This post is going to attempt to address some of the basic steps you’ll need to take to get started teaching group fitness. Keep in mind, this is only a guide. There are many ways of approaching this industry, and this is just my advice based on my experience.
1. Take classes. It seems obvious (I hope), but in order to understand what will be expected of you as a group fitness instructor it helps to have attended classes prior to becoming an instructor. For the most part, group fitness instructors are folks who loved fitness classes so much they wanted to teach. However, there are many folks who come in to the group fitness arena because they are skilled in a “trendy” activity that the director wants to turn into a fitness class, e.g. Capoeira, Belly Dancing, Tennis — I have seen all kinds of specialty classes. These classes fail frequently when the instructor isn’t given an understanding of what group fitness participants want from their workout. To those instructors especially, I encourage you to take a couple of classes and get a feel for what the people in the room are there for.
2. Get your CPR certification. Almost all certifications require it, as do most gyms. You can find a class offered by either the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association by visiting their websites and searching for offerings in your area. You can also inquire at your health club, local hospital or by checking the yellow pages for EMT training courses. The class you are looking for is Adult CPR, probably with AED. The AHA calls it “Heartsaver” training.
3. Decide what you want to teach. There are numerous certifiying bodies and certification types for you to choose from. There are certifications for just about every style of class available, plus proprietary classes (like LesMills and TurboKick), and general certs. If you want to teach Yoga, it makes more sense for you to earn yoga credentials than a general fitness cert. While some certifications provide general information that can apply to a variety of styles, you should pick the cert that makes the most sense for you. Ask instructors of the classes that you want to teach which ones they have to get an idea of where you can look in addition to the list here. This is only a handful of the “better-known” certfications and is certainly not all-inclusive. It is also not an endorsement of any particular program (hence, just the links). If you have a suggestion for a class I’m missing, please let me know!
General Group Fitness
- AFAA – (If you live in or near a city where they will host APEX this year, you can get their certifications for $99/day)
- BodyStep by LesMills (Please see Les Mills in the proprietary section.)
Yoga certification is a process of study that can take 800 hours, and usually involves studying under a mentor. Check your local yoga studio for suggestions to begin this process.
Your gym may be licensed for a specific brand of classes. Some will be exclusive to one brand, others may allow a blend of branded and unbranded classes on their schedule. Check with the director of the club where you want to teach to find out what your options are. Here are a few proprietary brands:
4. Sign up for the certification class and start any pre-workshop studying. Once you take the course and pass the exam, you will receive your certificate and can begin looking for a place to teach.
5. Get a mentor. Ask for an experienced instructor to allow you to take their classes, learn from their example, and be a source for information and advice. Better yet, get hired on at a gym that has this type of program already in place for new instructors. Most people will be flattered and excited about helping someone who truly is seeking out assistance in getting started the right way.
One last quick comment about certifications: there are many organizations out there that will get you “certified” just so that they can take your money. The fitness industry is laden with scams for everyone, not just those who want to lose weight. There are many choices out there so do your homework, ask around and get the facts before you give them money. I have experience with each of the organizations above and while some come more highly recommended than others, I wanted to give you a variety for comparison purposes. Again, if you aren’t sure if the cert will get you a job, ask the manager at the facility where you want to teach!!
Best of luck!