So, you want to become a fitness intructor?

TGIF! While I’m on day 2 of my road trip to Michigan with my parents, I thought I would re-post a guest post that I did for Kendall last week. I know I tend to glaze over guest post links and since I’ve had a couple of people ask me what the process is to become a fitness instructor, I thought it was a blog post worth posting again right on Burpees to Bubbly! This is mostly specific to the general group exercise certification, but if you want to learn more about my kickboxing certification, please let me know!

After college, I spent many hours at the Oak Square YMCA, where I met some awesome instructors and friends (Liz, Kim, Athena, Jen, and Ashley, just to name a few). I took Zumba classes, Kickboxing classes, Total Body Conditioning classes, Build and Burn classes… you get the idea. The gym became one of my favorite places to go because I had such a great network of people to socialize with… ones who shared my passion for all things health and fitness. It was at this time that I started thinking about getting my certification to become an instructor.


If you’ve ever looked into getting your group exercise certificate, you’ve probably noticed that there are a number of different programs (AFAA, ACE, ACSM) to choose from. AFAA and ACE are, in my opinion, the most popular programs to take as they are widely accepted across most gyms. After doing some research and talking to some other instructors, I decided that the AFAA Primary Group Exercise certification was a better choice for me. I liked the fact that they held the course on-site and put a lot of emphasis on the practical aspect of the exam. Granted, it’s good to know the information in the book, but I think even more than that, it’s important to be able to instruct well, safely, accurately and appropriately, and I think AFAA did this very well.  In addition, I realized that they have a February APEX deal where they run certifications for $99 instead of the $299 that the normal AFAA program runs for! It seemed like a no brainer to me to wait a few months and sign up for this instead of paying $400+ for the course, manuals/study guides and CPR training.

What preparation work is needed prior to the exam?

You have the option to buy the texts books, study guides and video, so in typical Monique fashion, I bought all of them so that I had everything I needed in order to be fully prepared. I literally read through everything and highlighted and made notes.



While most of the information was really interesting, there were definitely some boring chapters and/or chapters that wouldn’t likely pertain to the kind of teaching I planned on doing, but since we were tested on everything, I read and studied everything.

kickboxing study night

Studying with wine helps 😉 But, let’s be honest, wine helps most things!

In addition to reading the book, I made photo copies of the study guide so that I could fill it out multiple times (I retain information best when I write it down, so the more times I write it down, the better I remember it!). This ended up being a great decision and was something I did when I got my AFAA Kickboxing certification, too (also done in February to save money!).

What happens on test day?

Both certifications I took were held at local BSCs. We spent the whole day going through the study guide, an accepted warm up, every basic exercise and doing various demos and practical exams. It was really nice to spend the majority of the day going through everything we needed to know for the exam, as well as have time to practice doing the approved moves and demo’s.

Once the afternoon rolled around, it was test time! The practical exam was first and we had to do the following demonstrations:

  • Proper warm up & cardio training (8 minutes as a group)

  • Strength & flexibility demonstrations (15 minutes as a group): chest & back, shoulders & abs, hips & buttocks, legs: front & back, core: front & back

  • Solo presentations- demo 1 move, showing all 3 different levels of intensity

This was actually a little scary! We all got lined up with numbers and while we performed the different demonstrations, judges walked around and gave us scores. I decided to do jumping jacks for my solo presentation, showing a beginner level, intermediate level and advanced level.

Once the practical part of the exam was complete, we finished out the day with the 100 question multiple choice exam. The day was long and physically and mentally exhausting and I have to say that when I left there and called my mom to tell her how it went, I was in tears, convinced that I showed the wrong stretch for the biceps and therefore, failed the entire exam (so dramatic, I know!). But, I’m happy to report that I passed both the written and practical aspects of the exams with flying colors!

When do you find out if you passed?

The hardest part about taking exams like this is the wait period after the exam until you find out your score, right?! It took about 4-6 weeks to get the scores as we were scored both on the written exam and practical exam. The written exam was easy to score as it was all multiple choice, but the practical exam was much more complicated to score. There were multiple judges in the room and they needed to compare their scores with each other in order to determine the final score. If you got low scores from 2 or more judges on any particular aspect of the exam, you were in danger of not passing that part of the exam. If this were to happen,  you could merely retake the exam that you didn’t pass (either written or practical).


kickboxing cert

How do you start teaching?

So, you take your exam, you pass your exam, you’re ready to teach… but where?! And how do you go about applying for jobs? Lucky for me, I befriended an instructor at the Wellington BSC and she definitely helped me out. She emailed the group exercise coordinators with my information so that I could be put on the next audition list. {If you’re interested in teaching at a particular gym, talk to the instructors and ask them to send the coordinator your name and email address as it helps to be kept in the loop and possibly even get an audition.} After some back and forth, the new audition date was released: April 14th- my birthday. Perfect, right?! Not necessarily, but I wanted to start teaching ASAP so I took 3 hours out of my day and headed to the auditions. I was more nervous than most because I wasn’t just applying for another job at a new-to-me gym, I was applying for my FIRST job at my FIRST gym. Yikes! Thankfully, my mentor instructor had prepped me well and I did great! About a month later, I was offered my first class: Friday nights at 5:30. Certainly not ideal, but as a new instructor trying to break into the industry, I couldn’t really be picky or choosy, so I took it… and ended up loving it!!!


What to teach?

With the AFAA group exercise certification, you are certified to teach most forms of group exercise classes, but if you want to teach specialized classes like Zumba, BodyPump, yoga, etc., you need additional certifications. I went into my audition ready to demonstrate cardio kickboxing and total body conditioning. I have been an avid cardio kickboxing goer for years and I have a bit of a dancers background, so learning routines and combinations and keeping beat comes very naturally to me, hence why I wanted to teach cardio kickboxing! The first class I started teaching was a Total Body Conditioning class, which changed to a UXF Burn class just a few months later.

From there, I took on many more (probably too many more) classes, but have scaled back over the past 6 months or so and have a schedule that I love!

  • Wednesdays- 6:30 pm UXF Burn at the Central Square BSC

  • Thursdays- 5:30 pm SHRED followed by 6:30pm Cardio Kickboxing at the Central Square BSC

  • Every other Saturday- 10am Cardio kickboxing at the Oak Square YMCA

What’s Next?

If you’re anything like me, the more you learn about fitness, the more you get invested in it. Now that I teach a fairly wide range of classes, I want to learn how to teach even more! Ultimately, getting my personal training certificate should be next on my list, but in all honesty, I love the class setting. I feed off of the members energy and LOVE the feeling of instructing a big group! With that said, I would like to get a Dynamax training and possibly a Tabata training under my belt… and then I’ll look into getting my personal training certificate 😉


I have been trained to teach UXF Burn and UXF Core through the BSC

With that said, with AFAA you are required to have 15 continuing education credits (CEU’s) every 2 years, which I think is good because it forces us to stay up to date with the latest trends and certifications. My two years will be up in February (I can’t believe it’s almost been 2 years!!), and I have about half of the credits. To get the rest, I think I am going to go to MANIA in November. Athena went last year and I was so jealous, so I’ll definitely be going this year!!

I think that about covers it, but if I missed anything, please let me know 🙂

Questions for you: Have you ever thought of becoming a fitness instructor? If you are an instructor, what’s your favorite class to teach?

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! I’ll be back with regular blogging {hopefully} on Monday 🙂

2 thoughts on “So, you want to become a fitness intructor?

  1. Dana says:

    LOVE this!! Ever since you told me about the discounts in February I’ve been gearing myself up to become a trainer myself! I have no idea if I’ll ever be able to do it while I’m in grad school but I’ll sure try!!

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