Stephanie Thielen by Stephanie Thielen

Over the course of my career, I have taught every group fitness format to hit the market. I started out teaching traditional hi/lo, step and strength training. Dance, kickboxing and cycling came next, followed by yoga and Pilates. Add boot camp, circuit, high-intensity interval training and fusion classes and that pretty much covers it all. While I have taken specialty trainings and continuing education courses, only one training has provided me with all the tools I need to teach any modality: the ACE Group Fitness Instructor Certification. 

The ACE Group Fitness Certification is the foundation for learning what and how to teach. I took the exam in the early ‘90s and the material has evolved since then, but the step-by-step strategies for leading a safe, effective and memorable class experience remain the same. 

Once you understand the basics, with practice, the skills of class design, music selection, applied anatomy, motivation techniques and other key teaching elements can be easily applied to any group modality. Here’s a look at how the knowledge I acquired through the ACE Group Fitness Instructor Certification has given me the confidence to teach a variety of group fitness formats. 

Indoor Cycling

When indoor cycling was a hot, new trend, the facility where I worked had bikes, so it was crucial for me to learn to teach this modality and instruct my staff. I took an all-day training to learn how to lead indoor cycling classes, and I learned a lot about bike-set up, riding positions and class profiles. But I did not feel confident designing a 45-minute class. Or did I? I cracked open my ACE Group Fitness Instructor Manual for some inspiration, and there it was. I  re-read the section on music, which was, for me, the driving force behind all the classes I knew how to teach. Regardless of the fitness genre, when movement and music synergistically work together, the group fitness experience turns into a magical one. Once I figured out how to transfer the skills of moving to music from the group fitness floor to the bike, teaching cycling became something that I enjoyed. 

Dance Fitness

The objectives of this format are obvious—teach choreographed dance patterns to the hottest music and have fun. Sounds simple enough, but it’s more challenging than you might think. Dance styles such as hip-hop, jazz and reggaeton all have their own unique moves, intricate footwork and rhythmic tempos that can be challenging to teach to both the masses and to those who consider themselves non-dancers. 

As a former high school and collegiate cheerleader and dancer, dancing is in my blood. But being a dancer didn’t necessarily equate to me being a good dance fitness teacher. Dance required me to master the skills of selecting effective teaching techniques and choosing the appropriate teaching strategy. To this day, I return to the pages of my ACE Group Fitness Instructor Manual to help me teach dance-inspired fitness classes.

Fitness Yoga

Yoga is, by far, the most challenging format I have ever taught, largely because it doesn’t readily fit into my comfort zone. Music is not used to keep a beat, but as background accompaniment. There is no step touch or grapevine, and some of the teaching strategies I’m comfortable with don’t apply. Yet again, the ACE Group Fitness Instructor Manual came through by providing feedback techniques to empower exercisers to adjust, improve and become aware of how to execute a pose, understand what muscle groups they should be working, and feel the pose in their bodies.

We’ve launched an all new, world-class ACE Group Fitness Certification study programs. Featuring an interactive, digital learning component that takes you step-by-step through the fundamentals of group fitness—from exercise programming and music selection to engagement and motivation techniques—our study experience will empower you to make every class world-class. Learn more about it right here.

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