The life of a fitness instructor can be super alluring. You’re probably picturing someone working out all day, wearing a uniform of sports bras and leggings, drinking lots of smoothies. And, to be fair, you’d be sort of right. A lot of people dream of leaving behind the standard 9-5 career path to share their love of Zumba/KPOPX Fitness/ Go Bhangra Workout/ Tabata/HIIT/etc with the world instead. That’s exactly what I did; I left behind a stable, lucrative career to launch into the wild wilderness of teaching. I absolutely LOVE it, and wouldn’t go back—it was the right decision for me. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy path.
Being a fitness instructor or trainer is definitely a dream job. But it’s a dream that can be seriously hard to achieve and maintain, and there are real downsides to it, too, that are often hid behind the curtain.
I’ve been a fitness instructor for almost 7 years now.
I mean holy crap! These years have gone by so quickly! The title “fitness instructor” is a tricky one because it covers such a wide range of possible careers. Typically, boutique studios require a higher standard of instructors than, say, a large chain gym, since their clients are paying for a premium fitness experience. This means instructors need to be the cream of the crop, and the competition for a spot to teach is often fierce. Like any career, you have to invest time and (usually) finances for education first. You need to be certified to teach whatever it is you want to teach.
This is actually one of the most appealing parts of this career to me… but it might really deter a lot of people, because I’m telling you now, this line of work is a HUSTLE. A lot of what you get out of this career comes from what you put in it.
In order to teach fitness full-time, you often have to get creative to make a living. This might mean branching into training private clients or creating classes of your own. It’s really hard to say how much you can make as a fitness instructor, because honestly the sky’s the limit. There’s a big range, which I’ll talk about in a bit. But either way, you usually need to come up with multiple revenue streams in order to create a thriving standard of living for yourself.
Depending on where you teach, as an instructor you’re almost always working freelance, as an independent contractor. You own your own business.
Side note: instructors also need to remember that you won’t connect with everyone, you won’t make everyone happy, and you can’t take it personally.
There’s a big difference between loving fitness and teaching it.
This is probably one of the most important things I’d like to get across—just because you love working out does not mean you’ll love teaching, because they’re two totally different experiences. A good teacher should have their attention on the clients at all time, not themselves and their own workout!
Fitness instructors have to be masters of multitasking.
Remembering your class plan, giving cues (and making them good cues), staying on time, watching clients’ form, demonstrating the moves (with perfect form!), managing music/lights/AC… You gotta be a multitasking pro to succeed.
There’s also a huge performance aspect to teaching: you’re up in front of a crowd of people, with everyone watching you. Your movements must be precise and your personality must be engaging. I used to do dance performances and competitions, and every single time I teach it still feels the same way as stepping out on a stage.
My secret way to get in the right headspace before teaching is to go into the bathroom and take a power Pose, close my eyes, and breathe. A mini meditation. Because once class starts, it’s not stopping! And no matter what happens in class, you’ve got to be able to roll with it—your music might stop playing, the A/C could go out, you’ll have to kindly ask clients to stop talking, online messages and comments might popped up… You must be able to be present, focused, and adaptable.
Instructors must be prepared to receive constant feedback.
Fitness instructors are subject to constant critique. From Google reviews, comments, Face Book reviews to chatter in the locker room, Wassap/ chat messages—people are going to talk about you and your class. (One of the things I hear the most is “I love your energy and smile” .
What’s ironic is that feedback terrified me before I started teaching. As a teacher/blogger/instructor, I was so hurt whenever someone thought my words/actions were less than perfect. I often think back and know that my soul gravitated towards teaching because I needed to get over that fear and lack of confidence in order to reach a happier state of being. Because I have!
Of course, it’s wonderful when the feedback is positive, but everyone will have different experiences. It’s a lot of pressure for new instructors, because you’re evaluated right out the gate. But as with anything, practice, experience, dedication, and a little sweat leads to leveling up, and clients notice!
Ideally, you refine your craft enough as an instructor that clients love you and you naturally build a following based off the quality of your teaching.
One of the best parts about teaching: we get to help people get healthier!
To me, there’s nothing more fulfilling than knowing I helped someone feel stronger, get in a good workout, let go of stress, and reconnect with their own power. It’s an honor to be in that position of influence as an instructor. We get to make the world a healthier place!
The hustle never stops.
Fitness instructors really are superstars. It’s a tough job, and they do it! Even though it’s challenging, it’s one of the most fun, exciting, energizing careers out there. Obviously I love teaching and have chosen to stay on this path for a reason. It’s addicting. There is nothing that compares to the high you get after teaching a great class.
If you’re passionate about fitness and want to dive all-in to making your dream teaching career come true, you can absolutely do it. Just know it will take work. (But don’t all of the best things in life?)
As with any entrepreneurial journey, if you can tough it out and continue to work hard, being a fitness instructor for a living is a dream within reach. It’s a dream I’m committed to, and I’m excited to see how it, along with my blogging career, unfolds over time.