So You Want to be a Group Fitness Instructor? [part 1]

Recently I’ve had a few people ask me how I got certified to teach group exercise classes [which I will now abbreviate as “group ex” :)]. I haven’t been ignoring your comments or emails, but figured I’d just do a post about it and answer you all at once. Just being efficient here. 🙂

I currently have just one group ex certification: the AFAA Primary Group Exercise Certification. It’s recognized world-wide and many gyms will accept it as your first certification, even if you don’t yet have specific certifications such as cycling. I chose to do the AFAA Group Ex cert for two reasons:

  1. One of my friends in NC has taught group ex for a long time and recommended that one. 
  2. I checked with the gym that I wanted to teach at and the group ex manager recommended it.

Another reputable company for obtaining your group ex certification is ACE. If you’re interested in personal training, I’ve heard the NASM certification is the most well-respected. [I am not certified to be a personal trainer.]

I wrote out all my thoughts on group ex and realized I have quite a bit to say on this topic. Since long, text-filled posts are never fun, I’m going to break this down into a series. Also, I know that I have a few readers out there that are also group ex instructors so please comment with anything you’d like to add! Or, if any of you would also like to do group ex series on your blog, let me know and I’ll link your posts into mine. The more experiences we can share, the better!

If you really are interested in becoming a group exercise instructor, your assignment before the next post [which will go up around the end of the week] is to call a few gyms that you might like to teach at and find out which certifications they prefer their instructors to have.

Stay tuned for part 2!

FYI- Future posts will include my experience getting certified through AFAA and tips for obtaining that certification; how to get hired after you are certified; Continuing Education Units [CEUs]; and  pros/cons/other thoughts & tips about teaching.

Feel free to ask questions at any point in the series; I’ll either reply to your comment with an answer or be sure to address it in a future post. 🙂

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    32 responses to “So You Want to be a Group Fitness Instructor? [part 1]”

    1. Teri, thank you for posting about this! I’m glad you’re doing this series. I have alot of questions about this topic.

      • Great! If you have any specific questions, let me know and I’ll be sure to address them in future posts.

    2. Teri- you’re so sweet to share this info, great idea!

      As a Certified Spinning Instructor i’d like to share the MadDogg Athletics certification. They are the original created of Spinning and even have a patent on the words spinning, spin, etc. Below is a link to their site, where you can find everything from how to get certified, to gear and DVDs. Once you’re certified you have 2 years to complete extra classes that can make you certified for life! I learned a lot from getting certified and would definitely be able to provide more info and feedback to anyone interested.

      Teri, don’t be shy, let me know if you’d want me to provide more info for your readers!!!

      ~Christie http://rollerkoesterrun.wordpress.com/
      [email protected]

      • Thank you so much for your comment Christie; I was actually going to ask you to provide your thoughts on this series. I was just looking at that certification myself! I’m debating whether to do that one or the YMCA-provided cycle class [I think they mirror the Reebok training?]. MadDogg’s cert is pricey, but I’m sure it’s very well respected. What do you think I should do?

        • I agree that its def pricey- I was lucky enough to have mine paid for, so naturally accepted 🙂 I would shop around. I did not, since mine was setup for me, so am not very familiar with other certification programs.

          When it comes to the MadDogg program itself, I have both positive & negative feeback, mostly good though. I had 5 or 6 years of experience going into my certification and felt like a newbie after attending the class. I learned SOOO much! My certifier was amazing and incredibly personable. I also liked the follow up education and what the program continues to offer after taking the class. I could go on and on…
          One thing I am sure we’ve both experienced is how every instructor/class seems to be different- MadDogg kind of teaches their instructors to be very much alike, not that its a bad thing, but you want your classes to be unique, you know? I know i’ve been to classes where the instructor has you do push-ups, combos, etc ~ all these things are absolute no-nos under MadDogg.

          For my classes, I just do what I know. Do I strictly adhere to the MadDogg ways, No. Do I give my attendees a great, safe, effective & fun workout- I sure as heck try!!!

          I could go on and on. I’ll think about it and get back to you with some more feedback!

          • Thank you so much for the great info! Maybe I’ll try the YMCA cert first and if it’s just not hitting the spot, save my money for Mad Dogg. Besides, in the long-run, a national certification instead of a Y-specific cert is going to be better anyway.

    3. Love me some AFAA!!!! I have it as well as my YMCA certs. Group Exercise is one of the most rewarding and amazing fields to be in. Who doesn’t want to get paid for working out and helping people get fit? C’mon now.

      I would also warn people to beware of “online certifications” as many of them are either:

      A) Not even real
      B) Not widely accepted at most/any gyms!

      If it sounds too good to be true, it more than likely is.

    4. Awwwwww thanks for the comment!!! Starla says thank you for the compliments!!!

      Oh boxers are so cute too!!!!!!! We saw a boxer puppy at the vet last week, he was adorable!!!

      Have a great day!!! xoxo

    5. What a great post series! I can’t wait to read more. Not that I’m going to become a group ex instructor anytime soon, but it is on my “someday” list 🙂

      I’d love to see you’re granola recipe. I’m hooked on having the homemade stuff now. I’m trying your bread recipe tonight…I made sure I had molasses this time 🙂

      • You would be a great instructor!

        I’ll post the granola recipe soon! I hope the bread turns out well. And I put up a new quinoa recipe tonight…I hope you like it!

      • Yep, I also teach a class called Power Sculpt, which is a weight lifting/toning class using dumbbells, a barbell, and whatever else I decide to use that night! (Bosu, stability ball, resistance bands, etc.). It’s great to teach cardio a few nights a week and weight lifting since I’m bad at doing weight training on my own. I’m a cardio junkie. 🙂

      • Which Les Mills cert(s) do you have? I’m thinking about doing BodyPump or BodyFlow sometime.

    6. Neat! I’m AFAA certified too! 🙂 I did a post on my experience in September. Was it just me or was that test haaaaard!?

      • I thought it was super easy but that’s only because I studied an insane amount – I’m talking making flash cards and studying them everyday. haha! If I hadn’t studied, I would have been like, “What the heck?? These questions are ridiculous!” They were soooo specific!

    7. This is awesome! I have been thinking about getting certified for spinning and have always thought that I may want to work at a gym or be able to be a personal trainer. Can’t wait to read the series!

      • Right now, group ex works best for me since I also work full-time so I can get my workout in at the same time as teaching. Personal Training seems like it would have to be more of a full-time (or part-time when you don’t already have a full-time job!) since you aren’t doing something you’d already be doing. Does that even make sense?? haha!

    8. Hey !! soo glad I found this article I am big on fitness and health and was looking into another job that I can enjoy and during my zumba class.. it hit me! I can do that and I would love it so I started doing some research today and came across this article.. I see alot of people recommend or have become certified at AFAA… but I see how AFPA has a combined package of group ex instructor and Personal trainer which may increase my chance of getting a job after being certified.. Have you guys heard of AFPA…

    9. I have been consIdering getting certified by AFAA for awhile now. Why did you choose AFAA over others?

      Also, are you just cert to do group ex or did you also get your PT cert?

      Thanks! Love your blog! 🙂

    10. I’m actually new to your blog but I really appreciate all of the information you have offered in you post about how to become a group fitness instructor. I just recently turned in my notice at work so that I could pursue a career as a Group Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. I’ve already purchased the ACE material for personal training. I’m just really been struggling to figure out the best avenue to start group ex’s. I will put some of your suggestions in action and see what happens!

    11. I just came across this post while looking for information on how to become a group instructor (and possibly spin and personal trainer) I workout about 5 days a week and it s the highlight of my day. I spend hours at the gym so I figured making it a career would be great. Only thing is, I get very overwhelmed when I think about teaching classes or putting workouts together. I know one of the hardest parts of being an instructor is engaging a group of people and keeping them interested. Ive taken many classes that I hated and didnt want to go back to and I wouldnt want that to happen to me as an instructor. Do these programs teach you all of this? Were you nervous when you started?

      • Hi Lea, some programs will teach you how to engage and a group and some won’t. Les Mills focuses on this a LOT. It’s a great program but you need to have a gym sponsor you to get certified.

        And yes, i definitely was nervous when I first started! I still got nervous sometimes even after a year. But I promise it gets better with time!

    12. Thank you for the blog, very informative. Ready g other people comments has lightening my fears to go all the way. I’m def going to do my research on AFAA and AFPA. Teri, what you mean Les Mills certification. Us that the beachbody products? If so, are you limited on group ex? Must it only be Les Mils workouts? How do you get sponsored for a gym?

    13. Thank you for the blog, very informative. Reading other people comments has lightening my fears to go all the way.what really terrified me is performing in a class. I want them to have and enjoy it, not be bored. Any tips you may suggest how you handled it? I’m def going to do my research on AFAA and AFPA. Teri, what you mean Les Mills certification? Is that the beachbody products? If so, are you limited on group ex? Must it only be Les Mils workouts? How do you get sponsored for a gym?

      • To keep people from being bored, have great music and have the moves and transitions align with the music. That’s a lot of what’s included in Les Mills. Les Mills is a company that owns copyrights to certain workouts, including RPM, Body Pump, Body Combat and Body Flow. They are choreographed workouts and pretty strict about who can teach them and at what facilities. Gyms have to pay a fee to have rights to offer Les Mills classes. To get sponsored, find a local gym that offers Les Mills or get to know a group ex coordinator and talk to them about your desire to get certified in a Les Mills program. But, typically, only people with experience get approved for Les Mills as it’s a more advanced training and rather expensive for the gym. Good luck!

    14. Hello Terri-

      Thank you so much for all of this information!
      My name is Rosanna, and I’m looking into becoming a group fitness instructor. I’m currently learning where to start from. I’m currently working for a fitness studio (ballet barre) I’m a concierge, however I have a passion for fitness and would like to share it with our clients, and help people reach their goals. I just need to know where I should start. Do you have any feedback perhaps?

    15. Thankyou for the great info so far. I really want to take a hands on course for group fitness, not one online. Is there one that anyone could suggest?? Ive been contemplating between affa and ace for awhile, I just don’t know which way to go.

    16. ISSA has a new, Group Fitness course. I’m currently enrolled and it’s a wonderful course to add to my fitness trainer course. Love your website.

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