Better Bottom Line – Making Money in Group Fitness

It is only fair that I follow up my post about making money from the internet with a post about making more money doing what you love.  After all, it is why you are here! We all recognize that Group Fitness isn’t a high-paying profession, but there are ways you can turn the tables in your favor and generate more money for yourself, your family, and your employer.   This is going to be the first in a series of posts that are dedicated to helping you literally make the most out of teaching.  We’re going to discuss some very basic approaches here that really come down to how to find the best gyms for your bottom line.  Then, we’ll look at some “out-of-the-box” ways to command more money for your time.

Economics 101

First, let’s start with basic economics.  You currently earn $X per hour teach 2 classes per week at ABC Fitness Club.  The easiest thing to do would be to take on more classes and sub as frequently as you can, thus increasing your salary proportionately.  The limits to how much you can make in this structure are your time constraints, and the number of classes you can teach in a week (AFAA recommends no more than 12).

The next economic lesson is to go where the money is at.  Check into every gym and studio in your area, find the one where you will bring home the highest dollar amount per class and start teaching there.  Be careful with this one.  If you live further away from a particular gym, it may not be worth the gas money.  Here is an equation to help you determine your costs for comparison.

First, determine your net rate for ABC Fitness with the following:

Distance (in miles) round-trip to ABC DIVIDED BY the gas mileage of your car (miles per gallon) MULTIPLIED BY the cost of gas ($ per gallon).  Subtract your result from the rate ABC Fitness pays you.

Then, perform the same calculation for the second gym and compare the two numbers to decide which is more profitable.  Here is an example:

I work at East Shore Health and Racquet which is literally across the street from my development.  Their highest pay rate is $22/class.  I drive a gas-guzzling SUV that gets 18 mpg (shame on me, I know, but we can’t afford a new car right now)  and gas in Charleston, SC today is $2.67/gallon.  Meanwhile, EcoFitness in Mt. Pleasant is 14 miles from my house, so 28 miles round trip and they pay $25/class.  My math looks like this:

22 – (.25/18*2.67) = 21.96 net rate at ESHR

25 – (28/18*2.67) = 20.84 net rate at EcoFitness

You can see that on paper, ESHR is the place for me to work, especially if gas prices continue to climb the way they have.  However, for roughly a dollar difference, I benefit simply from having the flexibility of teaching more classes in more places.  Do the comparison for yourself to make sure it is worth the commute.

Improve your Hourly

The next best way to increase your salary is to get paid the highest amount per hour that you can.  Many gyms offer incentives for their instructors to seek out continuing education.  The gym benefits from having more qualified and knowledgeable instructors and you get a raise for each workshop or certification you earn.  At two of the gyms where I teach, instructors receive a raise of $1 per current cert above your base group fitness cert and CPR and $.25 – $.50 for workshop attendance.  If your gym does not currently offer such a program, bring it up to your director and see if you can arrange to have it implemented.

Another way to increase your hourly rate is simply to ask for a raise.  Be prepared to show your director or the owner exactly why you deserve more money.  If you are certain that you add value to their club then go for it.  Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you take this step:

  • Have I been a loyal team member and employee of this club for long enough to establish that I am committed?
  • Do I regularly teach my own classes, arrange for subs in advance, frequently sub for others, and take all necessary steps to get coverage in emergency situations?
  • Do I go above and beyond the call of duty in matters of customer service?  Do I assist my students in ways that extend my role as a fitness instructor?  Do I perform tasks that help out the club or the members, even if they are not listed in my job duties?
  • Do I consistently have high attendance in my classes?  Do I have a strong reputation as an excellent instructor?  Do students beg for more of me?
  • Are there any examples of exceptional work on my part that warrant an increase in pay?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you have a case for asking for a raise.  As a Group Fitness Director, I would not hesitate to arrange for an increase for you if you regularly exceeded my expectations and were a proven asset to my program. If you cannot answer yes to these items, do not despair.  We’ll have another post in this series detailing how you can.  Then, take a few months to improve your performance in any or all of these areas and approach management with your request.  Just make sure you are prepared to keep up the good work!!

Perky perks

Sometimes, it isn’t just the pay rate alone that makes it beneficial to teach at a club.  You might consider taking a cut in hourly rate to teach at a club that offers excellent perks to its instructors or staff.  I worked at a club that only paid $15 per class to teach, which sounded like peanuts at first!  However, they hosted continuing education and certification workshops regularly at the club that I was able to attend for more than 50% off in many cases.  This often amounted to the equivalent of $100-$200 bonus in my pocket everytime I went out for a workshop.  I would have to teach 20 classes at a higher-paying gym to cover the additional cost to me.  No thanks!  Here are some other perks to keep an eye out for:

  • Complimentary membership for you and your family.  It makes sense that you get a membership and that your kids can stay in child care when you teach, but some gyms have a “minimum classes per week” policy before you are allowed to work out there.  Also, check into whether or not your spouse can have a membership and whether or not you get free childcare when you are there to work out as well as teach.  This can easily add up to the equivalent of $100 per month depending on the gym.
  • Discounts on merchandise.  If your gym has a boutique of items you can get at a discount or cost, you could end up with a significant savings on items you need for teaching anyway.  Find out what you are entitled to at a gym when you apply there.
  • Discounted or free services.  Similar to the boutique, find out if you can access other services at the gym for a reduced rate.  My favorite perk was the complimentary 30 minute massage I received every 6 months at one health club where I once taught.  Now I can have free unlimited tanning, free smoothies after teaching, half-price personal training, and access to a pool, sauna and hot tub.  Unfortunately for me, I don’t actually use any of these services, but if I did, they would be like free money since I’d no longer pay full price for these things.
  • Health care.  You might have to go to one of the bigger chain clubs to have access to health care, and you might have to work a minimum number of hours per week to qualify, but in today’s world, you can’t afford not to look for a club where this is an option.

These are the most basic lessons in our quest to improve our salaries as Fitness Instructors.  Tune in for more information about how to outperform your bosses expectations so that you qualify for raise, a step-by-step guide to approaching your boss about the raise, and some out-of-the-box ideas on how to earn $100 or more per hour of your time as an instructor.

See you then!


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