The role of a class instructor (aka group exercise instructor or group fitness instructor) is to teach fitness classes in a fun, motivational and safe manner in gyms and health clubs. If you are an exercise-driven, energetic and friendly person, a career as a group fitness instructor will be an enjoyable and rewarding one. Like any other role within the fitness industry however, you are permanently visible and need to truly care about each member of your class. You will need to demonstrate on a daily basis a genuine desire to help your members improve their fitness in a fun environment that is down to you to create. Whether you are working as an aerobics or circuits instructor; Les Mills certified instructor, Zumba instructor, Pilates or yoga instructor or Spinning instructor you will still be facing a group of eager individuals keen to follow your every move. What can you expect from here on in?
The first steps to working as a class instructor
You have passed your qualifications you're now ready to teach exercise to members of the public. Depending on whether you teach group exercise classes in addition to your role as a fitness instructor or whether you are a freelance instructor you will need to consider the following things: music and insurance. A health club or leisure centre may have an umbrella music license enabling all their class instructors to play certain music tracks but you should check that with your manager. If not, individual class instructors can purchase special tracks from certain providers at a price that includes the music license e.g. Pure Energy or Fitpro. With insurance full-time employees may be covered by their employers. However, freelancer class instructors will need to obtain their own from a public liability insurance house or the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs).
How to get paid work as a class instructor
Many fitness class instructors work in a variety of environments. It might be that they have several health clubs, gyms or leisure centres where they do regular classes each week. In addition they may also run their own classes by hiring a particular venue. The income for the latter can be more lucrative depending on how many people you attract to your class (i.e. each client may pay £2-£3 per class and so in a large bust venue like a village hall, the earning potential each week is very good).
Once students have graduated from a class instructor course they may wish to gain employment within health clubs. In order to be taken on as a class instructor you will most probably be asked to come in for an ‘audition’. After all, standing up teaching a group of people a series of moves to music is a live performance and so health club managers will want to know that all employed fitness class instructors can entertain, have fun and motivate their members. Even if you are only offered one class initially it is worth accepting. Once you have proven yourself to be popular with the members and reliable, you will most certainly be offered fitness classes.
If you are the entrepreneurial sort you may also consider hiring a venue such as a school or church hall and run your own classes there. Depending on numbers and price you have to pay for the venue the income from this can be quite lucrative. Remember though, that with option, you have to make sure you have the appropriate music license and personal liability insurance (which you may also require for a gym based job too).
A day in the life of a freelance class instructor
As a gym instructor working in a health club, your employers may decide to enhance your qualifications by putting you on additional group fitness courses, generally it is more common for class instructors to work freelance. Therefore, for the purposes of this article we will focus on freelance group fitness instructors.
As a freelance fitness class instructor your day will typically revolve around early mornings, lunch times and evenings. These are the most common times for most fitness classes simply because these are the times when the general public are free - before work, with their spare lunch hour and in their free time after work. It is also more likely when starting out that you will be teaching weekend classes too as you'll be aiming to earn as much as possible or generally prove to a health club that you have what it takes to be a successful fitness class instructor So, initially you need to be flexible in every sense of the word and get used to working unsociable hours, at least in the short term.
Being a reliable class structor
To prove yourself as reliable you always need to make sure that you arrive early and not simply on time to your class. You are the fitness specialist and leader and members may want to have a quiet word with you prior to the session regarding their ability levels, injuries, the reinforcement of moves etc. Also, if your class requires a certain amount of equipment you need to prepare this too. Members may well put out their own steps and mats but you need to make sure it is available and easily accessible.
If you are teaching in a large environment there may be a microphone that you can use. Arriving early gives you time to test this out to make sure batteries are properly working thereby avoiding any hitches during your session.
Being the best possible class instructor
Your fitness sessions need to be fun and motivating or otherwise members just won’t come back. It is a good idea to create a rapport with your class; get to know their names and a fact or two about each one – another good reason to arrive to your class early. If your members feel they can trust you they are more likely to say if they would like you to change something rather than stopping coming altogether.
If you are choreographing your own exercise classes change them regularly so that interest remains high. Your classes have to have the right balance of difficulty and fun. If a class is too hard or repetitive for your group it won’t be enjoyable and again, they won’t return.
The best fitness class instructors are ones that earn their members trust; they break complicated moves down into easy steps, judge the tempo and ability of the class correctly, challenge where necessary, know when to give those extra words of encouragement to overcome a difficult patch and most importantly, genuinely care about each person’s experience.
For more training courses and find out how to become a qualified class instructor and the types of fitness class training offered by the UK's leading fitness training course providers.