You’ve imagined the scene for months or, perhaps, years: standing in front of a brightly-lit classroom at the gym, 30+ expectant faces looking to you for guidance, your favorite, motivating music compilation coming through the loudspeakers, and your microphone at the ready.

Congratulations! You’ve landed your first gig as a group-fitness instructor. Nervous? I’m sure. But, I’ll bet you’re excited, too.

Chances are you’ve gone over the pertinent rules and expectations you must adhere to and live up to. Those would be things like appropriate dress, how to log your hours so that you get paid, how to contact the district manager if you’re working for a big box chain, and all the practical matters that must be covered before you can start.

But what about those things that aren’t typically discussed? Those are the things you have to learn along the way: often the hard way.

Well, here’s a shortcut. Here are a few things you should check off your list to have a better start as a new instructor.


  • Attend a class with the outgoing instructor (if you can)

If you’re lucky enough to be assigned a class that still has a current instructor (who is, of course, leaving very soon) you have a real opportunity on your hands. Go attend the class! At the very least, you can get a feel for the class’ fitness level and enthusiasm. You also get to see firsthand what they’re used to and what they expect from that class.

Sure, you’ll be changing things up to better suit your unique personality, but why not find out all you can? The current instructor might even introduce you as the incoming and give you a chance to tell the class something about yourself.

Plus, after class you might get some information that will come in handy for you when you start…like how to work a finicky sound system so you don’t waste 10-minutes of your first class figuring it out for yourself.


  • Get to know other instructors

These people will be your substitutes when you’re inevitably unable to make class for whatever reason, just as you will cover for them at some point. Get to know other instructors by name, and exchange direct contact information. It’s good for more than just subbing. You’ll get a heads-up when other classes and time-slots you’re interested in taking over will become available and you’ll establish a support system.


  • Be at least 20 minutes early

Being early to class offers you the gift of relaxation. You don’t have to deal with that frenzied, hurried, uneasy feeling of running late. Plus, you have a buffer to chat with participants as they come in, set up your music etc., and deal with the unexpected…like hunting down the combination when a new lock appears on the music station. Yes, that happened to me.


  • Suspend discouragement

Cut yourself a break! You’re getting used to something entirely new. If you work for a big box chain, you may be getting used to something entirely new over and over again, because working for only one location can happen, but more often than not, especially when just starting, you’ll end up working in multiple locations because you have to go where there are classes available.

So, if you’re feeling discouraged, just keep going and know that you aren’t the only one to feel overwhelmed when first starting out as a group fitness instructor. And know that the feeling won’t last.

I’m out of space here for the checklist, but the good news is we can still keep it going! Come on over to Facebook, add to the list, and help out your fellow instructors.

Plus, if you’re an NFPT trainer, be sure to join our Facebook community!



Tanisha Rule

Tanisha Rule

Tanisha Rule has a BA in English and is a former Mad Dogg-certified Spinning instructor. She taught indoor cycle and boot camp and has now combined her passions as a full-time writer for the health and fitness industries, check out her site at If she isn’t writing or reading, she can be found happily training for an endurance event, likely after having said, “This is my last one for a while,” because there is no finish line; there is only progress.