Jane Needs a Mentor – Tips for New Instructors

Becoming a new group exercise instructor is exciting, until one realizes how much they DIDN'T learn in the weekend course. Finding a mentor can help.

Meet “Jane”, a new group-fitness instructor. Read her story and consider what she needs to thrive in her new role.

Jane loves her Pilates class, so she decides to take the upcoming “Pilates 101” certification. She is led to believe that at the end of her “certification,” she will be ready to teach her own Pilates 101 class the very next day. Jane excitedly returns home, practices for her own future classes, but ends up with complete anxiety. She jumps on the Pilates social-media private-group page and asks questions about how to hear the beat, cue the moves, and make accommodations for special populations. She receives all kinds of advice from veteran instructors, but the replies on her smart phone are just words, distant and unsettling. Jane has no real mentor.

Instructors NEED Mentors

I have lived the fitness industry for almost twenty years, serving as an instructor, program director, trainer, presenter, and educator. I have witnessed numerous changes in this arena, some which have made me giddy with joy and others which have made me cringe or eye roll. And although so many factors have ebbed-and-flowed through this evolution of group exercise, there has been one distinct constant: fitness instructors NEED a mentor.

What Jane really needs is for those words to materialize into a human being—an experienced instructor who can meet with her in the group-fitness studio for discussions, rehearsals, and even laughs! It’s through this mentorship that Jane will gain education, practical experience, and confidence.

According to Krista Popowych, the 2014 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year, “There aren’t enough new instructors coming into the industry. And there’s a lack of versatility and skill (among) the ones who do come. They are no longer getting the training they need. The basics are not there (musicality, phrasing, how to instruct).” Acquiring a nationally-recognized group-fitness certification, such as ACE, AFAA, or ACSM, would certainly lessen this gap (and should be acquired regardless), but a mentor of some degree is the most right-now, in-the-studio kind of experience.

Finding a mentor will provide developing instructors with three vital things: experience, networking, and motivation.


Developing instructors can learn from a veteran’s successes and mistakes, which will save them time and energy (and heartbreak) down the road.


Yes, the old adage, “It’s who you know” still absolutely applies. Mentors can help newer instructors make additional connections within an establish network.


Mentors can assist instructors navigate some tricky obstacles and then celebrate the successes, no matter how big or small.

The following five methods can help new instructors find a mentor:

  • Simply ASK someone who as experience!
  • Use Linkedin to search for professionals in their area.
  • Attend group-fitness conferences and workshops and get to know others in the region.
  • Join a professional networking group, such as
  • Consider where they want to work and reach out to an instructor within those facilities.

As a veteran in this ever-evolving group-fitness industry—a veteran with a passion and drive for others’ successes—I want to help guide “Jane.” I want her to be successful and experience the same rewards that I have enjoyed year after year, format after format, beat after beat. After all, Jane isn’t my competitor but, instead, my protégé, shaping our group-fitness industry for the next generation.

Works Cited

Gagliardi, Chris. “How Finding a Mentor Can Give You the Edge You Need.” IDEA Fitness Journal, February 2016, 8.

Keller, Joy. “2015 IDEA Group Fitness Trend Watch.” IDEA Fitness Journal, July-August 2015, 18-27.

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