Fit Friday #10: Getting Started as a Fitness Instructor

Welcome to a new series on the blog: Fit Friday! We’ll explore topics in fitness and wellness together. Have something you want me to answer or cover? hmu at Here’s a collection of all the Fit Friday posts.

This year (in May!), I’m celebrating EIGHT years of being a group fitness instructor. Wow.

I know I’ve shared my personal ‘transformation’ story, but I thought today I’d share my group fitness instructor journey story.

It all started in the fall of 2008. I had just finished college, and found myself in a not-happy place, in a lot of ways. I was pretty depressed, coming off a high of being an “it” student (student leader, always in the know) to just being a bottom-of-the-totem pole administrator at my alma mater. I had gained weight from lack of exercise and mindless eating, and I found myself in a ton of student loan debt.

Feeling stuck, I somehow managed to pull myself to a “Fall into Fitness” challenge that got me to the gym a couple of days a week. (the reality of this spark of motivation comes in the form of something that might be a trigger, so I’m not sharing here, but would be happy to share via real-life conversation). When that got boring (I was really into the treadmill, which makes me shudder to this day), I wanted something more.

Zumba was all the rage at that time on my campus. It was offered 5 times a week. I decided to go. I stood in the back corner, wore SUPER baggy clothes, and stumbled through the steps. But I kept going, slowly moving my way to the front row (never dead center). When the instructor announced that she was planning on moving, I was devastated. But what about ME? And MY workout? What would I dooooo?

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I googled how to become a zumba instructor and signed up for an instructor license course. This was happening. No turning back. At the time, Zumba was super new and I had to drive 6 hours to get to the workshop. But I went. And I worked my booty hard through the program. And then, once I left with my license in hand, I faced a new challenge: actually setting up a class and teaching.

I thought for sure I would get hired by my alma mater to teach the classes that would soon be extinct with the instructor leaving. Nope, didn’t happen right away. I begged (even going to the VP of that department, which I’m actually REALLY proud of to this day) to teach for FREE. The spot they gave me? The 7:00 a.m. classes on Monday and Wednesday.

I was absolutely NOT a morning person at this stage in my life. But I became one because I felt like I had something to prove (which, at the time, was that an overweight but determined person COULD be a successful Zumba teacher). I practiced SO HARD for those first classes, stumbling over steps and being very grateful to my faithful 2-4 students. I learned a lot about myself that summer (this was 2009).

Fast-forward a tiny bit to the fall semester. I was hired, for small pay, to continue teaching the morning Zumba classes. If I had people show up (I was told a solid 8 had to come), I could continue teaching in the spring. I worked SO very hard for those participants. I had some incredibly kind souls who made sure to come, in support of me, since they knew the program could possibly be cut.

And you know what? It started to grow. I chose music that was fun, upbeat, I mixed in some new and old dance moves, and had so much fun teaching and learning with my students. That spring, I got hired to keep teaching and the class exploded. It was amazing to have SO many (consistent) people in an early morning class. I love those students so much, and all of them have graduated and left the College at this point.

I was on such a high from teaching that I got really into fitness overall. I started running (signed up for a half marathon that year, 2010, with zero running experience). I fell in love with running at this point, which only increased all the happiness, fitness love, endorphins.

Want to see a highlight video from one of my early morning Zumba classes wayyyy back in the day? Check it out:

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Then, I caught the teaching bug. I started taking other types of fitness classes, found and fell in love with PiYo and TurboKick, then decided to seek certifications for those classes, too. Eventually, I also found Insanity and just had to teach those classes, too.

It really just starts to roll at this point. I started teaching in different venues, found confidence as an instructor and leader, learned so many instructor tricks (like this list and this list) , and found a happy place as an instructor. Now, I’m teaching so many classes, leading special private classes, fun events, and constantly thinking about the next move.

I love how far I’ve come as an instructor and even more, I love the people who have trusted me to share in their own fitness journeys. I look forward to deep introspection to determine some important next steps in my fitness instruction life. I also look forward to seeing YOU and your smiling face (or stink eyes because hella burpees) in classes. I love what I do!

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