problem solver

Teaching in Other Countries: What Does It Take?

Q: A:

I would love to travel to other countries, teaching fitness classes as I go. I’ve heard of so many instructors who have done this that I know it is possible. But I’m not sure where to begin. What does it entail besides having experience, strong teaching skills and a good fitness knowledge base? I would be grateful for any advice you can offer!

Lawrence Biscontini, MA, Puerto Rico
To be marketable internationally, you should be currently certified and be a provider for as many international organizations as possible (e.g., AFAA, ACSM, ACE, SCW-EDU, AEA, etc.). Begin by contacting these organizations for possible contacts in other countries who have expressed repeated interest in importing fitness personalities to conduct training. Be aware that the more versatile you are, the better chance you have. Use reputable Web sites, like www.IDEAfit.com, to search for international fitness facilities. Other great places to start are Web sites for the leading hotels in foreign countries that have a strong fitness clientele–sites like Hilton.com and Hyatt.com. Develop an electronic press kit that can be e-mailed. Send this information to different club directors in the countries of your interest. Then follow up with a cover letter “selling” your workshops and master classes. State your goal to guest teach for a specific period, and describe what you can provide in

terms of cutting-edge trends and education, for both instructors and members. Be prepared to back up all your programs with current, published research, as this further justifies importing someone from far away instead of merely hiring someone in the same town solely for choreography. Always look to your own tax lawyers to provide realistic information about international laws that govern working legally in the countries of your choice. A professional and prudent instructor travels and teaches in accordance with all governing local and country laws.
Lawrence Biscontini, MA, has taught in more than 35 countries for 15-plus years. While researching his book on international fitness and travel, he established fitness contacts with major clubs around the world. Lawrence offers continuing education credits (CECs) in the areas of group fitness, personal training, nutrition, cycling and mind-body fusion programs. For the past three years, he has been voted one of the top presenters at Hong Kong’s AsiaFit

A:

Convention.

Pam Cosmi, MA, USA
Many gyms are open to guest teachers. The challenge lies in establishing contact with these gyms. To my knowledge, no network exists that matches guest instructors with gyms on a global scale. Most instructors who have successfully landed an international position have done so by knowing another instructor/ presenter who has traveled and could

make a recommendation for them. Most of these people seem to be concentrated in the world’s “fitness belts,” which in the United States would mean New York, Southern California and perhaps Miami. If you are from a small town like Royal Oak, Michigan (my birthplace), and you have aspirations to travel and teach, it’s not easy, but it’s not impossible, either. Start by going to international conferences and taking classes from foreign presenters. You will get a good idea of what is going on in their countries and what may be expected of you. After the classes, approach the presenters and ask for a card. This will allow you to establish relationships first–the key to making any headway. Don’t pounce on anyone. Be considerate. Make plans to travel to the country of your choice and prepare to take some classes. This may seem like a very expensive approach, but it has been the one many of us have had to take. (Keep in mind that international teaching is not a moneymaker in the beginning–and it becomes moderate at best after that.) Visit as many gyms as possible and talk to the staff. Once they see you, they’ll probably take you more seriously. E-mailing and faxing beforehand may not produce much of a response. Once you have taken several classes at a gym that appeals to you, honestly ask yourself if you would feel comfortable teaching to these participants. If so, try to speak to the gym owner about
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opportunities there. When discussing your qualifications, remember to stress your level of education. In larger cities in Western Europe, the education standard is quite high. Do not make the mistake of underestimating what people will expect of you. If it’s your first time teaching internationally, don’t expect a master class fee. Depending on the country, instructors may make as little as $2 an hour or up to $60 an hour. It’s based on the cost of living. Let the gym owners decide the fee. If you can’t negotiate an agreement with a gym owner, contact instructors or presenters in the country you’re visiting and ask if they would be interested in consulting with you for a fee. Take a business card and set up some time via the phone or arrange a visit. Be ready with a tape of your class. Ask them to review your skills and give you honest feedback for improvement. What are international gyms looking for? Be prepared to emphasize your powerful building skills, great posture, strong presence, professional appearance and respect for “their” way of teaching. An instructor who smiles, is energetic and fun and has the gift of motivation will appeal to exercisers anywhere in the world. Understanding the culture of the country is also very important. Here are some hard-and-fast rules: