Things to Consider in Becoming a Fitness Instructor

Hey friends!

First of all, CONGRATS TO ME!

GRIT coach

Sorry, I just had to be all excited for a moment. And prideful. πŸ˜‰

I passed the video assessment for GRIT, so I am now a legit, official GRIT Coach!! Hallelujah! So glad that’s done with–takes a bit of pressure off for sure. (I haven’t heard for CX yet, just FYI).

Becoming a Les Mills Instructor is quite the process to say the least (more info on becoming a Les Mills Instructor if you’re interested), but it is SO worth it to me. It was over 2 months of work (I began the GRIT work at the end of November, 2012).

It’s where I feel my bestΒ (<–my journey blog post). When I am in front of a class instructing people & helping them get fit.

I was born to teach. It’s that simple. But I wouldn’t have known it unless I TRIED it out.

I’m not going to lie here though, there are some that would probably HATE being an instructor. Think about these things: Constantly being in front of a crowd? Having to know music so in depth? Staying on beat? Staying on top of the choreography? Being able to cue ahead of time? Talking while working your butt off too? Having to teach even when you don’t feel great or don’t want to that day?

Yah, it’s not all fun & games. And it’s not just a place to get paid to get sweaty (although it’s a nice side perk for sure), there’s so much more to it.

As a continuing ‘series’ of sorts that was set off when I wrote the guest post for Janetha (& found out I’m not hilarious as I think- too bad, right?), I wanted to share about some things to think about/consider in becoming a fitness instructor.

My hope is to simply open your eyes to the world of a fitness instructor-especially if you want to eventually do that as a job (which I highly recommend!! and would love to help you do it!!).

Things to Consider in Becoming a Fitness Instructor

I also saw an article in that nails some of the points in a great way & actually gave me the idea to write a post in my own words–so I have to give it credit! Check it out as well.

1. There will be a lot of learning-especially in the beginning stages.Β 

-Like how to cue in advance &Β how to talk without sounding like you’re dying (sometimes I still do–esp at the end of the squats track in BP! hah!)

-how to learn the choreography to music or how to create a class that is cohesive & gets the people their workouts

things to consider in becoming a fitness instructor

2. You will probably want to stay on top of your choreography. So just FYI-the ‘job’ is never really done or over.

-if you have a pre-choregraphed class that you instruct, you are expected to know the choreo 100%

-if it’s a class you design, you have to know what you’re doing 100%. I promise you will forget some of it before you get to class–so knowing it 100% means you’ll only mess up 1 or 2x (which is forgivable) instead of 10x <–which gets to be annoying & distracting to members

3. You will need to know how to count music and stay on beat.

-enough said. listen to music & learn to hear the ‘beat’ <–this will drive members crazy if you can’t–so practice!!

4. Members expect you to motivate them, so YOU must be motivating! Even when you feel like shiz.

-get some new quotes. have a few phrases you love. learn to fight through your own pain so you can totally focus on THEM

-this comes with time, but always remember, if you’re hurting, they’re hurting more-so that is the time to BRING IT in your motivational & drive cues

5. You will get a bunch of perks (paid to get in a bit of a workout! free memberships! experience working with world class trainers!), but please know, those who do it for those perks end up usually hating it. Do it for YOUR passion of loving fitness & helping others.

-I think we established this in the previous “haha what instructors do that is annoying post” –people can TELL if you’re there for them or for yourself. period.

6. You might have really crappy times on the schedule that you ‘get’ to teach-especially at the beginning. And you might even start out as ‘just’ as sub.Β 

-I started at a huge gym as ‘just’ a sub……now I get offered way too many classes to teach for them that I can’t keep up. Simply put: you must start SOMEWHERE, so take it.

-sometimes you have to take the thursday evening class or the Monday at 11 a.m. class. Just DO it & your classes & better time slots will grow from there

7. You might have to get fitter yourself.

-some people may judge you on the way you look (hey, I am just being honest here), but you have to not CARE. However, you will need to have some sort of level of fitness to be able to teach/motivate/be a role model for them. So put time in to be stronger/fitter/faster!

things to consider in becoming a fitness instructor

{blurry bathroom pics with a side of toothpaste. gotta love it.}

8. You will fall in love with your job even more every day.

-amen. amen. amen.

9. You will probably become really close with your members & develop great relationships with them. Learn their names early on & they’ll love you for life!

-I’ve got so many more FB friends now because of this. hehe πŸ˜‰

-for reals though, it’s like a party each time you get to see ’em!

10. You will have to stand in front of people EVERY time you teach. So no ‘fat days’ or ‘bad days’ thoughts are allowed once you step up to the front–it has to be ALL about the people you instruct.Β 

-it’s about THEM. not you.

-as an instructor, you will learn to just suck up your bad days & leave it at the door. but it is HARD. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve just wanted to quit & walk out the door b/c I felt like crap. You can’t do that as an instructor! (I once taught a BP class with the endings of a migraine–it was the most painful but empowering thing I’ve ever done. And those people got their workout!)

-people do NOT want to hear you complain the entire class or hear your problems thru the mic-it’s draining! Sure, I’ve mentioned “oh man I love traffic jams!” or “wow I really need a workout now” at the beginning but then I automatically switch to selling the workout. This can work if you say it in a laughing/haha manner & they’ll feel more like they can connect with you. But MAKE sure you don’t talk about the horrible traffic jam the entire class.

things to consider in becoming a fitness instructor

11. Every time you move or want to teach at a new/different gym, you will be expected to do an audition.

-this is more of an FYI, but you’ll want to be prepared with a few songs (usually 10-15 minutes) just in case


-I think it’s pretty obvious by now that it’s ‘not’ just fun & games (although it IS the best job ever) to teach fitness classes. One way to make it SUPER easy on yourself is to simply put in the time & practice.

-here’s another really big part of this: GO TO FITNESS CLASSES & learn from the best. This is how I learned it the quickest-I took classes from a rockstar instructor who just knew how to pack classes, deliver a great workout, and keep it upbeat & fun while totally pushing us. Find someone like that & take those classes & listen carefully to what she/he says & notice what he/she does. This was crucial to my learning curve!

13. Learn how to mirror moves.

-this is especially huge in classes like Zumba or other cardio classes where left & right is important.Figure out how to cue the class to do the exact opposite of what you’re doing. πŸ˜‰ Β (i.e. you face them, so your left is their right)

14. Learn to be confident & able to improvise at the drop of a hat.

-people can tell if you’re insecure, so learn to FAKE it ’til you make it. Which is exactly how I did it. I had NO idea what I was doing when I first got the job to teach–so I just pretended I did. I practiced a ton though, and learned from instructors who were rockstars–which helped me become more confident.

-be able to know what to do if the mic isn’t working great, or the stereo is off, or you have to adjust the music or lights or fan. BE prepared. I promise something will go wrong. (I once had to teach an entire BP class without a mic. It was the worst thing ever, but the workout still got done!)

things to consider in becoming a fitness instructor

15. Get certified.

-this one is sort of a duh, so I saved it for last. If you want to teach, get certified.

-AFAA is a great organization. Or go to school! Because of my credentials from school (I have my BS & MS in Exercise Sciences & taught courses at the university), every gym recognizes that. But because that is the WAY more expensive & longer (time wise) option, just get the group exercise instructor certification from anywhere accredited (AFAA is the biggest one for fitness instructors, but ACE has one as well)

16. Have FUN! And don’t take yourself too seriously. πŸ˜‰

-this is my favorite tip! HAVE fun with it all! Fitness can be fun, so if you view it as so, people will want to come back & take your classes. If you make it seem like the worst part of your day, guess what? You won’t have anyone in your class.

-The most positive, upbeat, motivating instructors are the ones who pack classes. And they’re the ones who don’t care if they make a fool of themselves either (within reason).


Holy moly that was long! Apparently I love to write about things I am passionate about? Hah.

I promise it’s not THAT overwhelming to be a fitness instructor! It might be right at first (I definitely was intimidated), but I am here to help anytime-so email me or leave a comment.

p.s. just take it in chunks — learn to count beats in music this month, get your cert by the end of the year, practice with other instructors a few times each month, etc.

p.p.s If it’s something you want to do, you will probably WANT to put in the time & effort. And you’ll end up packing classes & changing lives. :) Now that is an amazing feeling & a worthwhile cause!


I am off to work & then teach BP. Have a GREAT day! <3

p.s. happy birthday to my cute nephew!

What are some of YOUR fears of becoming a fitness instructor?? What are YOU going to do today to change that?? If YOU are an instructor, what are some of YOUR tips??Β 

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  1. What a great post! I agree- I feel like I was “meant” to be a fitness instructor (as cheesy as that sounds). I can walk into a class feeling exhausted, and 2 minutes in…I feel amazing! Congrats on the pass- just awesome

    • Yes–that feeling of “it’s going to be okay” after 2 mins in. A MUST have many evenings!! hah :)

    • TRISH says:

      I just rec’d my certification to teach group fitness BUT I still need training of course. I can’t wait to fee like you do. I’m just so afraid to get on stage but if I read your post correctly, as long as I practice, that fear will subside?

      • Yes, Trish, that is correct :) I always say- “fake it til you make it” ANd with teaching fitness that is especially true. You just have to pretend for awhile that you’re super comfy up there/have it all together/etc., even when you don’t πŸ˜‰ It’s exactly how I learned to be confident up there.

        Be patient, and you’ve got this!!

  2. CONGRATS!! This is so exciting and I know how hard you’ve worked!! Awesome work girly!!!

  3. Ashley says:

    And all of the above reasons are why you are the most motivating fitness I’ve experienced! Keep up the terrific work, you have no idea how much (or maybe you do) you touch the live of the people in your class! We in St. Louis really miss you, we were very spoiled!!!! All the best!

  4. Trisha says:

    Love this post… especially as a spin instructor! A tip I would give is if you have a concern (as I do) about choreography or timing ( I have 2 left feet) teaching indoor cycling is a great place to start. It’s a good “gateway” group exercise class to get comfy with talking in front of people without having to talk and be coordinated at the same time. :)

    Must be fate. I was JUST looking at GRIT coach trainings in my area LAST NIGHT! Do you love it?? I typically am not an exercise class person , (love teaching spin though) and GRIT looks fun! I’m certified in BodyFLOW but have never actually taught a class because of the timing and counting and not having a clue as to what I was doing. This post defiinitely inspires me to take my certifications a little further. I DO LOVE TEACHING! Even if its only a part time thing. .

    Thanks for the info and inspiration!

    • that is SUCH a good point!! I don’t teach spin or cycle–so anyone reading this, if you don’t want to count to music necessarily, think about being a spin instructor. Thanks for sharing!!!

  5. Anne Marie says:

    Yay! congrats:)

  6. Great post . . . and I LOVE how enthusiastic you are about what you do. It’s really inspiring!!

  7. Being a fitness instructor looks like so much fun, but such hard work! I think I would love the choreography/music part (I grew up cheerleading and learning the dances always came fastest to me) but I don’t know how I’d do it on a bad day when I’m tired and lacking energy. Must be so difficult! It’s so great that you found something you love to do :)

  8. Thank you for this post!!! Being a fitness instructor is something I’ve considered ever since I started taking Jazzercise. I’ve learned that I love helping people and I love making people excited about fitness. I think my biggest obstacles are becoming more fit myself and finding the time to practice. I’m hoping once I get a job after the Bar exam this summer (hopefully) I can afford a gym with better classes so I can learn from those instructors. I have looked into doing Zumba certification but I definitely think I need more time just going to the classes

  9. Nicole says:

    Great post! I definitely agree with all the points you brought up. I’m an instructor at 24-Hour and I just auditioned to be a BP instructor at another nearby gym on Saturday. It was helpful to have someone give me an honest critique of my form/cueing.

    I’ve had other instructors talk about all BP instructors going to an AIM class every year or so, just to stay on top of your skills and so you “don’t get lazy” (because, instructors are lazy…ha! :) ).

    I know you’re on it because you’ve been through all the latest Les Mills trainings in the past year. If I were in Utah, I’d be first in line at your class!

  10. Yaaa girl congrats! Show your pride, you deserve it!!
    Thanks for this post friend! I’ve been considering being a fitness instructor for about a year now and just play back and forth with whether or not I’d make a good fit for it! It’s tough to decide, and obviously you have to have the right mindset and strengths to do so!
    I want to do one of your classes!

  11. I know from attending Candice’s Body Attack classes that I could NEVER do it. I don’t have the coordination! Being a PT is more my style!

  12. Congrats! This is such an informative post, thanks for sharing all of these tips! Good luck as you continue teaching group fitness classes!

  13. # 7 is the problem for me. I know I want to teach fitness classes (I’m already PiYo certified but don’t teach for this very reason).

    I’d love to be a fitness instructor because I spend all my time in group fitness classes and LOVE them all. Group fitness has changed my life and I want to share my love for it with others. But that stupid # 7 is what keeps me from going for it. I don’t think I need the “perfect” body to teach, but I want to be an example they can look up to. Like “maybe if I go to BP and Combat I can get those abs”. But so far, it’s not true. It’s hard to be a product of the product if I can’t even get the results I want.

    Maybe I need some personal coaching/nutrition assessment???

    • You also had an injury—so don’t be too tough on yourself! It took me a bit to really amp up my fitness, but I learned to eat better & fuel better so I could move better. Less crap, more real food. :) U have some great instructors up at your gym!!!!


      • Teddy says:

        That’s true, I’ve had injuries. I just want it to happen faster! haha, but I know these things take time. :) I love the instructors at my gym! I think I eat really well for the most part. Maybe I need a different balance in protein/other things.

  14. Great post! I teach Combat and am going to Pump training in about 2 weeks and am so stoked! I will say that you are lucky you have only taught once w/o a mike. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to roll w/o one! Its a good thing I’m naturally pretty loud πŸ˜‰ Also #16 is HUGE! I tell new instructors all the time that I didn’t take up this job to stoke my ego. That hasn’t really even happened. I do it because I love the classes, I love the people and I love helping people get healthy and feel empowered. Combat saved me at one point and I would love my participants to feel that. But I’m learning always and remembering to be humble is so important. There is always someone better, fitter, has bigger classes, prettier, etc. Focus on being your best and always getting better and you’ll feel fulfilled!

  15. This is SUCH a valuable post…I’m just starting out teaching classes, so this is gold!

  16. Celeste says:

    Congrats! You’ve worked so hard and it’s awesome to see ya reach your dream :-)

  17. Great post. Definitely teach for the PASSION because it’s probably the worst pay-per-hr job ever. So many hours of prep work go into teaching + the certifications and classes/points to stay current. I’d hate to even keep track of my hours… but I LOVE it just the same. :)

  18. CONGRATS on another amazing accomplishment! My gym doesn’t offer any Les Mills programs…yet… Maybe I should be their first instructor?! πŸ˜‰

  19. great post! I agree that all of those aspects make up the best fitness instructors. Wish I could take one of your classes. I bet you’re awesome πŸ˜‰ Congrats on your certification!

  20. FANTASTIC!!! I hope a ton of people who are considering a training career read this

  21. Congrats on the cert!! I did Les Mills for RPM spinning, and some people were definitely struggling to hear the music. You made so many good points. I don’t think everyone stops to think about everything that is involved in getting certified. But it’s also so much fun!

  22. Ahhh…. I love this. I agree with EVERYTHING on that list and so much resonates with me.
    I was just thinking about how COMFORTABLE I am at the gyms I teach at – I’ve been teaching there for 4 years and know so many people and that’s all going to change when I move! The thought of starting all over again is scary- but exciting!
    The first certification I ever got was Spinning. it was SO easy- a 1 day workshop and an online exam. I was really nervous when I first started teaching, but that went away quickly. And then when I got certified for Bodypump, it was SO different. That process was SO much longer and more difficult because Les Mills wants THE BEST OF THE BEST.
    I feel like I come ALIVE when I teach. Like it’s exactly where I am meant to be. I can’t imagine life before- when I was always just a student in those classes. It’s funny because even then I’d always learn the choreography and even taught TWICE when the instructor didn’t show up!

  23. Loved this post and read every single word of it! πŸ˜‰ As you and I have talked about, I’d love to teach group ex someday. I’m mostly hesitant about the choreography and rhythm thing considering I don’t have much rhythm to begin with! Ha! I’m thinking spin classes or bootcamp inspired classes might be up my alley more rather than say a Zumba class that requires it. Do you have any suggestions or advice for those of us that would want to teach group fitness but maybe don’t have the best rhythm?

    • Of course! You’d probably still have to get the AFAA or similar cert (unless it were a smaller gym & you just simply rocked the audition–then they’d prob just take ya!), but otherwise, just practice. Have a set class ahead of time. Know how to structure a workout or class (you do), and be able to cohesively deliver that without music. So bootcamp or spinning would be things like that. You don’t necessarily ‘need’ to have to count to music for those!

      I would say that most gyms are going to have classes that will have tempos/beats & most gyms are headed in that direction (having choreographed classes & classes with a beat), but not all of them. You could always START with the boot camp or spinning and then go from there? Seriously–spinning or cycle won’t need much of a beat, and I bet you’d be a pro right away!! :) xo

  24. This is a great list that I think will help a lot of people that are curious about becoming instructors! I have been teaching for almost 2 years and I love it, it is my escape from the corporate world and I love motivating members to work hard and push their limits!! Thanks for the post!

  25. People don’t realise the time you put into it- you’re constantly working on choreo, technique, mixing- it’s constant work. But I’d never do anything else. Congrats on your grit certification! I’ve got my BA training this weekend and I’m so nervous and excited- it’s going to be exhausting, but worth it.

    OH and I’ve been there- teaching without a mic for quite a few classes…during a BS class. Not an easy feat but everyone left exhausted and happy haha.

    I definitely think you and I should start a Les Mills fan club πŸ˜‰

  26. love this post! I’m just starting off my fitness career and trying to figure everything out. The hardest part so far has been completely mastering my craft– my background isn’t in exercise science or fitness so every step of this process has been about learning how to not only be knowledgeable but also a good instructor.

    The biggest thing I’m still struggling with is application– yes I was able to pass an exam that tells me I’m certified to train people, but actually doing it is so much more difficult!

  27. Emily says:

    Hi Annette!
    Thanks for the great tips! I’m very interested in becoming a group exercise instructor. I am currently taking 3-5 classes a week- as often as I can! What should my first step be in this journey? Certification? I’m hesitant that no one will want an instructor with a certification but no experience teaching. (I’m an accountant by day, no schooling in fitness related fields).

    Thank you! :)

    • Hey girl :) That is AWESOME that you already go to so many classes! This was a huge part of my journey, and I obv recommend it.

      I would get your cert yes, and also practice teaching friends & family. I did that a lot :) They give good feedback often! I also auditioned early on & didn’t get it, and then worked harder & tried again a year later & was so much more prepared. So sometimes a bit of failure is a great thing, b/c now I’ve got a killer position. Time, effort, sweat, and hard work DO pay off. Promise :) You’ve got this!!

  28. Hilary says:

    Congrats on the GRIT cert! I am a fellow Les Mills instructor (advocate/lover/groupie/etc)… I have never taken a group fitness class and loved it more than ANY of the Les Mills programs. For the instructors, it is truly an international family. Anyone thinking about getting into it, definitely do your research and don’t bite off more than you can chew….but if you decide to go for it – you won’t regret it! I teach Combat and Jam…love love LOVE!

  29. Georgia says:

    Great post! I think I have read it about ten thousand times

  30. KALEY says:

    This is an awesome post! I have been taking body pump, body step, and some other les mils classes for about a year now and am in love. I have been totally inspired because of one of the instructors classes I go to. I have wanted to get my personal training licenses for about a year now. I am only 19, but have been active in sports and working out for a while. I get told by friends and people at the gym that I should get certified or do something in fitness. I think I would love being an instructor. I go to school now. I was wondering how time consuming the training would be? Do you have another job or do you only do you only teach? Just curious, if I should wait until I am done with school.

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  32. Prarthna Thakore says:

    Hi there!

    This post was really helpful as I’m quite keen to become a fitness instructor. I’m completing my level 2 course in August, and was wondering how much it will then cost to complete one of the Les Mills classes? I’ve managed to get my level 2 for Β£375, but want to suss out how much a Les Mills class would be. Look forward to hearing from you!



    • An LM initial training is about 250$ for the weekend, 40-50$ for the assessment fee to get certified (you have to film yourself teaching & send it in), and then about 35$ every quarter (so 4x/year) for the music/choreo once you are an instructor. :)
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