Hello friends, I have been asked so many times why I became a fitness instructor, what the process was, where to start and more! I decided to make a series about the process and what I have learned over the past few years. I will be the FIRST to say that I do not know everything, and to please know this is based on my own experience. I will also have some other instructors chime in about their experience, so if you are an instructor and have something to offer, shoot me am email (email@example.com).
So, what DOES it take?
First– It takes a desire! If you have a desire to be an instructor, no matter what type, that is the best place to begin! You don’t have to look a certain way, or be able to lift a certain amount of weight, or be perfect in any skills. There may be things for you to work on, like form, coaching and more, but your desire to share the love of movement with others is a great way to start!
Second – you need to find out what training/certification(s) you need. Many types of instructor certifications have a specific training you need to attend. If you are looking for general fitness instructor training, you may want to look into a group certification through one of the larger companies out there (AFAA, ACE). I know some gyms will require/honor this certification along with a certification for the class style you want to teach, so that is something to think about. I have my group fitness certification from AFAA (more about that in a later post), and I also have 2 certifications from Les Mills.
When you decide what you want to get certified in, whether it is Zumba, cycling, barre, weight lifting, Pilates, yoga, etc, you need to find a training to attend.
My recommendation is to find a training that is close to home, but sometimes travel is necessary, depending where you live. You can find out about different trainings and the cost for training on the website of the company you are looking to be certified with. Many trainings will have an early bird discount, so take advantage of that when you can. There are also some gyms who will help you pay for your training, or reimburse you, so look into that option as well.
Third– pick your training and get ready to learn. Once you have your training date(s) set, be ready to focus a lot of time and energy on preparing for your training, learning throughout the training, and practicing what you learn after training.
Fourth– Practice! No matter where you are in the process, practice will help you get better! Practice with other experienced instructors, practice alone, practice in front of a mirror, attend master classes and watch yourself on film.
Fifth– Advance training- Find a way to learn new things, stay fresh and up to date. Most types of fitness companies have conferences, events, advance trainings and more. These will have a time and cost factor, so it may take some more planning to get to these kinds of events.
My personal experience on the journey to become a fitness instructor actually began about 7 years ago. I had finally taken the leap into group-x classes and was finding that I actually enjoyed them. A friend roped me into taking a Body Pump class one day and I was hooked! During my first few months taking the class really felt like teaching this type of class was something that I could do! I talked to a few of the instructors I had and they were all so encouraging and agreed that it was something I should pursue. I started to look into it and then fear took over. I didn’t ‘look’ the part. I wasn’t strong enough. I had to many flaws.
I let those thoughts take me back to not even looking into it anymore. I kept going to classes but had excuse after excuse why I hadn’t looked into training. Several years went by and I finally had gained the courage to go to training and then I got injured! I was so frustrated!
My perfect time finally came in 2017. I was chatting with one of my instructor friends after class one day, and I said the only thing keeping me back was location. I did not want to drive far away for the training. She told me a new gym had just opened 20 min away and they were holding a training sometime in the next few weeks for Body Pump. I just knew it was my chance. I talked to my husband and signed up for the training the next day. I got one of the last spots for that training!
Les Mills training weekends are no joke! I can’t compare them to any other company, but I am sure they are all very challenging. It is not only challenging for the body, but also the mind!
Les Mills has a 2 day training in which we receive our information about 7-10 days before training. We have to learn 1-2 tracks and then will present and shadow those tracks throughout the weekend. When training weekend comes, you really do not want to have any distractions. The training began early on Saturday morning. We spent the first day doing a master class, going over basics of being an instructor, and lots of physical movement. We presented our tracks and we also had the Body Pump challenge! It was fun and exhausting at the same time. At the end of day one we had homework with what to work on with our basic instructing skills as well as any form issues.
Day 2 was just as long, but this time we did less physical activity and spent more time on the nitty gritty of instructing. Les Mills has a pretty specific protocol for instructors which includes layer coaching (what, how/why, motivation). We worked on our layer coaching with partners and then we presented our tracks again. This time we either received a pass or try again for the weekend. Thankfully I passed the for the weekend and was ready to embark on the next step!
The last big part of becoming a Les Mills certified instructor is the most nerve wracking of all! Filming! Once we pass initial training, we have 60 days to film ourselves teaching the entire release. So learning all the choreography that matches the music as well as using the layer cues we learned at training.
I set up to film with several girls who I know would be fabulous to instruct, but when it came down to it, I only had 2 friend who was able to come. We got it all set up and went to town! My first run through on the warm up was a bit of a mess. I started over and there was no looking back. Overall I thought it went pretty well. My friend who was with me also felt it went well, and since she had already been an instructor with Les Mills for several years, I was pretty happy with the film. I submitted and just a few days later I received the news I passed!
Since I have attended a Live event (like a massive party with Les Mills enthusiasts), an advanced training, taken and taught a ton of classes, got my AFAA group fitness certification and decided to get another Les Mills certification as well! I am so thankful I decided to take a leap of faith and become an instructor! You never know where your journey will take you!
I was the most surprised to be Houston’s 24 Hour Fitness instructor of the month this past February! It is a joy and an honor to instruct, and my students have become like family!
So do you have what it takes? Please let me know if you have any questions!
Next up will be discussing what all new instructors need to know!
23 thoughts on “Fitness Instructor Series: What does it take?”
I really loved teaching group fitness when I did it. It takes a lot more work and prep than people realize!
You are so right about all the prep work!
What classes did you used to teach? I bet you were an awesome instructor!
I used to teach cycle and a weights class. I loved it until I didn’t 🙂
Glad to hear it worked for you for a season! You still inspire others with your awesome posts and races!
Congrats on your success, and fulfilling your passion. It’s interesting hearing about all the requirements and work it actually takes.
Thank you! It is a lot more work than most people think!
Thanks so much for sharing! I’m glad you went for it. Although I have a full time career, teaching group fitness on the side is so rewarding (and has its perks!). I currently teach barre (which is what I started with) and HIIT classes. I’m looking to get certified in another format and I’m strongly considering Pilates!
You are welcome! It is a great side gig! I could not support myself or my family with teaching alone!
Pilates sounds like a great addition to your other formats!
Thanks for the post. A great insight into what it takes to be an instructor. I’ve not done many Les Mills classes but know they have a great reputation.
Les Mills classes are some of my favorite! I am a big fan of the way they set up movement to music!
I’m glad you found something that works well for you! :] I can definitely see it taking a lot of prep work behind the scenes! Congrats on winning fitness instructor of the month this year! (I just joined the 24 hour fitness near me! :]!)
Thanks Farrah! If I was closer we could work out together!
Totally agree with you! I was a spin I instructor for about 2 years but ultimately decided that I preferred being a participant vs being a teacher. I think I’ve just been spoiled because I’ve come across so many amazing fitness instructors!
It is great that you were able to be an instructor, and then find where you feel the best!
I agree, I love taking classes from other amazing instructors!
Well said…’It takes desire’…and this is what can make all the difference…
It makes a HUGE difference for sure!
So now, I have the Imagine Dragons song “Whatever It Takes” in my head LOL!
A lot goes into being a fitness coach, but that’s a good thing. As someone who relies on coaches and trainers, it’s nice know that our leaders have extensive and specific training so they are best set up to help us in our workouts!
Haha, I have the song in my head now too!
It does take a lot, but I feel a great coach makes it look more effortless!
Great post! I’ve been instructing and personal training for a decade now, but I’ve never had the coordination for the Les Mills choreography, haha! The classes are super fun to take though!
That is awesome!
Haha, there are many instructors who have to work really hard for that choreography! Not as simple as some think!
Which classes do you like to take?
Your tips are great! I think a lot of people have the misconception that you have to act/look a certain way in order to be a fitness instructor! That filming part definitely would’ve freaked me out though, haha. I feel like I’m super awkward on video (hence why I almost never do IG videos or anything of the sort 😛 ). Congrats to you! <3!
Thanks girl! You are so right!
The filming process is the pits! Although, it does get a bit better with time and practice.
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