If you’ve been teaching group fitness classes for a while and are poised to make your next career move, you might be wondering what path to take. Fortunately, there are many exciting opportunities for pursuing and expanding your role and earnings in the group fitness arena. Here are a few ideas—and you don’t have to choose just one. Many of the avenues below naturally overlap.
Teaching Numerous Classes Per Week
High-volume teaching is one obvious way to increase your earnings and build a reputation as a recognizable group fitness instructor. You might teach primarily within one club, chain or company, or travel around to multiple facilities in your community.
Of course, this approach has its downside and isn’t always sustainable. If you become sick or injured (or simply go on vacation), you instantly decrease your income. And too much working out in classes could lead to overtraining and/or increase your risk of injury.
To succeed at teaching numerous classes per week and diminish the risk of overtraining, diversify what and how you teach. For example, balance high-intensity classes with low-intensity ones. Sharpen your coaching skills so you can verbally motivate and educate participants without having to literally work out with them. Finally, consider leading classes—such as bootcamps, small group training or circuits—where you can direct activities without having to physically participate.
Group Fitness Management
It's not uncommon for fitness instructors to aspire to management positions within the group fitness department. These roles usually offer the promise of part-time or full-time, salaried employment with a regular paycheck and other benefits. You might also be expected to teach classes at the club location(s) you supervise.
A program director is usually accountable for ensuring the department runs smoothly at one or more clubs. Be prepared to demonstrate and juggle multiple tasks, responsibilities and skills. For example, you might be charged with hiring/firing instructors, covering classes, training staff, organizing special events, managing equipment issues, handling customer service and more.
Establishing yourself as a program director on a local level puts you on a path to climb the ranks for future job promotions or potential club ownership. With the growing number of club chains, fitness studios, franchises and trendy group fitness brands, there are many opportunities to work on-site at a club or corporate division, or advance to a position where you oversee group fitness from a big-picture perspective on a regional, national or international level.
Creative Director or Programming Developer
The role of creative director or programming developer is considered a management or upper-level position, but it’s not involved in the minutiae of running a department. These positions allow you to create, implement and perhaps train other instructors in new group fitness programs, formats and classes. You might design and develop a new workout to be taught throughout a whole club chain or at numerous franchise locations. Or, you might establish and brand a program on your own without the backing of a particular company, allowing you to grow your career in the industry as an entrepreneur.
Developing programs is great for fitness professionals who love the creative side of putting together class design and routines/exercises using existing or emerging equipment. In this role, you’ll need a strong understanding of market demands and trends, exercise physiology and movement mechanics, and group fitness culture. Creating something from nothing requires a lot of time and effort, but when a new program catches on, the results are rewarding.
If you excel at teaching fitness classes, the natural next step might be to take your talents on the road as a conference presenter. Presenting is an excellent way to leverage your teaching skills, but it’s not as glamorous as many fitness pros think it is. Presenting to industry peers at an education event or conference is not like teaching to participants at a gym. It’s harder and requires many hours of prep time, carefully planned program design, strong public speaking skills—and courage! Still, the ability to help influence and inspire the industry through continuing education is immensely gratifying.
If you aspire to be a presenter, start teaching workshops within your community and/or at the gyms where you already teach. Next, apply to small, regional events that you could easily travel to. Having your sights set on presenting at major conferences is an exciting career goal, so do what you can to set yourself up for success:
- Gain experience at a local level.
- Keep track of application deadlines (info is available online at each respective conference website).
- Propose session ideas that are unique and not already well represented on conference schedules.
- “Sell” your application with succinct session descriptions and catchy titles.
The fitness industry is booming with career opportunities in the group fitness space. Now is an exciting time to leverage your passion and skills as an instructor to promote health and fitness on a larger scale.
Amanda Vogel, MA, human kinetics, is a self-employed fitness instructor, presenter and writer in Vancouver, B.C. In addition to being a social media consultant, Amanda tests fitness gadgets, gear and clothes and writes about them on her blog www.FitnessTestDrive.com. Find Amanda at @amandavogel on Twitter, @amandavogelfitness on Instagram and @FitnessWriteron Facebook.