Last month I wrote a post about the things I wish I knew before becoming a personal trainer. A lot of people resonated with it, so I wanted to do a slightly different one about the things I wish I knew before becoming a group fitness instructor. While they’re both related, there are several key differences.
I have a habit of either jumping into things without thinking them all the way through or I try to figure out every detail and don’t do anything because I get overwhelmed. Embarking on my teaching journey fell into that first category. I love what I do, but there were definitely some things that I didn’t know when I started.
I teach high-intensity interval training or bootcamps, which means that I run through the workout format, demonstrate movements, and then correct form throughout the class. This is my experience with that format, so those of you who teach more choreographed classes may have some different things to add in the comments below!
1. It’s not your sole source of income
I started teaching group fitness before I did personal training. I didn’t really know what to expect and hadn’t really thought the whole thing through. I figured I would teach a bunch of classes and that would be my job.
If you work at a studio or a gym, there are usually a number of other coaches or instructors. There are only so many days and classes in a week, which all need to be divided between those people. This means you most likely won’t be able to make it a full time job working at one place. You can accumulate classes by teaching at more than one location, but more than likely it’ll end up as a part time or supplemental income.
2. It’s more complicated than it looks
Whenever I attend fitness classes, the instructors always make it seem so effortless. When I actually started teaching, however, I realized there were way more things I needed to pay attention to than I realized. Making sure the music is correct, watching the clock for timing cues, reminding people of what movement they have coming next, all while trying to offer a modification for someone with an injury is a lot all at one time.
Group fitness is an exercise in multi-tasking to the extreme, and thankfully I’ve gotten the hang of it as I go along.
3. There are no sick days
Similar to personal training, you don’t accumulate sick time when teaching group fitness. If you’re sick or go on vacation, those are classes that you lose as well as the income that goes along with it.
4. No one is listening to you
I don’t mean this as harshly as it sounds. What I mean by no one listens to you is that often people are so involved in their own workouts that they don’t pay attention to every phrase you say. I would always worry that I could never repeat myself or people would judge me, but soon I realized (from others as well as myself), that people will pick up on those motivational cues maybe once out of every three times you say them.
5. Playlists take a LONG time
I thought that making playlists for my workouts would be a no-brainer and I would be done in no time. This is not the case. Finding songs that fit my class style actually takes MUCH longer than you’d think. You then have to think about warm up and cool down songs and plan the playlist in such a way that the music builds to a certain point in the workout when people need those beats to help carry them through to the end.
I can’t even imagine how long spinning playlists take to create because they are so beat-dependent. Props to you guys.
6. Writing workouts takes longer than you think
Along the same lines as the playlists, writing actual workouts takes more time than I originally thought. The workouts at Sweat are all preprogrammed for us, but now that I have taken on this corporate role, I need to write my own workouts for the week. I teach at least six different classes, so I need to make sure that each one is different both in movements and format to avoid doing many of the same moves during the week.
7. It’s easy to fall into a routine (and how to get out of it)
When teaching classes, it’s easy to fall into the same warm up and cool down routine. It’s something we know and doesn’t require you to think much about it. The same goes for the motivational phrases used throughout the class. I have a whole bank of different ones that I pull from, but after awhile it feels like I’m always saying the same things.
The best way I’ve found to break out of that cycle is to take other group fitness classes yourself. By seeing how other instructors carry out their workouts, I always leave with a new sense of inspiration and a different way of viewing the workout as a whole. Plus, I get to stock up on new phrases. 🙂
8. Get to know your clients for a better workout (for both of you)
The better I know the people in my class, the more I can converse with them, see how they’re progressing, and just have a good time during class. I try and make a point to get to know people I see regularly so that way I can help advise them on weight choices and be able to motivate them directly while the workout is going on.
9. You have to be present
The job of a group fitness instructor is to teach and motivate you through the class. Sure, you can show up as an instructor and give a lackluster performance, but chances are slim that you will get good reviews or return visits. No matter what kind of day you’re having, you need to be able to switch on your instructor persona and provide the best workout you can for those people paying you for it.
Classpass, for example, requires that their members rate their instructor after every class they take. Poor ratings not only make you look bad, but also the studio as a whole. It’s important to be fully present during class and provide the best service you can, even if you’re having an off day.
10. Your body is your job — take care of it
Before working in the fitness industry, I felt like things like massage were frivolous expenditures. Now that my job depends on the health of my body, I see how important it is to take care of it on a regular basis. The fact that I injured my back and still need other people to demonstrate movements for me over a week later means I’m not able to do my job to the best of my ability. I’m stubborn when it comes to doctors and things like stretching until something serious comes up, but as I get older and continue in this field, self-care is something I need to make a priority.
This is still a lesson I’m learning, but this injury is making me shift some priorities around. Rather than sit and let an injury go away on its own without knowing what caused it, I made an sports injury appointment in order to avoid this type of thing in the future. I go in today, so hopefully I’ll have some news for you in Friday’s post!
- Are you a fitness instructor? Do you have anything to add?
- What’s your impression of fitness instructors?