American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise

Sometimes there’s only one way to become an expert at your craft—practice, practice, practice. Education will give you the foundation you need to be a successful group fitness instructor, but experience is what takes you to the next level. From class design to inspiring meaningful change, eight of our most beloved group fitness instructors share the valuable lessons they’ve learned (some the hard way!) through their years of teaching to groups. 

I learned that you have the power to make someone’s day! Whether it’s providing genuine, heartfelt feedback about their progress, complimenting their hard work, or simply offering a smile and a pat on the back, you can really boost someone’s day.

Jessie Newell, B.S., Kinesiology; ACE Study Assistance Lead; ACE Certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, Health Coach and Medical Exercise Specialist

Teaching group fitness classes is a new adventure each day. It offers me a unique opportunity to connect with each individual in a fun and encouraging way by engaging their interests and leveraging the energy of other participants. In short, group fitness is a team effort. While each person enters class with a personal goal, the culture of the group provides the necessary support for each member to grow in ways beyond what was expected and to delight in the experience.

Erin Nitschke, Ed.D.; ACE Certified Health Coach; ACE Fitness Nutrition Specialist; NSCA-CPT

You have the control to help anyone achieve his or her goals on a regular basis. Whether it’s a goal for the day, month or year, it all adds up!

Mollie Martin, B.S., Psychology; ACE Certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, Health Coach and Medical Exercise Specialist; ACE Behavior Change Specialist and Sports Conditioning Specialist; NSCA CSCS

I used to spend a lot of time creating innovative choreography or searching for new exercises to incorporate into my classes. Class design is important, but I’ve found the most success in simplicity. Participants helped me understand that they needed clarity on the basics. Fitness information is confusing. I now make it a point to announce my class plan and suggest that everyone take the pace that he or she finds most appropriate. I continually adjust my plan on the fly to give every person an enriching experience. Keeping a consistent fitness regime is hard enough. I’ve learned that it’s really my job to sift through the clutter and provide a simply positive experience.

Amber Long, M.Ed.; ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Health Coach; AFAA GFI

When I first starting teaching group exercise, I thought participants wanted instructors who could cue perfectly and stay on the musical beat and phrase. As I matured as an instructor, I realized that those skills are only tangentially important to the group exercise experience. Participants join fitness classes for many reasons, but I have found that what keeps them coming back is a feeling of belonging, regardless of their skill level or fitness abilities. One of the most important things an instructor can do is to help every person feel that he or she belongs in the class.

Amanda Vogel, M.A., Human Kinetics

As a group fitness instructor for the past 18 years, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing firsthand just what a unique opportunity group fitness classes provide for people to come together and experience movement in positive, memorable and purposeful ways. Group-based classes can be truly transformative when designed and led with the right intentions, helping to inspire meaningful change in individuals not just physically, but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Jessica Matthews, M.S.; ACE Certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Health Coach; E-RYT500 and yoga educator


Confidence is valuable, especially when subbing. If you walk into a class feeling uncertain of yourself, the crowd will walk all over you. I also learned to plan ahead. I didn’t rehearse timing for the first class I ever taught back in 2005 and finished the 30-minute workout in 10 minutes! However, this taught me to be adaptable and ready for anything—a skill that’s essential for any teacher of groups.

Beverly Hosford, M.A.; ACE Certified Personal Trainer; Health Works Institute Instructor and fitness entrepreneur

After a decade of teaching group fitness, I’ve discovered that everyone is on their own journey in life, and group fitness is one piece of their wellness path. Some people join classes for the sense of community while others use the time to train or overcome a life obstacle. No matter the reason, instructors have the power to help people on their journeys, whether as a mentor, friend or a leader.

Elizabeth Rae Kovar, M.A.; ACE Master Trainer; award-winning trainer, fitness writer and author


Help people lead healthier, happier lives as an ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor

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