The Financials of Fitness Instructing

In case you didn’t know it already, my side gig aside from blogging is group fitness instructing. I’ve been doing it for almost 7 years. Wow, that’s a long time. Even though it’s only part-time, that’s the longest time I’ve ever held a job.

I’d like to talk more about the financials of fitness instructing. The courses I took in order to become certified cost several hundreds of dollars combined and took a lot of time and dedication to carry them out to completion. However within a few months, I had already made the money back.

One of the major perks is getting the free gym membership. Although I haven’t had to pay for a gym membership for quite some time, I am well aware of how expensive they can be. And if you don’t use them often enough, you don’t reap the benefits of having one. I know I’m biased, but I still think they’re worth it. As shy and introverted as I am the majority of the time, I am a big fan of the social atmosphere that the group fitness class provides.

The other major perk is that I get paid to exercise. I enjoy exercising, so might as well get paid to do it right? I get paid per class, which is usually an hour long. If I teach a 45 min class, it’s less than the hourly rate of pay. If I teach classes on a holiday, I get paid the holiday rate.

One thing I should mention is that if you need to sub your class out for whatever reason (sick, vacation, work conflict), you do not get paid for that particular class. The good news is that instructors are always asking for subs, so if it fits my schedule and the location is close by, I will try to help out when I can. So there is an opportunity to make that money back and a little extra.

Another perk is that you get a small discount off of regular priced clothing from athletic wear stores such as Lole, Lululemon and Titika. I will stress that none of these perks were the driving force for me wanting to become a fitness instructor. I didn’t even know the free gym membership and clothing discount existed till after the fact.

The Fundamentals of Fitness Instructing

Just like teachers who have to lesson plan outside of school, we as fitness instructors need to plan our classes. If you’re a freestyle instructor, you need to plan the class out from scratch. I guess I am lucky in the sense that the choreography and music is already chosen and laid out for me (I do not have to pay for this). All I have to do is learn it. But even then, I still have to practice the moves and make sure I know it well enough to do from memory. For me personally, it takes me several times to get the moves down and into my muscle memory. The weightlifting choreography is pretty easy and straightforward to learn with patterns that are repeating and easy to recognize. While the cardio choreography is still straightforward to learn, the patterns are a little bit more intricate and have more direction change and the music generally has a quicker tempo.

Once I learn the choreography, I check the choreography notes and see if there are certain notes I need to incorporate into my coaching. For example if there is a new move that hasn’t been done before, it needs to be demonstrated before class and different types of cues may need to be said while the move is being done during class.

I make a mental note of the classes taught during the last few weeks and think about how the members responded to the class. Usually at that point, I will switch up exercises and music to avoid reaching that plateau. It can also get boring listening to the same music over and over again.

So I am constantly learning and practicing moves. A lot of the music chosen to go along with the choreography is popular and current music. I’ll hear that same song on the radio and think, oh this is when we do push ups or squats.

If you’re listening to new music and moves for the very first time, it can take a while to learn. But it’s a labour of love- I do it because I love teaching. I spend so much time on the material because I want them to have a great fitness class experience. There’s also a safety aspect to it. You need to know your choreography inside and out and to be able to cue them well in advance as to what move comes next. It’s important that they’re able to follow you so they can easily transition from move to move. Coaching and demonstrating proper technique is absolutely necessary, especially when lifting weights so they can feel which muscles are supposed to be working and which muscles are used as stabilizers.

I didn’t even know what it meant to have a job you’re passionate about until I started teaching. When I was in between jobs, I continued to teach my own classes and take on extra classes to keep me sane, busy and healthy. It provided a small income to help pay for my car payments, insurance and gas (I was living at home at the time).

I love this job so much that I hope to be one of those fitness instructors who’s still teaching in her 50s and 60s.

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