Getting a fitness instructor job…

when you have a lot of competition.

Hi friends <3 How’s the morning going? Hope you’re enjoying the day! It’s been a great morning, and I’ve been able to get some work done and study for my Women’s Fitness Specialist exam and yoga teacher training (which officially starts this week. Wahoo!!). So, since we’ve moved to SD, I’ve had quite a few questions from fellow fitness instructors about getting a teaching job, especially when you move to a new place or when the market is very saturated. 

I was fortunate to find teaching jobs here in San Diego fairly quickly, but I had to hustle like I’d never hustled before. In the past, I was fortunate to know someone who was able to get me an “in” for teaching (like when we were in Valdosta and then in Tucson), and when we moved here, I started entirely from scratch. I had a couple of friends here in SD already, but my only instructor friend (hi Kristin!) teaches farther north than me. To get teaching jobs here, I had to step way out of my comfort zone, but it was definitely worth it.

Here are some of the things I noticed, and some of the tips that helped me:

1) Do your research. Find out where you’d like to teach, call or email to see if they’re looking for instructors, and see what certifications they accept. (For more tips on the group fitness certification process, check out this post.) Before we moved here, I immediately started Googling fitness clubs in the area, scoped out the websites, and checked out the class calendars to see if my specialities were on there (at the time, I wasn’t teaching BODYPUMP and was more focused on Barre and Zumba). It’s funny because when I first began my search, I found a club that looked perfect: a full class schedule, awesome equipment, and a close location. I told the Pilot, “This is where I’m going to teach.” What do you know? It’s how it worked out. Never forget a little power of the The Secret haha.

Teaching bodypump

2) Get your foot in the door. Really, get in the door. Go take classes, introduce yourself to people, and ask about the hiring/audition process. I was interested to find out that NONE of the studios here wanted me to audition. They just wanted to meet me, and wanted me to take classes. Some studios wanted me to sub right away. So that’s what I did. I took a lot of classes, and in the process, it helped me to determine which studios felt like home, or like a place where I’d want to work.


3) Show your energy. Don’t just show up and coast through the classes. Show your energy, and give them a hint that you’d be an active and involved instructor. This is one area where I had to step out of my comfort zone, because as a teacher, it’s really easy for me to talk to class participants and ask them questions. As a participant, I tend to go in, focus on my workout, and slither out the door. I introduced myself to people, asked them how long they’d been taking classes, found out more about them, and during the class itself, I was sure to show that I was IN it: smiling, cheering on fellow participants, and working hard.

Soli class  1 of 1

4) Be persistent. To get my own classes, I had to be persistent about following up with emails, asking questions, and offering to sub. This was another area where it was out of my comfort zone, because usually I’d apply, follow up maybe once, and wait to hear back. I felt like there was a LOT of emailing back and forth to keep my name on the fitness directors’ minds and let them know it’s something I was devoted to. Don’t give up, and if you really want it, follow through, see what they’re looking for, and over-deliver. 

Barre endurance

5) Be ready to step out of your teaching box and learn something new. My main gym was really looking for a BODYPUMP instructor, so I got BODYPUMP certified. Now, it’s one of my favorite classes to teach! Don’t be married to your standard classes, and be willing to try something different. You may find a new teaching love.

How did you get the job you currently have? Did you have to hustle or step out of your comfort box a bit? I love to hear these stories. 😉 It’s funny to think that in college I was memorizing stock market stats and finance definitions to prepare for interviews… and for my current jobs, it just involved a gentle nudge from the Pilot (the blog) to hooting and hollering during fitness classes.Things have an interesting way of working out.

Hope you’re enjoying the day!



Things your group fitness certification won’t teach you

Confessions from a personal trainer

Confessions of a group fitness instructor

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  1. Sara on March 18, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    These are awesome tips! I used to take ALL the fitness classes, and an instructor encouraged me to become an instructor. I wasn’t certified, but I made a fitness resume (half-marathons, classes I took regularly, my passion for fitness and teaching, etc.) and I asked for a job at my gym.
    They gave me the job and I immediately started shadowing instructors. As soon as I got my CPR and AFAA certs, I started subbing and team teaching. I soon had my own classes! I’ve been teaching there for three years!

  2. Erin @ Erin's Inside Job on March 18, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    Great post! I was just talking to my husband about the fact that if we move to CA the market will be pretty saturated with fitness instructors and trainers.

    When I moved to Chicago I completely changed careers to training and fitness instructing and had to go WAY outside my comfort zone. I wasn’t working but was doing ClassPass through the blog to review it. By being able to attend so many different classes, I was able to meet people and decide what I would be interested in teaching. I talked to instructors and eventually found out who the owners were of places that I liked.

    I met with the owner of a place I wanted to teach and told him I couldn’t afford a membership. He enrolled me in the Membership Exchange Program where I worked 4 hrs a week in exchange for a membership. I kept following up about teaching and soon I started an internship program. I just graduated on Saturday and now I teach my first classes this Friday! It’s really about networking and putting yourself out there! Wow, that was a long comment.

  3. Meagan on March 18, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    This is a great post- teaching group fitness classes is something I think I would love to do. Based on your experience, would it be easy to get certified and work as a fitness instructor while also working 40+ hours per week at my job? Would you recommend AFAA? Has it been widely accepted in the various states you have lived in? So many questions 🙂

    • Fitnessista on March 18, 2015 at 7:18 pm

      oh definitely! and i highly recommend AFAA- it’s widely accepted

  4. Kelsey on March 18, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    I’ll be stepping out of my comfort zone by going to a BODYPUMP class at a gym I’ve never been to tonight… nothing related to getting a job, but I’m excited to try it out!

    • Fitnessista on March 18, 2015 at 7:18 pm

      how was it??

      • Kelsey on March 19, 2015 at 6:48 am

        It was great! my thighs are shakin’ today and I can definitely feel the shoulder soreness kicking in…

  5. Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries on March 18, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    I totally agree with all of these tips! It’s fairly competitive out here in the Phoenix area too, so you really have to work for it. I think being persistent, getting into classes and being enthusiastic, and getting to know the group fitness manager are super crucial.

    • Fitnessista on March 18, 2015 at 7:18 pm

      i’m sure PHX is crazy competitive!

  6. Coco on March 18, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    I’m not a fitness instructor, but I have a wacky job story as well. I was a drug & alcohol counselor in a methodone clinic in Baltimore (ever seen The Wire? That was my life for 2 years). I thought it was what I wanted to do…until I realized I was MISERABLE. So, I quit and became a full-time nanny and randomly chose a grad program to attend at night — Human Resources Management. My parents thought I was crazy, taking a huge pay cut AND paying for school out of pocket. I had ZERO HR experience and started basically whoring myself out to my classmates haha, bugging them about job leads incessantly. I finally got an interview through a girl in my class, got the job!!, and now 2 years later I am still with the company and happier than ever!

    • Fitnessista on March 18, 2015 at 7:18 pm

      i loved reading this! so happy to hear you were able to switch and find your true passion <3

  7. Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious on March 18, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    These are great tips! My gym has an opening for a spin instructor. A few members have asked me if I’d teach it, but I’m a little scared to ask them if they’d consider me since I’d be a first time instructor and don’t have any experience other than being a dancer and working out for many years.

    • Fitnessista on March 18, 2015 at 7:17 pm

      you could totally do it!

  8. ida on March 18, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    Interesting post. I think you mean I hustled LIKE I’d NEVER hustled before

    • Fitnessista on March 18, 2015 at 1:10 pm

      you’re right- oops!

  9. kristin | W [H] A T C H on March 18, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    i’ve always thought it would be really neat to teach yoga or spin. i’ve taken yoga classes abroad and am always so fascinated by expat instructors who just move to a place like bali and teach for a year at a resort.

  10. Ashley @ A Lady Goes West on March 18, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    Hi Gina! Hustle and be present! Those are great tips. It took a while to get hired as an instructor in SF, because the gyms were very full. I had to go to classes, make myself very available and follow up with all communications! I ended up teaching my first class that was my OWN about two months after my move, which felt like a lifetime! 🙂

    • Fitnessista on March 18, 2015 at 7:17 pm

      you’re so right. it took me about two months too, and felt like FOREVER

  11. Erin @ Her Heartland Soul on March 18, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    This is so random but I had a Zumba instructor yesterday who looked just like you! It was crazy, and a great class!

    • Fitnessista on March 18, 2015 at 7:17 pm

      hahah no way!

  12. MaryBeth at The Thrive Blog on March 18, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    I’m not a fitness instructor but I nearly idolize some of the instructors of my classes! Keep on hustlin’ girl! I’d love to take one of your classes.


    • Fitnessista on March 18, 2015 at 7:17 pm

      thanks so much, MB!

  13. Sam @ Grapefruit & Granola on March 18, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    I am a dietitian and in my area, the best way to get a job is by networking. You have a better chance of hearing about jobs as they are posted and getting an interview if someone at that organization or hospital is familiar with you and your job skills.

    • Fitnessista on March 18, 2015 at 7:17 pm

      so so true!

  14. Hannah on March 18, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    These definitely are great tips. I agree with numbers 2 and 3. That’s how I got a job as a Barre instructor. I wish I could take more and more classes, as I love teaching fitness, but for now I’m focusing more on my elementary teaching and getting back into educating in the classroom. I do love to teach fitness though…or torture my clients. Heehee!!

    • Fitnessista on March 18, 2015 at 7:16 pm


  15. Kimberly @ Healthy Strides on March 18, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    It’s definitely hard to get into a new gym, and I struggle to hustle. I am curious for your tips on getting a following. I replaced a popular instructor (who was fired for inappropriate behavior) and no one ever came to try my class. I am lucky that I work for a facility that is more about quality vs. quantity but I’ve been at gyms where it’s not about being good but how many people are in class. I struggle in those situations because I almost try too hard.

    • Fitnessista on March 18, 2015 at 7:16 pm

      that’s a tough one, because you feel pressure to fill up the class, and from that pressure you might not teach as well (being stressed makes it harder to teach!)
      what class is it?

  16. Emma @ em-poweredwellness on March 18, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    Great tips! I actually got my current position at a yoga studio on accident…I showed up one morning to take a yoga class only to find out the instructor didn’t show up, so instead I (jokingly) offered to teach the class. They let me teach it, and the next day, the studio owner called to thank me for teaching and offered me a position there!

    • Fitnessista on March 18, 2015 at 7:15 pm

      that is so awesome!

  17. Bethany on March 18, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    Are there any certifications that are all online? I have really been wanting to get into teaching (especially spin) but we are currently stationed in Europe and will soon be moving to the Pacific.

    • Fitnessista on March 18, 2015 at 7:15 pm

      i’m not sure! check into AFAA- maybe they have an online program!

  18. Linda @ The Fitty on March 18, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Being an instructor sounds like you’d have to use a lot of the energy you’d otherwise use for training yourself, to motivate through fitness classes, am I right?

    If you were to be serious with your own training though, would it be better if you taught slower more relaxed classes to conserve energy?

    • Fitnessista on March 18, 2015 at 7:15 pm

      yep, but at the same time, if i’m teaching an active class, sometimes i work harder than i would on my own
      i just try to make sure and balance my own workouts with my teaching classes

  19. Amy S on March 18, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Thanks for the tips, Gina! It’s very helpful and inspiring to read about your experiences. I was so excited when I saw this post because I’ve been considering becoming a fitness instructor for a long time, but I’m nervous to take the plunge! I think I would REALLY enjoy it though, so I need to just put myself out there. I want to get my AFAA certification, too!

    • Fitnessista on March 18, 2015 at 7:15 pm

      go for it! AFAA is an awesome cert, too 🙂

  20. Jill @ Champagne for Everyday on March 18, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    This is so interesting! I didn’t realize how competitive fitness instructing was, but I guess it makes sense. If you aren’t awesome, there is someone who is that will replace you! I think the same goes for personal trainers, there are some that are phenomenal and some that definitely are not.

    Latest post: Hips Don’t Lie! 3 Quick Moves to Keep ‘Em Fit for Life!

    • Fitnessista on March 18, 2015 at 7:14 pm

      yep! if your classes don’t do well, or the feedback isn’t great, watch out haha

  21. Jess on March 18, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    Great tips! I made so many mistakes when I first started out. I started in the states and I will never forget subbing a class, which were not happy about having a sub, but grateful I was there as their teacher was on strike because she hadn’t been paid yet. I got both told to turn up and down the music, off and on the air con and told my accent was lovely and impossible. I was grateful to make it through that class and get to the end! Tough audience!

  22. Lisa on March 19, 2015 at 8:00 am

    Where are you doing your yoga certification? I used to live in SD but got my yoga certification in NJ last year. So many cute yoga studios near you! Good luck. It’s an intense program but sooooo worth it!

  23. Tracy on March 19, 2015 at 10:43 am

    This was very interesting and helpful to me as I look ahead to possibly teaching yoga after YTT. Thank you, Gina!!

  24. joelle (on a pink typewriter) on March 20, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    This is so timely for me, because I’ve been considering becoming a barre instructor. I’ve never taught a group fitness class before, though – do you think it would be tough to make this transition/get my foot in the door?

    • Fitnessista on March 22, 2015 at 4:19 pm

      not at all! you could totally do it. which studio do you usually go to??

      • Joelle @ on a pink typewriter on March 22, 2015 at 4:32 pm

        Pure Barre!

        • Fitnessista on March 22, 2015 at 9:36 pm

          let’s go sometime! i still haven’t been to the one here

          • Char on March 25, 2015 at 6:58 am

            Pure Barre is also something I was thinking about teaching if I ever had the courage to do it!! (aka overcome my fear of being in front of anyone haha)

  25. Julie on March 24, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    May I ask where you received your barre certification? I live in SF and am interested in getting a certification (am already a registered yoga teacher).


    • Fitnessista on March 25, 2015 at 8:39 am

      you would get it through the studio where you want to teach. each studio has their own method, so they will train you

      • Julie on March 25, 2015 at 9:58 am

        Thank you! I assumed it would be more transferable, i.e. yoga training. Hope you are enjoying the start of yours- it is so rewarding!

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