$150 per year. In addition, if you want to teach outdoors, you might need a permit for training in a public park.

7. What do I need to do to keep my certification valid? 

You’ll want to stay up-to-date with your knowledge and skills, not only to maintain your certification, but also to boost your career and keep your teaching fresh and innovative. Depending on where you get your certification, you’ll need to earn a certain number of continuing education credits. There are lots of opportunities to earn CECs, from online courses to workshops to conferences.

An addition to answering these questions, I also recommend talking to current fitness professionals about their experiences in the field. If you know where you want to work, talk to the manger to see what certifications you will need and what else you will need to do to get hired. Good luck on your journey!

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