Posted in Advice for Fitness Instructors, Business Advice, Fitness Professionals, Getting Paid, Subbing Classes

How to Fill Your Schedule as a Group Fitness Instructor

Being a group fitness instructor is a labor of love. Many instructors get into the field because they like exercise and enjoy helping others have fun while getting fit. One of the toughest aspects of this career path is finding enough work to bring in a full time income. I’ve heard some say that it isn’t possible or sustainable, but I disagree. With consistent effort and a game plan, you can learn how to fill your schedule as a group fitness instructor. See my top tips below.

Tip #1: Teach Group Fitness for Multiple Studios

Both large gyms and small studios are constantly hiring group fitness instructors.

In fitness, 20-30 hours a week of scheduled classes can be considered full time work. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that you will find that many class hours at one location. This means, you may need to work for three or four studios to have the load you desire.

If you’re a skilled instructor with a good reference from another current or former employer, it will be easy to get your foot in the door of new fitness centers. After the audition, managers typically start new hires off with one or two classes to see how their members like them. With the community’s approval, you stand a good chance of being asked to take on more classes. Larger gyms are constantly adding new classes or making changes to their schedule, so with any luck, you’ll be able to steadily gain more classes.

Tip #2: Master a Variety of Group Fitness Formats

An instructor with multiple formats and a few years of experience is a GFM’s gold star!

The most valuable instructors come in two types: 1) highly skilled format specialists and 2) seasoned multi-format instructors.

Although boutique studios that focus on just ONE thing grew in popularity these last couple of decades, there has been a recent shift to specializing in one thing while offering a little bit of everything (think yoga studios that offer pilates, sculpt, or spinning). Larger fitness centers offer a wide range of group fitness classes including but not limited to:

  • Spin/Cycling
  • Treadmill Running
  • TRX Suspension
  • Dance Fitness
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Water Aerobics
  • Circuit Training
  • Cardio Conditioning
  • Step Aerobics

The most common advice I hear given to fitness professionals is to specialize in one thing. I couldn’t disagree more. An instructor trained in multiple formats has a better chance of getting back to back classes and can step up to sub in a pinch. If they are someone students already love, it can open the doors for members trying new offerings. So if you’ve been thinking about picking up a new format, don’t walk. RUN and sign up for a training.

Tip #3: Fill Your Group Fitness Schedule By Subbing

Subs are needed almost daily across studios. Gain a reputation for saying yes when they need you!

A common struggle fitness companies experience is the lack of subs. This has always been an issue, but the problem has grown since the 2020 mass shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since being a GFI is a side-gig for many people, a staggering amount of instructors chose to retire from teaching instead of returning to their gyms once they reopened. Others relocated. This has made it difficult and near impossible to get classes covered when instructors are sick or go on vacation.

Personal Share: That One Time I Was a Go-To Sub

There was a short period of time when I cleared my class schedule to work as a part time staff blogger at LoveToKnow. While that took up about 20 hours per week, I made it a point to get in anywhere from 8-10 additional hours of subbing (my teaching rate was double my writing rate). Even now, as a full time instructor, I can easily pick up an additional 4-5 hours a week. I don’t because recovery is an important part of the job. However, the opportunities are there if I want or need them.

Check Frequently for Sub Opportunities

Most studios have a specific format for sending sub requests via email or text. Check your inbox regularly for open opportunities. Make it a point to respond quickly whether or not you’re available, that way other teachers know to contact you next time they’re in need. Note: Weekends, early mornings (think 5:30 to 7:00am start times), and holidays are particularly difficult to fill, so if you have openings during those days and/or times, you are a fitness manager’s savior! Some studios even pay a bonus for these slots on top of your hourly rate. So if you’re free, why not?

Tip #4: Ask About Open Slots in the Group Fitness Schedule

Group fitness instructors who ask more often for open slots get more slots.

The day I started sharing my open availability with my group fitness managers (GFMs) was the day my class schedule finally filled up. GFMs at large fitness centers are constantly reaching out to their reliable instructors to get them on the schedule for more classes. When I just started as a group fitness instructor, I often got frustrated when my availability didn’t match up to the days and times my managers sent me. One day, instead of getting frustrated, I simply said “I’m not available that day, but I have open slots on X and X days between X and X times.” Even if there were no slots currently available, I put it in their mind that I was interested in taking on more, so they continued asking. Note: This is also a great way to shift into your ideal schedule.

Although it didn’t happen right away, within a year, I had about 18 classes on the schedule across 3 studios. That didn’t include 1:1 training clients and subbing opportunities, which often raised my total hours to about 25 per week. 

Start Filling Your Schedule As a Group Fitness Instructor Today

If someone ever tells you that it’s not possible to make a full time living as a GFI, tell them they’re wrong! Just like any career, if you’re truly dedicated to teaching, you have to put in the work. With a little persistence, a commitment to honing your craft, and a reputation as a reliable fitness professional, you’re bound to build the class load you desire. Although it may take some time to fill your schedule as a group fitness instructor, it IS possible. If there’s one or more steps above you haven’t yet taken, I recommend that you start today. I have faith in you ❤️

Good Luck,


Want to see more of the content I create? Find all my latest content on my Instagram channel @transformwithnadia

Posted in Advice for Fitness Instructors, Class Engagement

7 Tips to Create an Engaging Class Experience

I see it all the time. An instructor consistently has challenging, effective workouts, but class numbers aren’t building. Even if you have the BEST workouts, if you aren’t holding students’ attention from the start of the session to the end of it, you have to get them more interested and engaged. Here are 7 tips to create an engaging class experience, so students leave loving your workouts and want to come back for more.

Introduce Yourself Every Time

Whether you’re new to a certain time slot or not, a dedicated introduction can serve you in many ways:

  1. It let’s students know that class is about to begin. A simple “Good morning everyone! As you know, my name is…” can quiet the room and prep their minds for what is to come.
  2. It gives you an opportunity to set expectations. You summarize the workout, encourage students to challenge themselves, and give permission to take modifications (and ask for them) whenever necessary.
  3. It’s the perfect time to find out if there are new students in your class. Have them raise their hands. Even experienced students can feel a little lost in a new class. This will allow you to pinpoint them and give them extra attention.

Bring TONS of Energy

Students feed off the energy of their instructors. If you show up tired or laid back, they’ll feel it. So make it a point be…well… EXTRA. That means:

  • Making movements big. For all intensive purposes, think of your class as an interactive performance. So even if you’re demoing with a set of 5 pound weights, when you squat and press, make it look like you’re crushing 50s with full range of motion.
  • Get LOUD. Speak with a firm tone at a high volume, as if you are shouting to someone across the room. This communicates authority and intensity to your students. Remember, they feed off of your energy. Your level of intensity will raise theirs.

Keep Exercises Simple

It can be fun to create complicated combinations, but more often than not, you lose half of your students. They’ll waste 1/2 the interval trying to figure out what they heck they’re doing. The KISS (keep it simple stupid) rule is essential. In practice, it looks like this:

  1. Pick an exercise.
  2. Demonstrate a modification.
  3. If students get it and are keeping great form, give them a progression.

It’s as simple as that. Many students and some instructors make the mistake of thinking that more complicated equals more effective. False! It changes the focus of the exercise. For example, one thing I see often is students choosing to do a bent over row in a single leg hing position (rather than having 2 feet on the floor). I usually tell them that if they have enough energy to take that position, their weights aren’t heavy enough. They appreciate the tip!

Keep Students Moving

It’s unfortunate that fitness center classes have become so streamlined that most students expect a 45-60 minute all-out sweatfest, without even a minute “wasted” on rest or recovery. I won’t go off on a tangent now, except to say that a well-rounded workout for most should not leave students exhausted by the end of it. But alas, this type of class is expected from instructors, especially those who teach during high traffic time slots. Here’s how you can sneak in more movement for the students who need it:

  • Give your warm-ups an energy boost. Ramp up the class more quickly with quick-paced, dynamic warm-up exercises. The exercises should recruit more muscle groups and get clients moving through multiple planes of motion. My favorites are alternating hand touch squats, side lunge and reach, reverse lunge twist, and down dog to plank.
  • Place recovery AFTER cardio intervals. Nothing says “Thank god for this break!” Like 1-2 minutes of intense cardio. About 95% of your students will be grateful for it. The other 5% needs a distraction. For them, you can…
  • Give them something to do during recovery periods. Tell them to grab some water, towel off, and make sure their next piece of equipment is ready for the next set. When in doubt, say, “Don’t need the break? Jumping jacks or burpees.” In a class of 40, I’ve only ever seen ONE person take advantage of that offer 😉

Give Students Personal Attention

Students keep coming back to your classes because they trust that they will not only get a great workout, but that you will lead them through it in a way that is safe, effective, and fun. They love it when you

  • Give them corrections. Small adjustments will help them work muscles more efficiently and alleviate pain that’s caused by bad posture or dysfunctional movement patterns.
  • Check in. A simple “How does that resistance feel for you?” or “Is this okay for your knee?” to someone you know has recurring issues in the joint helps them feel seen. It also gives them permission to share if something doesn’t feel right and ask for modifications in the future if needed.
  • Challenge them to go harder. Can’t forget the regulars! If you know someone can lift heavier weights or take a more intense progression, put it out there. They can always say no, but more likely, they will feel honored that you recognize their strength and rise to the challenge.

Facilitate Interaction

Last, but certainly not least, encourage students to interact with one another. Here are 3 things I ask students to do during every class:

  1. Say hello to one person before class begins. On a practical level, this gives me a bit of time to fiddle with my mic and my music. On an emotional level, students now know at least one person in the class they can look to if they missed an exercise or empathize with when their thighs are in full burn mode.
  2. Share a high five or fist bump. It doesn’t require any words, so this is perfect after a cardio set.
  3. Point to someone across the room and shout “You Rock”/”You’re Awesome/”Crushing It….” You get the idea. Students love this one the most. They get to give AND receive a encouragement. I swear, this gets every single person in the room to smile, even after burpees 😉

Deliver Motivation & Support

Each and every one of us craves approval in one way or another. Your students want to feel successful during class and after it has ended. Be generous with words of encouragement and words of wisdom throughout class.

  • Recognize and acknowledge good form. We tend to focus on what’s going wrong during class, so we can make corrections, but there are often quite a few people doing everything right! Notice and vocally applaud both the group and individuals.
  • Praise corrections. If you correct someone and she makes a shift (even if it’s not perfect), say “Yes! So much better” or something to that effect. That way, they know they are making progress.
  • Drop knowledge bombs. Be the coach who encourages students to work hard through positive quotes and nuggets of truth. One of my favorites is “If you want to get stronger, you must be willing to get uncomfortable.”

Do you incorporate any of these methods in your classes now? Let me know in the comments below! Also, be sure to share any of your own tips as well.


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Posted in Advice for Fitness Instructors, Confidence

5 Ways to Build Confidence as a Fitness Instructor

Are you nervous about an upcoming class or audition? It’s natural to have pre-class jitters. As a matter of fact, I myself get nervous from time to time, especially when I’m subbing for another instructor or getting in front of a new group of students. What I need one these days is a confidence boost. Here are 5 simple ways to build confidence as a fitness instructor.

Boost Your Confidence and Come Out on Top

The following tidbits will work in a pinch.

  1. Prepare Your Workout in Advance. Anyone whose taught for some time has had the experience of rushing from one class to the next or has been asked to sub at the list minute and enters the room unprepared. Okay, you tell yourself. Today, we’re gonna wing it. This might fly if you’re a seasoned instructor and have a lifetime of templates to call upon. But when you’re brand new, your students will smell the odor of “fly by the seat of your pants” musk surrounding you. All of a sudden, you’re grasping at straws to figure out the next move. I keep a selection of 15 workouts that I cycle through for about a year before I create new ones (you can check them out and snag them if you want to here). It sure makes those 6:00am classes run more smoothly!
  2. Create Tailored Playlists. Music motivates. There may be some students who are content to focus on just the moves, but others want to move to the beat of the music (literally!). Address all of your students’ needs by choosing a selection of music that caters to the tempo of the class. Pro tip: make sure you review it a few times before you bring it to class. Click here to check out the playlists I’ve created on Spotify.
  3. Wear Something You Feel Like a Rockstar In. Looking good is a quick road to feeling good. The right clothes can go a long way in making that happen. That means investing in fitness gear that is functional and flattering as well. Note: Don’t be afraid to be a little, well…. EXTRA. Believe me. Your students will not only appreciate the effort. They’ll also notice your shift in attitude.
  4. Arrive Early to Class. A good rule of thumb is to arrive 15 minutes before start time. You still have to set up the music, make sure there’s a battery in your mic headset, glance over your workout, and welcome students. The last thing you want is to roll up with 5 minutes or less to spare. That will make you feel rushed and appear to your students as unprepared (even if your workout and playlist are ready to go).
  5. Be Yourself. May new instructors struggle to find their teaching personality in the beginning. You’ve probably seen quite a few styles: The peppy cheerleader type, the kick your ass drill sergeant type, the flirtatious, flamboyant dancer type…  the list is endless! It can feel intimidating to see others with strong personalities crushing their classes. But just know that you don’t have to pretend to be anything you’re not. Instead, figure out those innate qualities that draw students to your classes and allow those to stand out.

So tell me… which of these do YOU need to work on more? Tell me in the comments below!

Good luck 🙂


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