What it Takes to be an Elite Group Fitness Instructor

On the first day of the group fitness instructor’s class I took at InfoFit in Vancouver this past June, my instructor said, “There are many mediocre instructors, but the elite instructors are the ones who are very busy and well sought after.”  Teaching fitness is a lot of fun, you get paid to work out, but if you want to be the best, then you have to put the work into it.  He then posed the question to us.  “You have to decide: do you want to be a mediocre instructor, or do you want to be an elite instructor?”

I’m currently studying for the ACE group fitness instructor exam, as well as preparing to do the eight-hour practicum for the *BCRPA certification.  The group fitness instructor handbook goes into detail on the different styles and methods of teaching, cues to utilize and how to create safe and memorable experiences for all participants.

So, what differentiates an elite group fitness class instructor from a mediocre one?  An elite group fitness class instructor does the following:

  1. Makes every participant feel welcome, regardless of that person’s fitness level
  2. Creates an environment that is positive, inclusive and promotes team-spirit. Instructors who set realistic, relevant goals for all participants and encourages them to work towards achieving those goals as a group, enhances participant adherence as well as enjoyment.
  3. Provides progressions and regressions of every exercise to accommodate participants of all fitness levels and encourages them to listen to their bodies and don’t overexert themselves.
  4. Puts participants first and isn’t simply getting paid to do his or her own work outs
  5. Offers corrective feedback whenever necessary, but does so without singling out a participant and always follows up with a word of encouragement
  6. Is well prepared, on time (or, if possible, at least a half an hour early for set-up) and enthusiastic
  7. Doesn’t gossip about other instructors, leaves all personal problems outside of the classroom and doesn’t choose favorites
  8. Dresses appropriately and never wears clothing that is too revealing (like those short-shorts or low-cut sports bras), too baggy or dirty
  9. Uses music that is motivating and appropriate for the type of fitness class being taught, but not jacked up to a level where the instructor has to yell in order to be heard
  10. Checks all equipment, if being used, and removes any equipment that may be defective
  11. Always has a back-up plan just in case things go wrong (example: the power goes out during or before class, the sound system doesn’t work or it rains on the scheduled day of an outdoor boot camp)

Teaching fitness classes can be a heck of a lot of fun, but with it comes much preparation and experience.

So, in answer to my instructor’s question: ‘Do you want to be a mediocre instructor or an elite instructor?’  I most definitely want to be an elite group fitness class instructor.  That’s because I’m passionate about health and fitness, but also because I firmly believe that everyone has a right to access and participate in a fitness program of their choice.  I want to motivate and inspire others to enjoy physical activity (both inside and outside of the gym) and perceive their fitness goals as a lifelong journey towards obtaining and maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle as opposed to just simply getting a toned and leaner body.  I also want people to see exercise as means to learn new skills, forge new friendships, alleviate stress and to just have fun.

An individual’s personal satisfaction and level of enjoyment with my future exercise programs will be well worth the effort I put into it.

*BCRPA is the acronym for British Columbia Parks and Recreation.

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