I know some instructors who will teach in front of friends and family and ask them for HONEST feedback. That’s when you’ll know if you can teach strangers.
Hope this helps,
I love this question, because it makes me muse on things I have not thought about very much for a long time.
I started teaching in the late 1980s…. not long after the IDEA foundation, as it was called then, started. I believe when I decided to take the ACE certification I used the first edition of that manual. A lot has changed since then. Nationally certified instructors were not the norm as I recall…I remember seeing an ad in an industry paper with instructions on building your own wooden bench for step aerobics…. and in yoga…. well, the YogaAlliance did not exist, and I can remember conversations with club owners regarding health regulations and the necessity of wearing shoes….
The percentage of well trained and educated and certified instructors is so much higher now. You see less recruitment of students who ‘dance well’ to take a few lessons with the head instructor/trainer and go off to teach a class. So the ‘expertise’ part…. that starts with the knowledge that comes from training, and is demonstrated through certification. Confidence though, is built on the knowledge of ones skills, but is tempered through experience, and that takes time.
The thing is it isa a balance…. you need experience…. training programs with a mentoring piece, and the chance to team teach, or teach other instructors is a great way to go I think. Not only does it give one the chance to be in front of others, but it gives one a chance to be in front of others who can give professional feedback, and who are not going to get hurt if you make a mistake.
But you also need the education… If work in this field is truly a profession, there have to be standards of what knowledge base is required. Anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, music phrasing and choreography, basic interpersonal tools: how to motivate, how to communicate.
Very few, even of the most certified and educated, will not feel a little nervous the first time out. I remember looking out at a room full of faces, and the thing that struck me, and I still remember is amazement as they followed exactly what I was showing them. I determined that day that I would not abuse that trust, but would do my best not to take shortcuts, or go for the easy money, but to be the safest and most effective teacher I could be.
So I think I would say that education and certification are the foundation. Once you have that you find a way to begin. Over time and with practice you will become more comfortable with your teaching. But the bond of trust is the glue that holds it all together.
Thank you for the question.
For me it came down to practicing with others what I learned about physical activity and exercise and having some early successes helping people achieve their health and fitness goals.
I remember teaching a Faculty Strength Training class as part of an internship I completed for my B.S. in Exercise & Sport Science. I was told by my professor and the Director of the Faculty Recreation Program that most of this class would be repeat participants who were pretty set in their ways about working out and quite disinterested in anything the “intern instructors” had to offer as far as knowledge or suggestions. At the beginning of the semester I had two faculty members who had not taken the class before and about 15 others who were long time repeat participants. I decided to let the repeats continue working out on their own (though they did have to complete a pre and post strength tests) and focus on the two who were new to Strength Training and help them get started.
I offered to have those interested run through a series of abdominal exercises at the end of each class and in the beginning it was only the two new members who participated. As the semester wore on more class members started joining in and by the end of the semester I not only had the entire class participating in the group exercises but those most reluctant to ask for help, try new exercises or otherwise ask questions were whom who wanted the most feedback and guidance.
My self confidence was raised even more so as one lady who had been running marathons for 30+ years and at the age of 55 or so had her best time ever on one she ran near the end of the semester, after following a personalized program I created for her. Another lady experienced in strength training for years but had developed some chronic shoulder issues – her pain went away after a few weeks of trying some helpful exercises I suggested and modifying her form on some others. Lastly I was able to convince one of the most stubborn and reluctant professors you could imagine make some changes on his lifting patterns and while he had some great physical improvements what was most amazing was his change in attitude, outlook and even the increase in his socialization with other participants; it was like comparing Grumpy Old Men to Mr. Rogers!
This class did a lot for my confidence and I think I’ve carried what I gained from that experience with me all these years, more than decade has passed and I still remember that class – it was a very rewarding experience I can say that it was the stepping point from merely having the book knowledge to applying that knowledge in a practical way to help others achieve their health and fitness goals and really make a difference in someone’s life.
Some things that would help:
-Passion for what you want to teach
-Do what you preach
-Willing to learn or get better at what you teach
-Always open to hearing differing opinions and able to handle them in a professional manner
-Possible Sports or activities that give you life experience for what you teach
-Being able to adapt to your audience or client.
-Confidence or positive attitude
-LISTEN to what your audience or client is asking of you or what they need help with
-Did I mention listen, anyone can put together some kind of program but clients love the trainers that really help them in more than one area of their life.
-Ask many questions like you just did.
-I learn something from everyone including kids or people outside of the field.
– A good mentor in the profession
You will always do good if you have the person’s best interest in mind.
I started teaching fitness classes about 20 years ago back in college, and had to take both a written exam and a practical at that time. Having to go through each really helped me instruct others because 1. I understood the body and how it functions in relation to movement and 2. I was able to practice teaching before I ever had my own class.
It will take some time for you to feel confident, but that just comes with experience. I will tell you that I teach both group fitness classes and small group classes. In my group fitness classes, I lead and do the exercises with them to the beat of music. I find this format harder to teach because you have to have coordination, watch the class and give modifications, and be able to cue the class all at the same time. If you choose to teach these kinds of classes, I would suggest taking some classes from good instructors and finding a mentor. It really helps.
If you teach small group training classes, you are more of a coach. Feel confident that you know the exercises and how to demonstrate them. Take another trainer’s classes to see what works and what doesn’t. Above all, have a carefully written plan for what you will teach. That always helps me feel more confident.
Teaching classes helped me to transition to personal training, and I feel (personally), that being both a fitness instructor and a personal trainer has been a valuable combination. Personal training is obviously one-on-one, but having my group fitness background really helped me with both. It helps with scanning the room quickly, watching numerous people at one time, and looking out for those who need modifications.
Good luck to you, and try finding a good mentor or two that can help you. One other thing is you can always practice with friends and family to gain some experience. You have to start somewhere!