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How to Become a Group Fitness Instructor

By Mindbody

July 31, 2023

Have you ever wondered how people become certified group fitness instructors? Maybe you've asked because you want to get certified yourself, or perhaps you want to know how the person teaching your class got there. If you have, you're not alone. I wondered that myself when I first started taking group fitness classes, and this post will help answer some of the most common questions about teaching fitness.

What do you need to become a fitness instructor?

One of the most important things you need to become a certified group fitness trainer is a passion for fitness. The certification process can take a long time and cost a lot of money, so it's vital that you be honest with yourself. If working out feels like a chore, this probably isn't the right industry for you.

It's also crucial that you feel confident in moving your body in front of others. Your body doesn't have to be perfect to teach. You have to feel comfortable demonstrating movement (or moving with) to your students. (Don't believe me? Check out this story about Studio South)

Woman teaching dance fitness

Where should you get a group fitness instructor certification?

There many different types of certifications depending on what you want to teach.

For some types of workouts, there are specific certifications you'll need before you can teach. These certifications are only right for teaching a particular type of exercise, and sometimes for a certain kind of business. For example, if you want to become a CrossFit® coach, you'll need a CrossFit Level 1 certificate, and then, you can only teach at a registered CrossFit affiliate.

For other types of classes, you'll want to look for a course managed or certified by a governing body. If you're interested in teaching indoor cycling, yoga, or Pilates, this style of certification will apply to you. To get certified this way, you'll find a location offering a certification near you—it could be a big gym, small studio, or anything in-between. Keep in mind that if you're interested in yoga or Pilates, you're training is based on a specific number of hours, so it requires even more dedication than other fitness types.

If you want to have a more general certification that can be supplemented by follow-up training from a specific gym or studio, look into the NCCA-accredited, Group Instructor programs from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) or Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA). These types of certifications require a set amount of Continuing Education Units or CEUs regularly to ensure that your skills and knowledge remain up-to-date.

How long does it take to become a group fitness instructor?

The length of time it takes to complete a group exercise certification depends on which type of certification you select. Some certifications only take a day, some take a full weekend, and still, others take weeks or even months to complete. How you finish your certification depends as well—some will require an in-person demonstration, some will require an exam, and some will require a video evaluation.

Man teaching group fitness

What do I do once I have my group fitness certification?

After you have your group fitness certification, it's time to use it! Finding a job that fits your schedule can take some time, especially if you're already working full-time in another industry. Some studios and gyms may have internship or apprenticeship programs where you receive on-the-job experience, while others will require a full class audition with active members before you hire them.

Even then, you may find it challenging to find a job in fitness, and that's okay! You can still use your training and offer classes in your community to hone your skills and build a customer list, both of which will help you find the job you want. (If you do end up offering classes, make sure you know about music rights.) Be sure to keep practicing and honing your skills after you've started teaching group fitness—always challenge yourself to be a better group fitness instructor. (Pro tip: one way you can do this is to look at who's coming to your class using fitness software.)

What do fitness instructors earn?

What group exercise fitness instructors earn depends on a lot, including location, class attendance, time of day, and seniority of the instructor. It's not uncommon for fitness instructors to have a full-time job in addition to their teaching class. To get an accurate gauge of how much other instructors make, ask them!

This information contained herein does not constitute financial, legal, or other professional advice and is meant to be used solely for informational purposes. It does not take into account your specific circumstances and should be not acted on without full understanding of your current situation, future goals, and/or objectives by a qualified professional. Mindbody assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

About the author:

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Staff Writer

Mindbody is powering the world's fitness and wellness businesses, connecting them with more consumers, more effectively, than anyone else.


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