Many people think, a group exercise instructor just turns up for a class and teaches it; let me shed some light:
First of all, even before you begin to actually teach a class, you need to qualify. Depending on what you teach, depends on how much study is involved. Some Gyms (but not many these days) are happy to train you up, they supply the music and the choreography (routine), and all the instructor has to do, is learn it. This is certainly an easy way to get into the field to see if you like it, but it still takes time to learn the routines.
Another pathway to becoming an instructor is to do a weekend course (such as Pilates, Yoga & Zumba). You can obtain a basic Pilates mat certification after about 40–50 hours of training (www.exerciseacademy.nz).
For Yoga, the average time to complete a 200 hour course is between three to five months (www.goldenyogi.com).
For Zumba – it varies from one or two days, attendees leave fully licensed to lead group classes (www.quora.com).
You may even go down the track of learning through AUT, Fitness Colleges or Skills Active NZ (www.skillsactive.org.nz). They offer a variety of certifications from live classes to correspondence.
None of the pathways are free and all cost money depending on which course you decide to do and how much you want to learn. Courses can range from $250 to $5,000 plus.
For me personally, I was asked to become an instructor (I was one of those people who used to do all the high impact classes and circuit classes. I was pointed out by the instructor to do a few steps, star jumps etc. on my own and lead the class for a few minutes). So, I started with a Gym and was given routines and music. I did this for a few months then wanted to become qualified. I went to Top Gunz Aerobic Academy (this was back around 1988).
The directors of Top Gunz Aerobic Academy were Brett Fairweather (he was the two time World Aerobic Champion and eight time New Zealand Aerobic Champion, he now choreographs (creates routines) and is the director for Jump Jam) and Ruth Pirihi who used to be the owner of Radical Fitness (this is a company that creates routines/classes for Gyms. The instructors at the said Gyms get trained up to teach the Radical Fitness routines).
The Top Gunz Aerobic Academy course involved an 8 week weekend course. It taught you how to choreograph, deliver and adapt safe and effective group exercise classes.
At that time I became REPS registered – what this means is REPs registration gives independent verification that a registered individual/facility meets the industry standards on an ongoing basis. This includes regular upskilling. Registration with REPs is the recognised standard to ensure safe and effective exercise advice. (Many exercise professionals are NOT registered with REPS, so there is no safeguard to you).
I taught at the Gym for years until I became an Essentrics Instructor.
Essentrics is broken down into 4 levels, you are a certified instructor after Level 1. The expected time to complete Level 1 is approximately 12 weeks (www.Essentrics.com). Unfortunately, some instructors just stay at Level 1 (I liken this to riding a bike, at this stage you are just sitting on the seat).
Level 2 – the expected time to complete Level 2 is approximately 6 weeks (now you have your feet on the pedals), Level 3 – the expected time to complete Level 3 is approximately 20 weeks (now you are pushing the pedals while not moving) and Level 4 – the expected time to complete Level 4 is approximately 16 weeks (now you are riding the bike).
As you can guess it took me a few years to become fully certified in all 4 levels for Essentrics. I learnt more about Anatomy & Physiology and gained a thorough understanding of the key anatomy involved in the Essentrics exercises. I learnt about which bones the muscles attach to and how many joints the muscles pass through. I have a deeper understanding of the physiology behind the exercises and techniques. NO other course with regards to exercise taught me what Essentrics has and I have been on quite a few courses!
Once certified Level 4, I decided to take this amazing programme out into the Community. You don’t have to wait until Level 4, you can go out after Level 1. But I wanted to know everything about it and be able to help my class participants in every way I could.
I then decided to re-register for REPS. I soon found out that my previous qualification through Top Gunz had lapsed and I needed to re-sit more exams to become REPS registered again. I ended up doing a Level 4 NZ Certification in Group Exercise via Skills Active. This took 6 months from memory, but well worth it to become REPs registered once more.
As part of the REPS registration you need to be updated in CPR and basic First Aid, this needs to be renewed every 2 years (approximately $200) and of course you are required to pay an annual fee @ $300 to belong to REPS along with proof of upskilling (www.reps.org.nz). Some upskilling courses can range between $500 - $2000.
If you do not belong to a Gym where the classes you teach are choreographed by someone else and music is provided, you then have extra work on your hands.
Plenty of time, money and effort is taken in finding the right music for my routines, the right tempo, the right length, even the right words!!! Even though it is only for 3-6 minutes for the average song, the time involved to find that right song, then the time involved to choreograph what to do with that 3-6 minutes can take FOREVER!!
Once the songs are found and the routine is complete, I then have to learn that routine. This again can take weeks and weeks. It is about going over and over and over and over the routine until you have it in your head. Sometimes I make tweaks on what I have previously choreographed and sometimes after spending that time choreographing I tweak it again, especially once I teach it in class. Doing a routine at home and teaching it in class are completely different. At home it all may fit perfectly, but when I go to teach it, it doesn’t quite fit or I spend time talking about something else (usually when I see someone doing something not quite right, so I spend more time talking about it in class), then of course the routine maybe tweaked again.
Hence, you will never get the exact same routine, every time you come to class. It may be slightly different, but be generally the same. I know I get a few raised eyebrows from some of you when I change things :)
Even if it’s a routine you may have done before, I still have to re-learn it. Ok, I have the music, so that’s a huge amount of time saved BUT I do have to go over and over and over and over it so I have it down pat. I also tweak it again. Someone said to me recently, (and not a stupid idea) is to video myself taking the current routine, so when I do it again I can just watch it and re-learn it that way. I may look into that at some point, but for now I do what I have done for the past 30 years as I know it works for me.
Even if it’s a routine I just did last week, I still have to go over my notes and I do that before EVERY class.
Now, hopefully you can understand why I like to do a routine for 4 weeks before I change it? I need to get it absolutely down pat in my head, not to mention giving myself a wee break before tackling the next routine. But alas, most of our terms do not allow me to do that.
Not to mention, it usually takes at least 4 weeks for the class participants to understand what we are trying to achieve and to really get the most out of that routine. The more you get to know a routine, the more you put into it.
Therefore, most times, whilst we are doing a routine in class, I am usually working on the next one. I am surprised I don’t get them mixed up (I won’t lie to you, I do have some ‘blank’ moments, now I am telling!!)
Imagine if I continued to do the same routine for the whole 10 week term? Do you know, some instructors (in every field) do that? I think you would be bored out of your brains if I did that……… and I would go insane!!!
I hope that sheds some light on life as an instructor (well more my life as an instructor) many hours and study and upskilling go into your classes. Plus if you are running your own small business (like me) you also have to do all the administration side of things, daily Facebook updates, emails, spreadsheets, advertising, blogs, research etc. Being an instructor is more than just turning up to class.
Hopefully now, you can understand that when you turn up to class, a lot more has gone on behind the scenes. You are paying for all that extra time and energy involved in creating that class, all the study to initially get the instructor there, all the upskilling, music and of course the hire of the premises, not just the 1 hour that you are there.
Let me ask you…….. Would you go to a doctor, dentist, lawyer that was not qualified or registered? My gut feeling says ‘no’. Yet many people go to fitness instructors with little qualifications and definitely not registered. So, I ask again - how much do you value your instructor?