That dreaded time of year has come again. You have to justify exactly why your boss should open up her tightly wrapped wallet to increase your pay. Some employees see this as an anxiety-filled experience, while others view it as an opportunity to showcase their talent and worth.

How do you avoid making this simple process a traumatic one? As with everything in life, you get out of it what you put into it. Many factors are involved in qualifying
for a wage increase. Don’t make the mistake of walking into your review without a clue about how you will be evaluated. Prepare yourself by recognizing what your company expects and how well you have met the expectations. ‰Supplement to November-December 2003 IDEA Health & Fitness Source

Preparation
Equals Progression

A good starting place is to refamiliarize yourself with your job description. Doing so will help you clarify your vision and mission so you can set new goals for the year ahead. Take a pen or pencil, or sit down in front of your computer, and answer the following questions:

Why Did I Get Into the Fitness Industry? Was your goal to have a
full-time career? A fun part-time job? Or to make a difference in the lives of others? Your answers to these questions will have a direct impact on your income-raising strategy. According
to the IDEA Work Satisfaction Study (July-August 2001 IDEA Health & Fitness Source), for most fitness professionals, becoming part of the industry is about making a difference in people’s lives rather than earning a six-figure salary. Of course, this is not to say that being paid fair value for your position is not important; after all,
you still have the expense of living in
today’s world.

Am I an Employee or an Independent Contractor? An employee may be
more tied to the organization and its ultimate success. If the company is experiencing good times, an employee is more likely to reap rewards than
an independent contractor is. (To determine whether you are an independent contractor or an employee, file Form SS-8, Determination of Employee Work Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Withholding, www.irs.gov.)

Do I Work at One Location Exclusively or at Multiple Locations? Where you work—and for whom—impacts your lifestyle and goals. Thoroughly weigh the pros and cons of each scenario. Working at one location may limit your options, but working at multiple locations means you spend a lot of time commuting, which translates into wear and tear on you and your car.

Am I New to Teaching or Am I an Industry Veteran? Many organizations tend to pay based on your proficiency and experience, so if you are a veteran, be prepared to demonstrate both. If
you are new to the industry, focus on your natural strengths, such as the ability to learn things quickly.

How Diverse Am I? Do you teach specialty classes like yoga, Pilates, arthritis-specific exercise and core training in addition to traditional classes? Highlight your many capabilities and specialties. The more diverse you are, the more desirable you are.

Where Do I Live? Location, location, location is the mantra for how much
you are paid. If you live in a major urban center like Manhattan, Chicago or Los Angeles, odds are you’ll be paid more than if you teach in rural Nebraska. Network with other instructors you meet
at conventions and ask them how much they make. Compare this with research compiled by industry associations. The more knowledge you have of benchmarks, the better prepared you will be.

Do I Want or Need a Full Benefits Package? If you have children or are the sole breadwinner in your family, benefits may be a vital issue to consider. On the other hand, benefits may not apply to you if you are classified as a part-time worker.

Measuring Up

Although the majority of factors that determine a group fitness instructor’s wage are objective, there are subjective elements as well. Charisma, for example, is difficult to gauge objectively. Some factors won’t fall neatly under either the objective or subjective category, which creates a third category, “other measures.” Management uses
the following checkpoints when evaluating your performance. How do you measure up?

Objective measures are the skills you have. These skills, which can be taught and continually worked on, are broken down into three categories:

Basic Skills

  • understanding of two-beat cuing
    and basic visual cues (5, 6, knees up versus 5, 6, 7, 8, knees up)
  • use of transition and flow
    (progression from one move to
    the next)
  • ability to introduce patterns
    (layering, inserting)
  • strong movement execution
  • understanding of basic anatomy
  • comprehension of basic exercise
    principles for specific classes
  • observation of safety guidelines

Intermediate Skills

  • understanding of minimal counting (only counting when a pattern is changing), two-beat cuing, intermediate visual cuing and hand signals
  • use of intermediate patterning
    techniques (proper breakdown
    from the base movement to the
    final product)
  • use of intensity curves for
    different classes
  • ability to communicate why and how exercises are done
  • grasp of intermediate anatomy
    (muscle origins and insertions, stabilizers versus primary movers)
  • knowledge of current “in” moves and the relationship between exercise principles and benefits
  • ability to teach various levels and class types

Advanced Skills

  • familiarity with a variety of visual
    and verbal techniques
  • use of advanced patterning techniques (proper breakdown from the base pattern to the final product, adding blocks at discretion)
  • ability to read a group’s capabilities and teach accordingly
  • talent for explaining the how and why of specific exercises
  • use of a variety of teaching methods to ensure all participants understand
  • comprehensive understanding of anatomy and exercise principles
    (various training principles and how to apply them)
  • ability to adapt teaching style to suit various class types, intensity levels and time slots

Subjective measures are the natural traits that make you who you are. The following traits are not necessarily ones that organizations are able to change or modify, but rather ones that can and should be fostered, as they are difficult to teach.

Attitude

  • positive outlook
  • good problem-solving skills (ability
    to teach with or without music)
  • support of the company vision
    and mission
  • ability to adapt to
    (and welcome) change

Team Player

  • willingness to help others in their teaching endeavors (sharing new moves and information, serving as a mentor)
  • ability to work toward a cause
  • acceptance of corporate systems
    and policies

Personal “Magic”

  • charisma
  • talent for motivating participants
  • dynamic personality (humor, joie de vivre)
  • talent for talking with rather than
    at the class
  • sincere interest in participants’
    health and well-being
  • creativity

Other measures that may determine the wage you are paid include

Communication

  • speaking directly to the manager when there is a concern
  • avoidance of gossip

Effort

  • willingness to practice and train
    for new classes
  • demonstration of effort to
    achieve goals set during evaluations and reviews
  • attendance at all staff meetings

Fitness Level

  • fitness sufficient for the types of classes taught

Evaluate Yourself First

Asking for more money is difficult unless you feel you are worth it. Take
an honest look at your own performance before sitting down to a formal evaluation. Identify your strengths and weaknesses and be prepared to address possible points of disagreement. Back up your strengths with concrete examples. Measure yourself against factors that will likely be considered during your review.

As a group fitness instructor,
have you

  • met all expectations laid out by
    the company?
  • taught the minimum number
    of classes?
  • subbed out a minimum number
    of classes throughout the year?
  • completed all paperwork?
  • arrived at least 10 to 15 minutes before classes?
  • started and finished classes on time?
  • maintained professional certification and accreditation (e.g., ACE, AFAA, CPR)?
  • followed class formats?
  • achieved the stated goals agreed to throughout the year?
  • been willing to fill in when available?
  • made efforts to improve your teaching abilities (qualified for a new class, attended 8 or more hours of renewal workshops per year, etc.)?

Also look at factors outside your control. What can your facility realistically afford? How are the economy and the annual rate of inflation in your marketplace? What are the current industry standards? The answers to these questions will give you a practical assessment of how much money your company can offer.

Before you sign any agreement or contract, or during your renewal and assessment period, ask if the organization has a formal wage increase plan. Are wage increases given on an ad hoc basis, or is there a more formal plan in place that recognizes performance once or twice a year? You should be familiar with the organization’s plan before you go forward.

Seeking a pay increase in a business environment where endless cutbacks are taking place is daunting but not impossible. Once you have demystified the process with thorough planning and a little introspection, you’ll be more confident asking for what you are worth.