Have you ever participated in a group fitness class and thought, “Hey, this is fun! I wish I could lead this”? Group fitness instructors are needed and used in virtually every fitness area that exists. Zumba, indoor cycling, CrossFit, yoga, boot camp, kickboxing, pilates; you name it, group fitness instructors are present. While a lot of these areas don’t need to be completed in a group setting, many individuals find that participating in a class causes them to work harder, and learn faster, as they have more than one person from whom to learn.
The most successful fitness instructors have high energy, and are outgoing, friendly, and describe themselves as a “people person.” In addition to having certain characteristics, group instructors must also be very knowledgeable in whatever class they are leading. Most of these individuals must also be certified. Sometimes, the hardest part is deciding which activity to instruct. There are so many different training classes available: strength training, dance fitness, aquatic class, mind-body class, and bodyweight training, among others.
As for certification, most people who participate in classes would rather be taught by someone who is certified. Those who are not certified can sometimes be inexperienced, which may lead to unsafe and inefficient instruction. When searching for a class, look for instructors who are certified by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The agencies accredited by the NCAA have the highest standard for teaching and education, and are the most respected in their field. These include:
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
The American Council on Exercise (ACE)
National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF)
National Federation of Personal Trainers (NFPT)
National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association (NESTA)
International Fitness Professionals Association (IFPA)
In addition, there are some associations that are not NCAA-certified, but are still reputable among personal trainers: The International Sports Science Association (ISSA), Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), and The American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA).
Many group instructors find they are able (and want to) learn more than just one fitness style. A general certification will qualify most individuals to lead most cardio classes, but more specialized certification is encouraged in order to learn more about that particular area. Certification also may vary from place to place; some gyms only require the general certification, while others are stricter and require additional certification. Sometimes, this depends on the liability disclaimer/insurance.
Those interested in participating in a group fitness class should also be aware that instructors have different styles. All instructors pick their own music, and usually design their own workout routine. However, all classes typically have a warm-up session at the beginning of class, and a cool-down routine at the end of class.