I’m a Certified Group Exercise Instructor…Now What?

You attended your first training and now you are eager to share your passion, enthusiasm and expertise with a real live class. But how do you take what you’ve learned at a one-day training or from your studies preparing for your certification and land your first job?  Whether you are teaching aqua, bootcamp, cycle, or a dance class, there are key strategies you can implement to go from the front of the class to the stage!

Be prepared, over prepared!

Plan your class

It all starts with a clear plan of what you are going to teach.  Successful fitness instructors, teach every class with a set class plan. So before you go and apply for your first teaching job, you should have your first several class plans organized and ready to go.

If you are teaching a pre-choreographed class, like Les Mills or Beachbody, your job will be to learn the choreography presented to you and implement it. Sometimes this is harder than it looks. A few strategies for learning and memorizing choreography

  1. Know your music << Before I learn any exercise sequences my first step for pre-choreographed formats has always been to learn the music. My goal is to understand the flow of the song and know the lyrics and the overall feeling of the song. Knowing your music will not only help you as you match the music to the exercise but it also helps when you’re teaching especially if you ever forget the choreography.
  2. Do it << Whether you created it yourself, or you are learning choreography to memorize, watching an exercise or master class and reading the choreography notes is not enough. You need to feel the moves in your body.  You need to understand what each movement looks and acts like in order to best coach it.  Plus, when you do the workout you create muscle memory in your body that will allow you to easily remember what to do if your brain has a momentary lapse.
  3. Practice, practice, practice, and practice some more << The more you practice the easier it will be to remember.  An actor wouldn’t go on stage without memorzing their script, and you shouldn’t either.
  4. Talk to yourself << Get into a studio and actually practice coaching the workout.  It is one thing to be able to do it, it is a totally new ballgame to be in front of a group of people and know what to say and when to say it.

If you are struggling with memorizing choreography or you enjoy creating your own class plans then a freestyle workout may be better suited for you. Although preparation time will increase as you have to come up with your own choreography, exercises, sequences and music it’s often easier to remember because you created it. There are a lot of valuable resources to get you started. Right here on GXunited you can take a look at the Featured Class Plans for new ideas.

Landing Your First Job

Now that you are prepared to teach your first class it’s time to get that job. Landing your first teaching job though takes patience and a lot of research.

Do your Homework

It’s important to decide what kind of environment you would like to teach in. Depending on your format you can find a job teaching at a vof facilities, including:

  • YMCA / YWCA
  • Corporate Chain
  • Individually / Locally owned gym
  • Community center
  • Country club / Health club
  • Dance studio
  • Corporate / Wellness center
  • Small private studios
  • Hospital wellness center

Search for all the above in your area and create a list of places you think you would enjoying teaching at and would be able to offer your format.  Then check out their group exercise schedule and see what formats they offer.  If they have your specialty format, then it is time to determine if the facility is a good fit for you.

Find out who the group exercise manager/coordinator/director is and go check out one of their classes.  While yea, shooting an email is great, attending a class will give you more opportunity to show off your skills and you have their undivided attention to grab and chat with them.  Not only will you get a workout but you can talk to them in person after class and briefly introduce yourself so that when they get your email they can put a face with the name. Make sure you don’t pitch at your first meeting. Just simply introduce yourself tell them you are a certified instructor and enjoyed their class. Ask them if it would be ok to send them your contact information via email.

Taking a class at the facility will also help you determine if the facility is a right fit for you. Do you like the facility? Can you see yourself teaching there? Would you enjoy teaching the participants here? You should WANT to teach there as much as they want you to teach for them.

The application

You have their contact information and you are ready to send in your resume. In this digital age it’s important to have an online resume for potential employers. This allows you to provide a brief bio, your credentials, and references all in one place that can be updated regularly.

LinkedIn is your best bet for creating an online digital resume as it is designed specifically for employeers and employees.

A digital resume is also a great opportunity to provide a sampling of your teaching ability. If this is going to be your first teaching opportunity you can simply gather a few friends and film a short demo of teaching. You don’t need any fancy equipment. Just use your phone and upload to youtube and provide that link.

The interview / audition

Yay!!!  The group exercise coordinator/director calls you to set up an audition. Now it’s time to prepare for your first audition.

An audition can include an interview, teaching a segment to just the director or teaching a short portion or longer to a live class. Make sure to ask questions on what will be included so you can be prepared. Most managers have you audition in a live class because it not showcases your skills but is also allows for member feedback. But sometimes you will be asked to teach to just the director or even know one at all. That is often harder to do so just imagine you have a class full of your favorite people.  Focus on demonstrating your ability to lead a safe and effective class and above all be yourself.

Dress the part

For the audition dress the part and look your best. Even though you may get sweaty it is still a job interview and you will want to look professional. Having your hair and makeup done and dressing in proper attire will not only show your professionalism but it will likely give you added confidence when you present your class for the first time.

Be Patient

Even if you aced your audition there may not be any open time slots to fill so offer to be on their sub list and demonstrate that you are a team player.  Many times I have been able to offer instructors on the sub list permanent time lots very quickly. So continue to follow up and offer to help without being annoying.

And don’t worry if you’re not a fit for a facility. Not all instructors are suited for all audiences. There are a lot of different personalities, different formats and different participants in the world. You may have to audition several times to find the right fit.

Whether you get the job or not, never stop learning and honing your skills. You don’t get progress without work. You won’t get better unless you kwhere you are, figure out how you can improve and practice!


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“I hope we make you challenge the status quo, rethink what you know, and discover new group fitness experiences”

-Summer Sides,
Founder of GXunited

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