The Biggest Misconception When It Comes to Teaching Fitness

As I look back on summer, I realize that I taught a lot of classes. Some weeks I was teaching 6-8 classes a week, and sometimes 3 of those in 1 day. On top of an 8-9 hour “real” work day. And a workout of my own. It was exhausting at times, but I never really minded because teaching gives me so much energy and I always love getting to help people work towards their goals. That, and a lot of classes were outdoor classes so it was just nice to get to be outside!


But, when people would ask what I was doing for the week and I would tell them that I was teaching X classes, 9 times out of 10, I would get this response:

“Wow! You get paid to workout- that’s so cool!”

And, while I used to fall more true to that statement because I would pretty much do the whole workout with the class when I first started teaching, over the years as I’ve grown and evolved as a fitness instructor, that statement is not really very true anymore.

Although I do jump around and demo exercises, I am not DOING the exercises. I am not getting in all the reps, lifting my heaviest or pushing myself the way I do when I do my own workout. In other words, I am not getting in MY workout.

Why? Because the class is not for me. It is not my time to workout. What the time is, though, is my chance to help others get in a workout. If I’m doing the whole workout with them, how can I see what everyone is doing? Or, how can I ensure I’m giving appropriate coaching cues or corrections? Sure, I do bits and pieces to show people how to correctly execute an exercise, showing modifications up or down, jumping around to get people pumped up or joining them for the last few reps or seconds to keep them pushing to the end, but I am not doing even 25-30% of the workout with them (unless it’s kickboxing – I tend to do more of the workout with them since it’s easier for them to follow along to the combinations).

So when people think that I’m working out a ton because I’m teaching 6-8 classes a week, it’s really not the case. In fact, I tend to get in fewer of my OWN workouts when I teach a lot because I have less time to get them in. If I’m working 8-9 hours and then need to drive (sometimes 45 minutes) to go teach for a few hours, the last thing I want to do is my own workout. True story. What ends up  happening is I do quickie 20 minute workouts. Is it ideal? Do they help me get closer to the fitness goals I have? No, not really. But it keeps me moving, it keeps me active and something is always better than nothing!

And today, what I do in the classes will likely be my “workout” since I have to work, train someone during lunch and then teach back to back classes after work. Sure, I could wake up at 5am to workout or workout after my last class, but I know neither of those things are in my best interest since it’s a long enough day as it is.

Wondering about a few other misconceptions about fitness instructors that come to mind to me?

  • That we always want to workout – while I do love working out, I don’t always want to do it!
  • That we always want to teach – again, while I love teaching so much, there are some days where I would just rather do my own workout or just go home to relax. But, once I get started, I’m always fine. The energy from the members helps push me when I need it!
  • That working out is easy for us – we get lots of practice doing things, and we aren’t going to teach something that we haven’t practiced so that’s why things look easier for us!
  • That we know everything when it comes to working out – I cringe when I see some trainers in the gym when it comes to how they’re training someone or how they’re demo’ing the exercises. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t do everything right, but I work really hard to practice those things to make sure that I am doing my best to teaching and demo correctly.
  • That we don’t need/want trainers – sometimes the last thing I want to do is create my OWN workout, so I love looking to other fitness professionals for workout suggestions.

I’d love to hear from you! What’s something you think of when you think of fitness instructors? Do you think any of the things I talked about in this post? 

Wednesday Workout: My Favorite Cardio Kickboxing Combos {take 3}

Good morning! I’ve had “kickboxing combos part 3” on my list of blog posts for a really long time, so I’m happy to finally have this post for you today 🙂 I’ve shared some kickboxing combo’s with you before, but in case you’ve missed them, there they are:

My Favorite Cardio Kickboxing Combos {Take 1}
My Favorite Cardio Kickboxing Combo’s {Take 2}

I’ve got 5 more for you today, so let’s get right to it! If you’re not familiar with the basic punches and kicks, be sure to check out the first post linked above as that goes through all of those. If you’re good with those, then skip right ahead to the combos below!

Jog w/speed bag high & low, 2 knees right and left, squat & kick right & left, burpee

  • Jog in place & do 4 counts of speed bags up by your head and then down by your waist
  • 2 right knees & 2 left knees
  • Squat & kick right, squat & kick left
  • Burpee (or keep with the squat & kicks if burpees don’t feel right for you)

4 Jabs & 2 blocks right and left, 2 knees right & left, 4 high knees & 2 jumping jacks

  • 4 fast jabs to the front with your right arm and then 2 blocks with the right arm while doing 2 boxer hops to the right
  • 4 fast jabs to the front with your left arm and then 2 blocks with the left arm while doing 2 boxer hops to the left
  • 2 knees right and left
  • 4 high knees  and 2 jumping jacks

(PS watch my face at the end when the falling frames scared the crap out of me! You’ll see in the next videos that I am no longer phased by it haha}

4 low speed bags to the right, 4 butt kicks, 4 low speed bags to the left, 4 butt kicks, knee & kick right & left, burpee

  • 4 speed bags by the right hip + 4 butt kicks
  • 4 speed bags by the left hip + 4 butt kicks
  • Knee + kick on the right and left
  • 1 Burpee

Continue reading

SWC MANIA 2014 Recap

Hi there! A little late for my MANIA review, but better late than never, right? Although I was only able to go one day this year, my one day was amazing. I was able to go to 4 different physical class sessions and 1 lecture. By the end, I was physically exhausted, mentally drowning (happily) in new information and super motivated to get out there and be a better instructor, not just for me, but for my members, their growth and their safety. There’s just something so invigorating about spending the day immersed amongst fitness professionals!

I wanted to share some of what I learned with you guys in case you were not able to attend the event or are looking for something new to try. Here’s the summary of the classes I took, as well as some take-aways. Enjoy!

Jump on it! for Chicks & Battle it Out! Ropes for Chicks

Ok, probably the coolest thing about MANIA this year was getting to take two classes with Chris Freytag.


I remember doing her videos On Demand when I first moved to Boston, so meeting her & doing her workouts in person was so cool! What I loved the most about her classes was her emphasis on making the workout a team event. We worked the following connections:

  • Coach/Athlete Connection
  • Coach: Motivator, educator & guide (we, as instructors, do the same thing in our classes- we guide people by giving them an overview of the class, we educate people by cueing and giving direction and explaining form and we motivate people by being there, by giving positive feedback and encouragement to keep going)
  • Athlete: Challenged, empowered & focused (this is their job when they come to class- we want them to feel engaged and proud of themselves. We also need to remind them that they are not giving up if they’re modifying)

Another thing I liked about her teaching/classes was the different ways you can run the class, again, keeping the team/coach aspect in mind.

  • Coach/team- You, as the instructor, are the coach and your members/class participants are the team. This is the traditional way that group exercise classes are run.
  • Coach (participant)/Athlete- This is where you have a member coach another member. We did this and it was so fun! While one person worked, the other coached and encouraged them, which was their “rest”.
  • Athlete/Athlete- Two members are both working at the same time. Not necessarily doing the same thing, but both working.

The Jump on It class was fun as we used the SPRI boxes and did all sorts of workouts on them: step ups, plank jacks, decline push-ups, box jumps, elevated reverse lunges, etc. We worked for 30 seconds at a time. I was so sweaty and beat after this class- it was awesome!


I think the most challenging class for me was the battle ropes class. The good thing was that the ropes were smaller than those huge ones they have at the gym that, lets face it, are just not meant for women. They are so thick it’s hard to even get a good grip! These were the perfect size and I learned so many new ways to use them- prone snake whips, squat walk with alternating waves, star jacks, isometric squat hold with arm circles, kneeling power slams, lateral shuffle with alternating waves, v-sit and whip, side plank with outside circles, burpee push-up… you get the idea. I can’t wait to do a workout like this on my own. I was SO SORE from this the next day- holy lats!


Chris Freytag was so encouraging and positive and made you feel like a star player. I was honored when she gave me the team leader award, and especially stoked when I realized my prize was a SPRI Step 360. This piece of equipment is amazing- so versatile an better for your form since it has a flat top. My workout for you tomorrow shows you all sorts of exercises you can do on it.



Kettlebell Training


Another class I took was Kettlebell Training with Kelly Roberts. I’ll admit that KB’s generally intimidate me. I never know if I’m thrusting and moving and swinging correctly, so it was nice to break things down and learn how to do some basic moves. I never realized that KB’s had so many benefits:

  • Improves total body coordinated strength
  • Improves posture
  • Time efficient because you’re working multiple components are once
  • Weight bearing and functional
  • Enhances exercise efficiency
  • Increased bone mineral density

I also liked learning about the different techniques:

  • Grind- slow & controlled (lifts, squats, etc.)
  • Ballistic- using momentum, the KB projects away from you body
  • Curvilinear- lifting out to the sides
  • Rectilinear- lifting up and down

We worked through all sorts of different moves in an hour long workout. The format was set up in a way where we did a grind move, a ballistic move and then a core movement. I learned some great moves and love that some of them can be used in my classes with dumbbells.


The last class that I took was Piloxing. I didn’t necessarily take the class to get new moves for my classes, but rather, I took it to find out what it was all about! Piloxing is a type of workout that incorporates standing pilates, boxing and dance and while I thought it was a good workout, it wasn’t as great as I was expecting. The instructor kind of annoyed me because she literally yelled the entire time… like yelled AT us, which I didn’t take well to. The moves were fairly basic so it was easy to follow along, but I think it was hard to get a great workout if you didn’t have rhythm and didn’t add in extra flare. I’d like to try it again, but I definitely don’t think it’s the type of class I would like teaching- it just wasn’t my style!


Women & Weight Lifting

To break up the day, I decided to take a lecture instead of a movement class. This lecture was SO interesting- I think it’s amazing how much our bodies work in a connected manner. You’d never know something about the way you stand could affect the rest of your body so much. I will say, though, that I thought we were going to be learning more about how to lift and ways we should be lifting and while we didn’t get into that specific type of detail that I wanted, I still learned so much about movement and lifting in general. Here are some things I learned:

  • The average woman sits for 13 hours a day
  • If you stand for even just 2 hours a day while working, you’ll lose 11.2 pounds a year
  • Only 20% of women strength train twice a week
  • Because of our wide hips & short legs (generally), the Q angle increases and creates weakness in the knees. We need to increase our knee stability, which starts with ankle mobility. From there you work knee stability and then hips mobility.
  • Women have less Type II fibers (anaerobic) and have less glycogen therefore we are not made to work out as long as guys are. I thought this was crazy, but after he explained more about why this is true, it made more sense. I never knew why guys and girls had different standards, but seeing scientific facts behind it made sense.
  • We can gain Type II fibers by lifting heavier or by doing explosive moves.
  • Working in 4 sets with 6-12 reps is ideal
  • Women are better designed for low to moderate, longer duration, sub-maximal exercise and continuous steady state exercise. Shorter intervals, but shorter rest.
  • We can preserve muscle mass by resistance training

The instructor for this course (Fabio Comana) was SO knowledgeable. I learned better squat and lunge techniques and have really started to bring those slight changes into my classes. I wanted this class to be longer because I still had so many questions! I wanted him to watch me do various exercises so he could critique my format. Such a valuable course!

All in all, MANIA, although I only attended 1 day, was awesome. I left there feeling so inspired to be a better instructor and to expand my class base. Unfortunately, I can’t add any more classes to my schedule, but man do I wish I could!

If you’re a fitness professional, or just someone who loves learning about fitness and trying new things, I highly suggest MANIA- it’s awesome!

Questions for you: Have you ever been to MANIA? Do you like Kettlebell training? What do you think about the differences and males and females and what we are both capable of?

“Why do you love to teach so much?”

The other day, RM and I were talking about my schedule and ways to possibly take some of my load off. Lately, it seems like I’m running on empty more often than not. Between my new job and new commute, teaching and subbing, events with friends/coworkers after work, spending time with RM, spending time with my sister and friends, etc., there’s very little time for me to relax, which can really take a toll on the mind AND body.

I can do everything
Source– actually a good post to check out!
(This is basically how I feel like I should live… and what I’m trying to get away from!)

When we got onto the topic of teaching, he asked why I didn’t give up some of my classes, especially now that I make more money. My response? Because it’s not about the money. It’s because I love it. His response? What about it do you love so much?

I went on to tell him that there are so many things that I love about teaching, but I think the thing I love the most is the way it makes me feel knowing that these members take time out of their day to come to my class as a way help them do something healthy and good for themselves. When you think about it like that, it seems like a huge responsibility, right?

As fitness instructors, people come to us for motivation and encouragement. They come to us for advice to help them meet their fitness and health goals. They come to us to help push them outside of their comfort zones and help them achieve things they otherwise wouldn’t know they could achieve. They come to our classes when they’ve had a bad day and need to release negative energy. They come to us as a healthy part of their day.

Just writing down all those things we, as fitness professionals, provide to our members on a daily/weekly basis makes me SO PROUD.

And, as much as my members feel like I’m helping them, they are helping me be a better me and a better instructor for them. One of my favorite Recycle instructors has a mantra she shares during class: I push you, you push me. I think it’s great- Yes, I’m there to push and motivate and guide my members, but without them being there as a motivation for me to keep teaching, I might not be doing it.


I’ll admit though, teaching isn’t always sunshine and roses. I’m sure we can all agree we’ve had one of those classes that we want to forget, right? And sometimes, I just don’t want to teach, but it’s those days where I’m reminded how much I love it because by the time I start the warm up, I am totally amped to be there. And the endorphins after a class is over? Priceless.

only one workout away from a good mood

So, with that said, even though I know I need to cut back on my teaching schedule, it’s going to be a very hard decision figuring out where I’m going to cut back. I’ve got such a great following at my various gyms, but does the location and commute to get to those locations make sense? That’s what I need to figure out. One thing is for sure, though, there’s no way I would ever give up teaching all together- I love it too much for that.

Questions for you: Fellow fitness instructors- Why do you teach? Do you love it? Class goers- what’s a reason you go to classes? If fitness isn’t your thing, what’s something you do because you love it, not because of the money?

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 🙂