Group Fitness Instructor Tips
Before you agree to take on a class, reflect on a few key questions.
As a group fitness instructor, you’re often confronted with this question: Is what I do a career or a hobby? However you answer that question, you should treat the hiring process the same way you would if you were applying for a full-time job. While most group fitness instructors leave training programs knowing how to teach a fitness class, you rarely get much (if any) education on how to procure a fitness class on your schedule and how to decide if you even want that class. And now, with the pandemic making hybrid teaching ubiquitous, there are even more considerations.
Since many group fitness instructors are part of the growing “gig economy” and are likely to go through the hiring process many times over the years, beginners and veterans alike can use some direction. Before you go any further, contemplate your own needs, expectations and boundaries with the following reflective questions.
What is the time commitment?
Calculate your travel costs before you get into pay negotiations, and be realistic about traffic. If the distance and traffic are reasonable, find out if you will have to pay for parking and if the facility will validate a portion of the cost or all of it. If you have concerns about the distance but you’re interested in the opportunity, find out if teaching back-to-back classes is an option to make it worthwhile.
If you’re starting as virtual only, remember to factor in the time it takes to set up your space and get yourself camera-ready. Do you get paid for that time? It’s a good question to ask.
Does the culture suit me?
Group fitness instructors must figure out if they’re the right fit for the club’s culture. Maybe it’s just not your scene, and that’s okay! Don’t try to fit yourself into an environment that may be out of alignment for you. Be honest about your personality and your needs and interests. It’s okay to look elsewhere for a “home.”
Should I be teaching this format?
You might get the opportunity to teach a format you’ve never taught or been trained to teach. Since not every fitness facility has the same hiring process or requirements, and some hiring managers are unfamiliar with group fitness, you might have to decide whether you should be teaching a specific class. When deciding, remember that in certain cases of student injury, the group fitness instructor can be held liable, in addition to the facility.
Does the class pass the “gut check”?
There’s something to be said for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone or accepting a less-than-ideal schedule when you’re starting out, but don’t go against a gut feeling that a class just isn’t right for you or a strong doubt that you can pull it off. For example, if you have a history of sleeping through your alarm, perhaps it’s best to decline that early-morning cycling class, at least for now. Even if you make it on time, you might not bring the energy that the class expects and deserves.
And if you’re required to teach some of your classes virtually and you’re not comfortable with that, don’t force yourself to do it! Be honest about your skills and abilities. On the other hand, if you’re up to speed on all the logistics required to ace an on-demand class schedule, go for it!
As you gain more experience, your needs will shift, these questions will evolve and you’ll learn a lot about yourself and create a persona while you figure out when and where you engage best with participants.
Tips on Setup for Virtual Classes
If you’re new to teaching virtual classes, the following tips, from group fitness instructor Ashley Pitt, an NASM-certified fitness professional who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, will help you get your virtual class setup up right.
- Let others know you are not to be disturbed. “Turn on ‘do not disturb’ on your phone and any other device you are using, so calls and texts don’t come through,” says Pitt. You might also want to put a sign on the door.
- Use your smartphone, instead of your computer. “Phones usually have much better cameras,” says Pitt. “And if possible, use the rear-facing portion of the camera, which has an even better resolution than the front.”
- For classes, horizontal orientation is preferable, depending on your medium. For example, Instagram Live prefers vertical.
- Buy a tripod. “You never know what will happen to your phone if it’s merely leaning up against something else,” says Pitt. “Get a sturdy tripod to hold that phone in place, at eye level, so you can see your entire body during all of your movements both standing and on the ground. A great shooting distance from the camera to your body is about 12 feet, for reference.”
Teaching group fitness has changed from a whimsical pastime to a more serious career path with many benefits. Approach your own teaching career with the respect it deserves by investing in your future opportunities with sound research and smart questions.
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