So, you’ve been bitten with the fitness bug. Now you’re interested in becoming a fitness instructor. Congratulations! Leading workouts can be both rewarding and fun. As a fitness professional, you get to help students and clients get stronger, gain confidence, and achieve their goals of becoming healthy and fit. The question now is “What steps do you need to take to become an instructor?”

Read on to find out!

Step 1. Find out what certifications you need.

Most fitness centers require instructors to have a primary certification in Group Exercise or Personal Training. There are many options out there for aspiring professionals. A few of the most popular certs include the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Some gyms prefer certain organizations over others. Look at the job listings in your area to see what certifications you need. Most offer some combination of reading from a physical textbook, digital videos, and local workshops. Some are completely based on self-study. Choose one that best fits your personal needs. ACE is a great option if you prefer learning on your own and don’t have the ability to attend a workshop. AFAA is great if you’re on a budget and prefer hands on training.

You will also need CPR/AED and First Aide certifications. Both the Red Cross and the American Heart Association offer options online and in-person.

Step 2. Order Your Study Materials.

If you’re eager to get started as a fitness instructor, order your materials right away. That way, you can begin studying as soon as possible. Materials will take between 1-3 weeks to arrive. Once you have them, you will spend 4-6 months learning before you take the exam – less if you’re a fast learner and more if you have other responsibilities, like a family or a full time job.

If the funds aren’t immediately available, start saving. Book a date on your calendar when you know you can afford to purchase your books, and set a reminder. When that day comes, make the purchase. In the meantime, read any blogs or articles you can about the business of fitness.

Step 3. Book Your Exam.

Once you receive your books, it’s time to set a date for your exam. Most organizations have an online scheduling system. Book about 4-6 months out. Don’t make the mistake of waiting. Too many aspiring professionals make the initial investment without ever completing their certifications. Your exam date serves as a deadline for learning the material. It will motivate you to study your lessons daily. 

So, if you have your materials, but you haven’t booked your exam yet, do it today!

Step 4. Gain Teaching Experience.

The hardest part of becoming a fitness instructor is landing a job. Even if you are certified, those who have some experience have a better chance of being offered a position. Get ahead of the game by finding opportunities to teach. A few great ways are to:

  • Host a weekly Meetup. Offer a free class and invite your friends to attend.  Ask for feedback afterward so you an improve your teaching style. Remember that you should have good command of proper form and technique for any format you teach. To protect yourself, make sure to purchase insurance before you teach, and always have attendees sign a waiver before participating.
  • Get on a sub list. Do you attend a class regularly or have friends who are also instructors? Let them know that you are now certified and available to step in if they need a sub. This is gold for instructors who are often looking for reliable, skilled people to take over when they need a sick day or a vacation. Ask them to introduce you to their supervisors. This kind of referral holds a lot of weight in the fitness world.
  • Find a studio that trains their instructors. 24hr fitness is well-known as a place for beginning trainers & instructors. Although you’ll need to make sales in order to keep the job, it’s a great way to get started in the world of fitness.

Step 5. Interview EVERYWHERE. 

Finding a job is a full time job. Don’t wait for one to fall in your lap. Start interviewing as soon as you can, and try not to be picky. If you were hoping to teach cardio kickboxing, but are offered a spot as a bootcamp instructor, consider trying it out. If you wanted to teach yoga, but the only class available is cardio & flexibility, give it a chance. That isn’t to say that you should accept any position that you are offered (see my article on How To Choose The Right Studio), but keep an open mind. In the beginning, with little experience, options may be slim. In 6 months to a year, you’ll have a better idea of what you like and what you don’t, and more options to choose from.

So, there you have it. A simple, 5-step process to becoming a fitness instructor. Now that you know what to do, take the first step today. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment below. And, if you liked this piece, be sure to SHARE it with your friends.

Good luck 😉





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