Updated: Jun 18, 2018
So! You've thought about it and you decided you definitely want to give Group Fitness Instructing a try. Now what? Here is what I suggest, based on my experience in the industry.
1. Grab a pen and paper.
It's time to do a little journaling (one of my favorite activities!) to help you figure out which path to take. This process will only take a few minutes, but will bring you clarity on which step to take next. On your paper, write your personal responses to these questions:
a. Make a list of all of the types of group exercise classes you've ever taken. Seriously. Every
single one. Your list might look something like this...
Strength/Resistance (like Les Mills BodyPump, a "Muscle," toning, or sculpting class, etc.)
Dance Fitness (like Zumba, Beachbody Cize, Beachbody Country Heat, dance aerobics, etc.)
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training, including Tabata-style classes and Beachbody Insanity)
Cardio (like Hi-Lo, traditional aerobics, etc.)
Coach-led Classes (like Orange Theory Fitness or traditional Bootcamps)
Water or Aqua-based Classes
b. Once your list is complete, put a smiley-face next to each class that you absolutely LOVED.
c. Cross out the classes that you absolutely HATED.
d. Put a star next to the classes that you can possibly see yourself teaching in the future.
e. What do the classes that you starred and put a smiley-face next to have in common?
Are they all cardio classes? Are they all pre-choreographed formats (like BodyPump or PiYo Live)? Are they all non-choreographed (like Bootcamp/HIIT classes)? Are they all taught
by a phenomenal instructor that you love and follow? Take a few minutes to see if there's a
f. Envision yourself teaching a class that you love. Which class is it? If you see yourself teaching
more than one format, you will do this process a couple of times. For each class format, write
this mission statement on your paper:
I love _____-style classes, and I know I will be really great at teaching _____.
For example, when I first began my fitness-teaching journey, I LOVED cardio classes, and I
could envision myself being great at teaching TurboKick. That was it. I knew I could rock
TurboKick and TurboKick alone. I did not see myself teaching Dance or HIIT classes right off the
bat (my love for those came later!), but I knew TurboKick was my STUFF. I knew how a class
was structured, I knew I could rock the choreography, I knew my form was decent, and I knew
that I was passionate about it. My mission statement would have read:
"I love cardio kickboxing-style classes, and I know I will be really good at teaching TurboKick."
What class is that, for you? Yoga? Zumba? Pilates? Cycling? Take a moment to really
envision yourself in front of a class. Where are you (a local gym, a studio, a park)? What are
you wearing? What kind of music is playing? What are you doing (leading by doing,
coaching, walking around and correcting form)?
Maybe your mission statement looks like this:
"I love mind/body-style classes, and I know I will be really great at teaching yoga."
"I love dance fitness-style classes, and I know I will be really great at teaching Zumba."
"I love strength/resistance-style classes, and I know I will be really great at teaching a toning
Focus on one format at a time, and put your research, time, and energy into that format. There are many paths that lead to group exercise instructing. If yoga is your thing, you might want to start by checking out the Yoga Alliance. If a pre-choreographed format (like any of the Les Mills, Beachbody, Zumba, or other nationally-recognized programs) is what you love, you will want to research that specific program to find out when you can attend a certification workshop. If you are interested in creating your own routines, choreography, and style, you will start by getting your primary group fitness instructor certification (see below).
3. Get a primary group fitness instructor certification.
I highly recommend that every fitness instructor have a primary group fitness instructor certification. Most gyms and studios require it from their instructors, and many secondary certification programs with pre-choreographed formats are now also strongly suggesting a primary certification to go along with their own certifications to ensure that the instructor is properly qualified.
I personally recommend AFAA's (Athletics and Fitness Association of America) GFI (group fitness instructor) certification, not only because that is who I originally certified with and now work for, but because they are known as being the leaders in the fitness industry when it comes to safe and effective group exercise.
A group fitness instructor certification will help you learn how to design, choreograph, and teach a group fitness class with confidence, as well as help you learn about the essentials of exercise and physiology. Getting a group fitness certification is like getting your high school diploma before getting specialized degree in college - it just makes sense.
4. Just do it.
You have to just do it. Do the dang thing. Sign up for the certification. Attend the workshop. Talk to a fitness professional. If you truly want to pursue this dream, you have to start. Rest assured, all of us started somewhere and had a bit of self-doubt. But you can do it. Take action today and know that you envisioned yourself doing this, and you can make that vision a reality.