How did you get into fitness and what tips do you have for someone who wants to start teaching?
I get this question several times a week either through social media or in person and it is honestly one I love to chat with people about. Let’s break down each part of the question:
I have been an athlete almost my entire life. I started swimming competitively at 8 years old and retired from swimming at 22. I was a nationally-ranked backstroker from the age of 15 and the peak (see what I did there?!) of my career was competing at the 2008 Olympic Trials and the NCAA Championships for the University of Wisconsin. Long hours, training hard and dedication to a goal is part of who I am. When it was time to step away from the pool, I found I almost instantly missed being part of a team and the regimented nature of a sport like swimming. I turned to long-distance running to fill that void which ultimately lead to me running my first marathon in 2013. I ended up with an over-use injury post marathon and decided indoor cycling would be the best way to stay in running shape while allowing the injury to heal. I stepped foot into The Handle Bar in November 2013 and instantly felt connected to the team atmosphere and the overwhelming sense of positivity that filled the room.
After working at the front desk for about 6 months, I auditioned to be an instructor in the summer of 2014 and entered the training program. Several weeks and two community rides later, I officially became an instructor teaching one class a week. I continued to take on more time slots through subbing opportunities at the studio and eventually was given more permanent time slots as the quality of my class improved. I had to earn those time slots and prove I was capable and committed to filling the room. After two years of teaching at The Handle Bar, I began teaching at EverybodyFights as a bags x beats instructor where I remained for a few years until I had the opportunity to teach at Barry’s Bootcamp in May 2018. Now, I teach 8 classes a week as a Master Instructor at The Handle Bar and an Instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp.
The fitness industry has blown up over the last 10 years and I think has seen some massive growth specifically in the last 5 years. So, when I get asked “how do I become a fitness instructor?”, the first thing I mention is that it is not as easy as it was when I jumped in 5 years ago. The Handle Bar was one of maybe three other boutique cycling studios in the city of Boston, and the other two had not been open that much longer than The HB (I am not counting the BSCs, BACs and SportsClub LA in this because gym cycling vs boutique cycling is very different). Today, there is an indoor cycling studio on every corner. It is so much more competitive. I had ZERO teaching experience when I auditioned. If that was the case now, I would not even be considered as a candidate to audition at most studios. If you want to teach at a boutique studio, I strongly suggest getting teaching experience at a bigger gym for at least 6 months before attempting to audition.
The second thing I mention is the time commitment. The pretty Instagram post of your favorite instructor in the perfectly branded studio merchandise does not show the amount of time and energy it takes to go through training or prep for class when/if you finally make it through training. Training to become an instructor is emotionally draining and physically exhausting. You train for hours on end (usually late at night), you are required to ride in/take as many classes as possible and I would be lying if I said it didn’t take major blows to my confidence at times when I was going through it. Once you start teaching you commit to time slots that typically don’t change if it is a holiday or a beautiful summer weekend or super early in the morning. If you are scheduled to teach a class, you better be there with bells on.
If I haven’t scared you off and you still want to start this journey, keep reading! I will say that teaching has been one of the most fulfilling opportunities that I have ever had and I still love walking into the studio and leading classes. I will go into that another time but here are some things I suggest you do to get started:
Get some sort of certification as they are required to teach at larger gyms (and you’ll need that to get teaching experience if you want to go the boutique route).
For a cycling certification, try MadDogg. For a group fitness certification, try AFAA or NASM.
Start building a relationship with the studio where you’d ultimately like to end up teaching. Go to as many classes as you can. Introduce yourself to the instructors and the staff. Become friends with other clients that you see taking the same classes as you. Go to studio events. Maybe even see if there is a front desk position open.
Let an instructor know you are interested in teaching and ask about the next auditions . Inquire about the process for how that studio finds new talent. Ask who else you should take class with or get to know.
This post was a bit longer than I had intended, but I will plan to follow up with something that touches on what happens once you become an instructor and how to start building something, how to differentiate yourself and how to make teaching sustainable for you.
Questions or comments? Connect with me on Instagram @candicepeak and let’s chat!