Posted in Advice for Fitness Instructors, Confidence, Gaining Experience, How to Become a Fitness Instructor, My Life In Fitness, Personal Growth, What It's Like to Be a Group Fitness Instructor

5 Reasons I Shouldn’t Have Become a Group Fitness Instructor

In this world, we are often taught to base our future careers off of what we have already done in the past, along with our strongest skill sets. When I set out to become a group fitness instructor, all I had was a love of kickboxing and a lifetime of playing sports to back me. What I didn’t know was that I lacked many skills, qualities, and habits that were fundamental to a life in fitness. That’s why today I’m sharing 5 Reasons I Shouldn’t Have Become a Group Fitness Instructor.

Reason 1: I’m An Introvert

Who knew that enjoying the workout was completely different from leading and creating engaging group fitness classes? If you’re not up on Myer’s Briggs, a key identifying personality trait is introversion versus extroversion. Whereas extroverts have a tendency to really enjoy being around others, to thrive in social situations, and display a range of positive and intense emotions, introverts are the opposite. They tend to:

  • Prefer being alone or in the company of a small, select group of friends
  • Come off as socially awkward or uninterested
  • Experience a wide range of emotions inwardly, but channel it inward instead of expressing it outwardly

I credit John Heringer, Chief Motivator at Fast Action Training (now Method3 Fitness) for being the first to point out that I needed to speak more, get louder, and bring the intensity so I could motivate our clients. I can’t say it was easy, but these are skills I was able to learn and I continue to refine them even now!

Reason 2: I’m Asthmatic

If you read my previous blog about That One Year I Joined the Cross Country Team, you got a sampling of what it was like for me to be an athlete with asthma. But the truth is, as an adult I never realized it could have an impact on my chosen career path. In fact, when I first start out as a fitness professional, I didn’t have an inhaler (Remind me to come back to the problem of insurance in a later post). And yet I taught the following formats:

I never actually thought that I couldn’t hang… until I couldn’t anymore. Long story short, I started getting sick due to my workload. When I finally realized it was the asthma, instead of quitting I decided to give up my most intense classes and focus on a path that was more sustainable. I realized that being an asthmatic fitness professional wasn’t a no-go. But for me, avoiding burnout required me to plan smarter, not work harder.

Reason 3: I Was Out of Shape

I discovered fairly quickly after entering into the fitness profession maintaining a full time fitness schedule was physically and mentally demanding to say the least! When I first started out, I taught an average of 4-6 classes each week. After each class shift, which varied in length from one to three classes, I went home and crashed. If I wasn’t working, I was usually sleeping. Even 10 hour nights weren’t enough, until I:

Hey, if my job is to help others get healthier, I had to make sure I was healthy too, from the inside out.

Reason 4: I Wasn’t Skinny

“Weight” and “body fat loss” are major drivers within the fitness industry. Although those words never entered my thoughts when I was doing my research, I’ve heard from instructors all over the country how it affects the way they are viewed and treated. There’s this idea that we should “be the example” for our students. But in my opinion, the goals we set as individuals, both teachers and students, vary widely. Why assume that weight loss is the goal? There are many others:

Most students will never feel skinny. It’s not the instructor’s responsibility to make them feel that way either. But it is our job to deliver an effective and inspiring workout.

Reason 5: Zero Experience Teaching

Well… zero experience is a bit of an exaggeration. As a matter of fact, in grad school I was a teaching assistant. So I’d given lectures and led labs on how to effective qualitative research. Not to mention that one time I organized and lead a merengue and bachata meetup. But I guess that’s not the same. I’ll never forget that first interview I had.

“So you’ve NEVER lead a group fitness class before?” This was John from FAT.

I told him point blank. “No.”

But it wasn’t a deal breaker. And, seven and a half years later (at the time I’m writing this post), I’m still teaching there. And I owe a huge debt of gratitude to John and his team (especially Lead Coach Keith) for taking a chance on me and for helping me develop the skills I have today. They emphasized the fact that I shared the values and I found very quickly that it was the right studio for me. And over time, I gained more experience, there and at other studios.

The Lesson: Keep Learning. Keep Growing.

I’ve never been one to sweat the details of what I CAN’T do. And what I’ve learned in my career as a fitness professional is that, if there’s something I don’t know how to do, with some time and effort, I can figure it out. As a matter of fact, LEARNING has always been my greatest skill and my favorite thing to do. If you can teach yourself to not only enjoy, but become good at THAT, just imagine what you can do… even if there are reasons you shouldn’t.

Until next time ๐Ÿ™‚

Nadia

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Posted in Advice for Fitness Instructors, Benefits & Perks, Confidence, How to Become a Fitness Instructor, Personal Growth, What It's Like to Be a Group Fitness Instructor

Haters Gon Hate: When People Say Your Job Isn’t a “Real” Job

Not too long after I’d first become a group fitness instructor and personal trainer, I had a strange experience with an old friend. It’s 3:00PM on a Friday afternoon. We made plans to hit the beach for happy hour cocktails and he’s running several hours late. No text or call, presumably because of his busy schedule. Since I know he’s pretty flaky, I decide to go alone. It’s an hour long drive to the beach and if I get there early, I’ll have a nice view of the ocean from the bar patio.

As I’m driving, I get a call from you know who.

I pick up with my car’s bluetooth. “I already left.” I smiled. He is not amused. He huffs and haws trying to convince me to turn around. I won’t. “Sorry friend. The bus has left the station.”

“Some of us have to work real jobs in order to pay the bills,” he says.

I did a double take. Hater much? This was the first time I’d heard anyone say something like this about the work that I do and it surprised me. What I wanted to say was…

  1. I woke up at 5:00am to prepare for my day and show up for my 6:00am shift.
  2. I worked continuously without a break, serving 4 small group training sessions, 1 cardio class, responding to client emails, and making phone calls till 12:30.
  3. I do this same work 5 days a week then when I go home I plan, create, and schedule content for my blogs and social pages.

Instead, I said “Enjoy your day!” then hung up. Later that day, as I sat by the beach, sipping margaritas, I thought about it some more. I could see why my job might feel “unreal.” Getting out of work before 1:00pm on a Friday to hit the beach is one of the many perks many people never get to experience. But here’s the truth:

It is no mistake that I chose a career path that is both fulfilling for me spiritually and beneficial for my well being. I took the time to explore what I love, what I am good at, and what will ultimately pay the bills. I put in the WORK to find the path I am on now.

Being a fitness professional is physically demanding and can often be emotionally taxing too. I had to work at becoming an skilled, engaging instructor.

And I am so grateful to be able to say that I love what I do. I wish for everyone who is dissatisfied with their jobs to find a path that creates happiness, not only in their lives but in the lives of others too. But for now, I don’t fault anyone for feeling a little jealous. I’d be jealous too ๐Ÿ˜‰ 

Mwuah,

Nadia

Posted in Advice for Fitness Instructors, Audition Tips, Get Hired as a Group Fitness Instructor, Group Fitness Audition

How to Choose the Right Studio to Work For

When people think about finding work, they start to worry whether or not they’ll measure up to the company’s standards. For fitness professionals, this can bring about a lot of stress during the first interview, the audition, and (if applicable) the initial trial period. But what I’ve found over the years is that not every company is worth working for. It’s worth putting in some extra time and effort to make sure you choose the right studio to work for. Read on to find out how.

Do Your Homework

Any time you consider applying for work at a new company, the best practice is to learn as much as you can before you submit any documentation. That includes:

  • Their mission statement
  • The types of clients they serve
  • The size of the gym/studio
  • How they treat their employees
  • How much they pay (if available)

Nowadays, most of this information can be found from a simple Google Search, by going to their website, or by checking out studio reviews on Foursquare or Yelp. You can also drop by the studio, check out the space, attend a free class, and chat with their employees. Thereโ€™s nothing like actually BEING in the physical environment to give you a feel for a place.

Know Their Values (and Yours Too)

I’ve witnessed time and time again employers hiring people whose values don’t align with their own. Generally speaking, a great fitness company will be dedicated to

  • Helping clients/students achieve their goals
  • Great customer service
  • Employee growth and satisfaction
  • Cultivating a safe, positive, healthy environment for everyone

Specific companies will have additional values they seek to uphold. It’s important that you know what they are, so you can figure out if they align with your own.ย Note: If you don’t know what your values are, take some time to reflect on that. Scott Jefferey, founder of CEOSage has a great list of values and instructions for how to uncover yours on his blog.

Get Clear On the Employer’s Expectations

If you’re new to the fitness world or just becoming a group fitness instructor or personal trainer, you should know that instructor responsibilities vary from studio to studio. At some fitness centers, you are expected to show up only a few minutes before class and vacate the room promptly at the end to make way for the next session. However, others may require one or more of the following:

  • Arrive 10-15 minutes early to greet students and check them in for class.
  • Unlock the studio
  • Take out instructor supplies, such as mic headset, and audio cables
  • Attend to cleaning duties during the day or at the end of your shift
  • Shut down equipment, turn off the lights, and close the studio
  • Complete administrative tasks, such as making client/prospect calls, sending emails, completing client intake forms and measurements, etc.

Pro Tip: Don’t assume that employers have written out all responsibilities on the job listing. Always ask. Also, be candid about any tasks you see to be outside of the scope of the position. Although they may not always be flexible, it’s better to have the conversation up front than to have it come up later when your needs or the companies’ aren’t being met.

Inquire About Pay

Pay is a strange thing in the fitness industry. How much you make as a group fitness instructor or personal trainer varies from one place to the next depending the size of the center, their business model, the amount of experience you have, and where you live. Here are the questions to ask:

  • Does the studio pay hourly or by student?
  • What is the base or hourly pay?
  • Is there a different rate for administrative tasks?
  • If no one shows up, do you still get paid?

That last one is super important, especially if you’re working for a brand new studio or in a low traffic time slot. Make sure you know the details before you sign your contract.

Consider Your Commute

It is rare for group fitness instructors to gain a full time schedule (30 hours in the fitness field) at a single studio. Even the instructors that teach the most engaging classes, end up working at two or three. Itโ€™s easy to reason the commute time when youโ€™re just starting out, but as you continue to add classes to your schedule, make sure youโ€™re not spending a good chunk of it on the road. Here are the rules I’ve implemented for accepting classes:

  • 30 minutes max commute (20 minutes ideal)
  • Two classes back to back unless I’m subbing
  • Pay must be worth it. For example, if I’m making $30 for a 60 minute class, but spending 30 minutes getting there (and 30 minutes back), I’m actually only making $15/hour for your time… minus taxes. That’s a recipe for burnout, which we want to avoid at all costs!

These are the main things I consider when choosing a studio to work for. Questions? Comments? Additions? Thoughts? Leave a comment below!

Happy Job Hunting!

Nadia ๐Ÿ™‚

PS – If you happen to be a blogger, in the fitness, nutrition, or wellness space, join my blogging group on Facebook!

Posted in Advice for Fitness Instructors, Class Engagement, Confidence, Dealing with Students, Gaining Experience, Subbing Classes

Embarrassing Moments in Group Fitness: My First Walkout

As I entered into my career as a group fitness instructor, I was blissfully unaware of all of the things that might go wrong while teaching, especially while subbing another instructor’s class. That’s why I feel compelled to share with you one of my most embarrassing moments in group fitness: my first walkout.

The Setup

I was asked by a colleague of mine to sub a group strength and cardio class that met right before my regular dance fitness session. Since I was already teaching indoor bootcamps at Method3 Fitness (then Fast Action Training), I knew it would be a piece of cake!

I planned a workout I just knew would be challenging and fun! Then I showed up ready to deliver.

Enter Antagonist: The Disgruntled Regular

Most of the class was super friendly and grateful to be met with something different (as opposed to a class cancellation). But there was one woman whom I noticed was struggling with workload. She moved slowly from one exercise to the next and I can only describe her form during the moves as a personal trainer’s nightmare.

Just know that I’m not trying to belittle her. I was truly worried that she would injure herself! So I happily approached her for form corrections and suggested modifications. She was not impressed, but rather, she ignored me and continued to do her thing.

The Tipping Point

As we moved into the next block of exercises, I gave the class a break while I demonstrated the next set of moves. As the other students watched intently, I heard a gasp from far right side of the room “UGH!”

EVERYONE turned to look. The woman shook her head and as I continued to demonstrate, she began to pick up her equipment and put it away… one piece at a time. First her mat. Then her weights. Then the bench.

Important side note: She had chosen a spot on the right side of the room, in the front. The equipment was on the left, in the back. So she walked past the group about 6 times ๐Ÿ˜ ๐Ÿ˜… ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

My Reaction

Truth be told, I was shocked at her blatant disruption of class. At the same time, as an older woman who had probably been attending the class regularly for years, I could see that it was just her frustration boiling over. So…

  • As she put away her equipment, I went on teaching as if there were no disruptions (despite the eyes of several students following her)
  • When she finally made her way toward the door to leave, I smiled, waved, and said “Thank you so much for coming!”
  • At the end of class, I apologized to the remaining students on her behalf. They expressed that although it was different than they were used to, they really enjoyed the class.

My guidance compass: Be kind. Be confident. Be professional.

Lesson Learned: Don’t Take Things Personally

My first walkout taught me quite a bit about having a career in group fitness:

  1. Different students like different formats. Just because a student doesn’t like your class, it doesn’t mean it isn’t great. It just means it’s not for them.
  2. It’s not about me. How a student reacts on any given day is a reflection of their attitude and emotional state. A daily workout may be the only opportunity someone has to feel great in their day. Some people are really bad with change.
  3. It will likely happen again, because subbing is tough!

You never know what you’re going to get when you get hired for a new class or sub someone else’s. There’s always an adjustment. As long as you know that you brought your best stuff and worked hard to keep the class engaged, you’ve done your due diligence.

Did you find this piece funny? Helpful? Scary? Let me know in the comments below! And if you’re an instructor who has had an experience like this, share that too! We can commiserate together ๐Ÿ˜‰

Till next time,

Nadia

Posted in Advice for Fitness Instructors, Gaining Experience, Get Hired as a Group Fitness Instructor, How to Become a Fitness Instructor

How to Gain Experience As a Group Fitness Instructor

As you have probably experienced at one point in your lifetime, one of the biggest issues for professionals entering any new field is that of experience. In group fitness, many gyms won’t even consider you as a candidate if you have been teaching for less than a year, let alone freshly certified with no classes under your belt. There IS hope though. Here’s how you can gain the experience you need to land a job as a group fitness instructor.

Organize a free class

A great way to start practicing your skills, build confidence as an instructor, and gain momentum in your teaching career is to teach free classes. There are several ways to host:

  • Start your own group through an event meetup site or offer to host on an existing group.
  • Host your own parties or gatherings with friends.
  • Put your name on the list of available instructors at a fitness clothing store (such as Lululemon or Athleta)

Just remember to protect yourself by obtaining liability insurance and collecting waivers from all participants.

Offer to Sub Classes

Subbing classes is my #1 Tip for getting hired as a fitness instructor at a studio or fitness facility. Hiring managers need too know that you are

  1. Skilled in your designated format
  2. Trustworthy, meaning that you show up when you say you will and are available when needed most.

Once they see that you are a great addition to the team at their studio, they will search for ways to get you a class on the schedule.

Post Videos on Social Channels

Having content on a social channel is a great way for companies to know that you are passionate about what you do and in it for the long haul. In fact, many applications ask for social media accounts, so they can check out your personality and style. I say, if you can carve out the time:

  • Film at least video per week displaying you working out/practicing. Teaching videos are best for the obvious benefit of showcasing your expertise, but any film of you performing in your designated format will work.
  • Post the videos across as many channels as possible. Instagram is one of the most popular right now (in 2019), but Facebook TV and YouTube are strong platforms as well. Plus, with YouTube (or Vimeo), you can embed videos onto your website.

If you’re serious about a career in fitness, make it your mission gain as much experience in the first year as possible. It will not only make you a better instructor, but it will give you the opportunity to gain a solid base of references you can lean on when the time comes to obtain a job.

The Magic Year Mark

Take it from someone who has been there, once you hit that magical 1 year experience mark, the % of callbacks will skyrocket. You just have to get over that hump.

What are you doing to gain experience now? Share your thoughts and any questions in the comments below!

And good luck ๐Ÿ˜‰

Nadia

Posted in Advice for Fitness Instructors, How to Become a Fitness Instructor

How to Become a Group Fitness Instructor

Do you love your fitness classes so much that you’re thinking about a career in the field? Or perhaps you’re a lifetime athlete trying to utilize your best skill set to dive into work that you enjoy. A career as a group fitness instructor may be a great fit for you. The process to become one is very straightforward. Here are the steps you need to take to become a group fitness instructor.

Step One: Get GFI Certified

Fitness studios and gyms vary widely in terms of what they offer to members, but one thing that is consistent about 99% of the time is the requirement that instructors obtain and maintain a primary certification in group exercise or group fitness. There are many options for certifications. Among the most popular and recognized in the U.S. are:

The one you choose should reflect what studios in your area accept, as well as the one that fits your budget and learning style best. Most job listings contain a list of the employers’ top picks.

Step Two: Choose a Focus

While primary certifications give you a base of knowledge in terms of anatomy, teaching guidelines, and techniques, they are not specifically oriented toward particular formats. Nor will they teach you how to create and run a class from start to finish. That means, you will need to seek additional education in an area of specialty. Among the most popular group fitness formats are:

  • Group Strength (like my 15 Full Body Workouts series)
  • Dance/Dance Fitness (such as Zumba or UJam Fitness)
  • Bootcamp Fitness
  • Cardio Sculpt
  • Step Aerobics (yes, even now!)
  • Spinning/Cycling

Quick note: If you were thinking of yoga, it’s not technically a group fitness format. If you’re interested in becoming a yoga instructor, look into enrolling in a 200 hour certification program.

Step Three: Land a Teaching Job

Of course, in order to become a fitness instructor, you need to land a job teaching classes.

  • Search your local listings. I’ve had good results with Indeed and Craigslist. A good Google maps search to find out what local studios are in the area will also serve you well.
  • Send your resume with a brief introduction over email. Feel free to follow up with a call or a visit. That way, they won’t see you as just another potential candidate, but rather have a face and personality to attach the documents to.
  • Audition with as many studios as possible. As you will see, the group fitness audition is your gateway into the field, especially when you’re starting out. Click here for tips on how to rock your audition.

In the meantime, get as much experience teaching as you can. Hiring managers will be looking for that as they consider candidates.

Get Started Today

If you’re serious about a career in fitness, get started NOW. The sooner you get your certification, the sooner opportunities will arise for you to use it. I had no idea where my initial group fitness cert would take me. Almost 8 years later, I’m THRIVING in a career that I love. I hope this piece gave you the information and inspiration you need to help you take the next step on your career and fitness journey. Best of luck to you!

Sincerely,

Nadia

PS – Want more advice on how to become a thriving fitness professional and stories about life in the field? Click here to join my mailing list.

Posted in Advice for Fitness Instructors, Get Hired as a Group Fitness Instructor, How to Become a Fitness Instructor

Get Hired as a Group Fitness Instructor: My #1 Tip

Whether you just got certified as a group fitness instructor or you’re looking to add new classes to your schedule, getting hired can be an intimidating process. But after so many years in the business, I’ve found one way to land a class that works about 90% of the time.

My #1 Tip: Get On a Sub List

Probably the fastest path to landing a class of your own on a gym or fitness studio’s schedule is by getting on their sub list. In my experience, you can never have too many subs to call upon in a time of need. The last thing popular studios want to do is cancel a class. That’s a thing for their members and for you!

How to Get On the Sub List

The process of getting on a sub list can be smooth and seamless if you go about it the right way.

Attend classes in your chosen format.

Want to teach kickboxing? Become a regular student in a class taught by your favorite instructor or at least by someone whose style is similar to your own. Make it your goal to excel in class and to show up consistently once or twice a week.

Tell your instructor you’re available.

After a few weeks of attending classes, casually let your instructor know that you’re certified and available to sub if they need it. More often than not, they will be super grateful. After all, you:

  1. Know the group
  2. Are skilled in the format
  3. Are already available at the time you need them.

It’s a win-win for everyone!

Ask for a referral.

Hiring managers can sometimes be skeptical of new instructors coming on board, especially those with very little experience in the field. When I just started, my instructors and master teachers told me I had the skills, but managers did a double take with the fact that I had less than a year of experience (the minimum standard for most gyms). Having the instructor’s support will go a long way in overcoming those pre-set barriers. So make sure to…

  • Ask for an introduction. Ask your instructor if they would mind introducing you to the group fitness manager or whoever is in charge of hiring instructors. Most likely, they will be happy to help.
  • Follow up over email. Get your instructor’s contact information and shoot a quick email to say thank you in advance for the introduction.

Lean on Master Trainers

Instructors who led your format trainings usually keep in touch with their students. They often know of new opportunities that rise up or are able to connect you to people in your area who are teaching and need subs.

Utilize them as an ongoing resource. They want to see you succeed as much as I do ๐Ÿ™‚

Good luck!

Nadia
Next Step: Auditioning. Click here if you want to know what to expect.

PS – If you found this blog helpful and/or it landed you an opportunity, please let me know in the comments! And since I know you love fitness, nutrition, and wellness as much as I do, join the community on Facebook!