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So You Want to be a Group Fitness Instructor? [Part 3]

If you missed the start of this series, catch up with Part 1 [choosing a certification] and Part 2 [what to expect with the AFAA Primary Group Fitness exam].

Ok, so you got your test results back and you passed. YAY! And if you didn’t pass you can retake the written and/or practical test with a nominal fee [and don’t fret because I don’t think it’s highly unusual to fail the first time].

Once you have your certification, you are required to complete continuing education units [CEUs] to keep it current. AFAA requires 15 CEUs every 2 years. You can obtain CEUs through other AFAA workshops [cycling, kickboxing, pre-natal fitness] – some of these are online/distance learning and some are onsite. Some are actual certifications and some are workshops without an official certification. You can also obtain CEUs through other AFAA-approved organizations [like ACE]. AFAA is pretty good at outlining your different options for getting your CEUs and reminding you when you need to renew your certification.

Once you have your group ex cert, it may be difficult to get hired as a group ex instructor since you don’t have experience. But you can’t get experience if no one will hire you. I hate catch-22s. My recommendation is to find a small, local gym. The pay might be less [but maybe not], and I found individually owned gyms were more willing to hire a brand new instructor than some of the bigger chains. The YMCA is another good route.

Once you get more certifications [which is a plus for CEUs being required], find the niches you like and are good at [cycling, yoga, kickboxing, etc.] and have some teaching experience, you’ll probably have an easier time getting into the gym you really want.

I think it’s rare these days for gyms to actually pay for workshops, but you might get lucky. You’ll likely be paying for new certifications and CEUs on your own dime. Also, keep in mind that Les Mills certifications [creators of the popular Body Pump]  requires a gym to “sponsor” you to do their trainings. That doesn’t mean that the gym has to pay for the training, but it means you have to be employed with a gym that is licensed with Les Mills. You can’t just do it on your own.

I have one more post planned for this series with some additional information on what to expect when trying to get hired with a gym, pros/cons of teaching, and other general tips. If you want me to cover anything else, please let me know. Keep sending me questions. And thanks for all the feedback my fellow instructors have added to this series! And definitely let me know if you’ve taken any steps towards getting certified. 🙂

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    Lindsey F.
    at

    Thank you for doing these posts. They are totally helping!! I am actually already starting to look into getting CPR certified and the money saved so I can finally just DO IT! But… sorry I am a huge question asker. I hope you don’t mind…

    1- What if you don’t know what you want to certify in? It seems like you have to choose which area you want to certify in, but I have no clue!
    2- I have never taught an aerobic class. I don’t know a ton about the right techniques or well, lets just say I am for sure an amateur. BUT I love working out. I do it well. I love to teach ( I use to teach dance). Is there material I should be reading or something I should be doing to know more about everything with fitness?
    3- And did I miss you talking about how to do it that you could save some money certifying?

    thank you! THANK YOU! for doing these posts. I’m stoked!!

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      I love that you ask questions because I’m sure so many people have similar questions! 🙂 I’ll address these in the next post and let me know if you think of anything else in the meantime.

      Nope, you didn’t miss the money-saving certification trick. That’s also coming next!

  • Reply
    Jessica @ How Sweet
    at

    Girl, as you Les Mills certified? I am, and at my gym we have to pay for our own new releases every 3 mos. How about you?

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      No, I’m not Les Mills certified. I looked into it with my gym but I didn’t have the time to devote to teaching BodyFlow 3x a week that they require for the instructors who do it. Perhaps when I’m not working a full-time job it could be a good option.

      Are the releases expensive?

  • Reply
    Ashley
    at

    All good stuff to know!!! The hardest part seems like getting hired…thanks Terrrrriiiii =)
    .-= Ashley´s last blog ..ex.cite.ment. =-.

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      Yeah, I’d say that’s the hardest part. That, and teaching 5:30 AM classes. 🙂

  • Reply
    C
    at

    ^ Lindsey F., have you looked into Zumba classes? They might be a great way for you to bridge your experience in teaching dance into the group fitness arena. (I love them, so I’m not biased or anything…hahaha!)
    .-= C´s last blog ..Nothing New…Yet =-.

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      that’s a great idea to transition into it!

  • Reply
    C
    at

    Teri,
    Thanks for posting this! I only started in group fitness a few years ago, and it has boosted my confidence ten-fold. I used to be a runner, then problems with my C-spine put that on the back burner for a while. I wanted to work out still, but I used to fear walking into gyms because I didn’t want people looking at me! Then I kind of fell into group fitness and more group fitness, my confidence rose, and now I’m that crazy who nabs a spot at the front of the room and who jumps twice as high as everyone else (when I can). Lately I’ve been considering perhaps one day becoming an instructor because I enjoy it so much. (And also because I am bored with the classes offered in the new area where we live. I miss kickboxing, especially, and the years I spent working out on a Marine Corps base exposed me to some really AWESOME, tough workout routines that I wish I could repeat.)

    http://stocktoc.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/peace-love-zumba/#comments
    http://stocktoc.wordpress.com/2010/03/09/shark-attack/#comments
    .-= C´s last blog ..Nothing New…Yet =-.

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      thanks for your comment. such a great story!!

  • Reply
    Kelly Olexa
    at

    LOVE your blog!! Just found you, love the hair too. Sassy and awesome! 😉 I added you to my blogroll because you are too awesome.
    😉

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you like my blog! 🙂 I checked yours out too; LOVE your vlogs and how helpful your posts are! I’m a new subscriber!

  • Reply
    Gracie @ Girl Meets Health
    at

    Question! And forgive me if this has been answered before…

    At what point, if any, do you learn about nutrition/food choices? And to what extent?

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      Part of the manual that you get covers nutrition, but it’s not too extensive. I mean it’s helpful, but you probably know a lot of it already. I’d imagine a personal trainer certification covers it more. AFPA [American Fitness Professionals & Associates) has a Nutrition & Wellness Consultant certification that focuses more on that topic; I haven’t done it (but want to someday!) but I’ve heard people like it. And AFPA is very reputable.

  • Reply
    andi
    at

    great info here 🙂 i’m also a group ex instructor (almost 7 years) and i started by teaching for local corporate wellness companies. they pay less, but classes are smaller and they’re more willing to give a newbie a shot that bigger gyms.

    i respectfully disagree about AFPA, as most of their certifications don’t come with a practical component to the test, however to each their own of course 🙂 the nutrition consultant certification makes me wary as a health professional because it offers a blurred line where (my opinion) the line should be very clear in terms of nutritional counseling/advice vs. education and behavior change. meaning that a registered dietitian should be the one to do the former.

    ok, epic post done–congrats on passing your exam! group ex is a ton of fun 🙂

    • Reply
      Teri
      at

      thank you so much for your info about the AFPA. Since i haven’t seen anything specific about it, it’s good to hear from those that know more. I definitely agree that licensed professionals need to do the counselling [especially when there is an emotional aspect to the eating habits, which is why i saw a nutritionist last year]. {erhaps the AFPA thing is for people that want to teach general eating improvements?

  • Reply
    Marilyn
    at

    Hi Teri, I love your page. I have been an instructor myself for over 15 years and i constantly get approached by a lot of folks regarding becoming an instructor so i decided to start my own consulting business based on that fact. I am getting ready to launch my website this month and i am really excited to start working with newly certified individuals as well as potential folks interested in becoming instructors. I totally agree with the hiring process being very challenging for new folks so that’s where not only experience but confidence comes in. I also have a blog and forums page currently running if you and your fellow instructors are interested in viewing. (http://kernetics.wordpress.com/ and http://www.kernetics.com/forums/index.php) Please feel free to let me know what you think and add some of your favorite drills or combos… Thanks a lot Marilyn

  • Reply
    Letty
    at

    Hi Teri,
    Found your site via google search for group fitness re-certification classes.
    I just received my NAFC certification and am already thinking about what to take for CEUs. These are great posts with plenty of info.
    I certified so I can sub for a favorite instructor. Not sure where else the certification will take me!

  • Reply
    Michelle A
    at

    AFAA practical passed, missed the written by 3
    Retake… Is there a retest limit in the first year if by chance you don’t pass again?Hopefully not the case but thought I would ask .

  • Reply
    Tiffany Malone
    at

    Hi!

    I was wondering how much do CEUs cost?

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