It seems like everyone has a part-time job or side hustle these days.
More than 3 million people drive for Uber or Lyft. (Most of them drive part-time.) Millions of others make extra money as bloggers, freelancers, tutors, real estate agents, babysitters, dog-walkers, DJ’s, or as sellers on Amazon or eBay. While some of these part-time gigs might seem more appealing to you than others, they all pale in comparison to what I consider to be the best part-time job in the world: being a group exercise instructor.
Over the last 10-20 years, there has been an explosion in the number and variety of group exercise classes offered. Gone are the days where the only options were step aerobics classes for middle-aged women. These days, the choices are endless, and every demographic is covered. Whether it’s a CrossFit affiliate, an interval training gym, a dance studio, or something else, it seems like a new gym opens every week in my town.
Since 2009, I’ve worked a few hours each week as a group exercise instructor, primarily teaching Sports Conditioning classes for Gold’s Gym in Arlington, VA. Group exercise instructors generally earn a higher hourly rate than other part-time roles. However, the money isn’t what makes it the best part-time job in the world. In this article, you’ll learn four reasons why being a group exercise instructor is such a great gig for your free time. You’ll also learn how to get started, even if you aren’t that athletic or fit.
Teaching group exercise classes makes you healthier.
In some exercise classes (like cycle classes), instructors do most or all of the workouts with participants. In other classes (like the Sports Conditioning classes that I teach), you are more of a coach and less of a participant.
Regardless of what class you teach, the main health benefits of being a group exercise instructor happen outside of your classes. The greatest value comes from the identity and the accountability that you get from this role. Being a group exercise instructor reinforces your motivation to take care of yourself. There is no doubt that I’m healthier and fitter because I want to lead by example and serve as a role model for people who take my classes, and for others as well.
You’ll also become friends with other people who are making their health a priority. The benefits of this cannot be overstated. Habits are contagious- both the bad kind and the good kind. It becomes much easier to be active and healthy when many of the people in your social circle are. The opposite is also true.
Teaching group exercise classes improves your social life.
It can be difficult to make friends as an adult. When you are a kid or a student, all of your peers have a similar schedule and live within a few miles of you. Things change later in life though. People have different schedules, move to different parts of the country, and start having their own families.
Even if you join social groups, chances are that you will see people in those groups no more than once or twice a month at the most. It’s hard to form a real friendship when you see someone that infrequently.
When you teach group exercise classes though, you will see people at least once every week, if not more often. You will also bond with them through a shared experience that is challenging. This makes it much easier to build friendships that last.
When I first started teaching group exercise classes back in 2009, many of my childhood and college friends were either in serious relationships or living in a different part of the country. My social life had dried up, and I was tired of only socializing with people at bars.
By teaching group exercise classes, I ended up meeting tons of new people. Many have become close friends that I’ve known for years. Some I have even traveled with for beach trips, hiking trips, and trips out of the country.
Teaching group exercise classes makes you a better public speaker.
While leading a group exercise class is obviously different than delivering a corporate presentation, the public speaking skills that you build as a group exercise instructor are highly transferrable. You learn how to create a positive group environment, how to harness the energy and attention of a group, and how to adapt on the fly in front of a live audience.
Most people don’t teach group exercise classes in order to become a better public speaker. However, it’s a valuable side effect. I’ve experienced it firsthand. Teaching weekly group exercise classes has definitely made me a better public speaker for my keynotes and corporate training programs.
Toastmasters is not the only place where you can practice your public speaking. Teach a weekly group exercise class, and you are guaranteed to become a more confident public speaker. You will also reap the other benefits noted in this article.
Teaching group exercise classes improves your local community.
All of us want to feel like we are contributing to society. Being a group exercise instructor is a powerful way to do so. There aren’t many part-time jobs where you can help members of your local community become healthier, happier, tougher, and more confident.
If you want to go above and beyond, you can also look for ways to help your students connect with each other inside and outside of your classes. Most people attending group exercise classes are open to making new friends, even if that’s not their primary motivator for working out with others.
As a group exercise instructor, you have an opportunity (not a requirement) to build a community. If you choose, you can create an environment (in and out of the gym) where people become friends and genuinely feel like they are part of a team. This sense of camaraderie is one reason why group exercise classes have exploded in popularity over the last 10-20 years.
What if you aren’t that athletic or fit?
In virtually every gym, there are personal trainers and group exercise instructors who don’t really look the part. I’m not saying this to be judgmental. The point is that you don’t need a six-pack to teach group exercise classes.
What’s more important is that you truly want to help people, that you know how to manage a group, and that you are knowledgeable about whatever class format you will be teaching.
You don’t need to be an expert on every kind of exercise. You simply need to be qualified to teach one kind of class. There are lots of options to choose from, including Sports Conditioning classes, boot camps, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) classes, strength training classes, cycle classes, boxing classes, martial arts classes, dance classes, yoga classes, and many others.
There are also many different groups that you could teach. If you want to work with serious athletes, you should probably look and act the part. However, many gyms and classes cater to people who are not as hardcore. You could teach classes for beginners and/or for people who are middle-aged or even elderly. Your athleticism or fitness level will be less important with people who are not as advanced.
What if you have a very busy schedule?
Group exercise classes are typically offered at the same times and days each week, which makes it easy to work them into any schedule. At many gyms, you can teach as few as 1-2 classes a week. Classes are usually offered before work, during lunch, after work, and on weekend mornings. No matter what your schedule is, it’s easy to find times and days that are convenient.
How do you get started?
Before you start teaching, make sure that you take some group exercise classes. Observe other instructors. Make note of the classes and styles you like the best. Think about the style that you want to develop over time, as you become a more confident and experienced instructor.
You should also consider whether you want to create your own classes from scratch, or whether you want to teach classes that were developed by your gym. There are pros and cons with either option, and gyms have different policies on this.
Most gyms will require that you have a CPR/First Aid certification. You will likely also need to complete a personal training or group exercise certification from an accredited organization like ACE (American Council on Exercise), AFAA (Athletics and Fitness Association of America), or ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine).
How many part-time jobs pay you to improve your life and to improve the lives of other people at the same time? By teaching group exercise classes, you will get healthier, you will improve your social life, you will improve your public speaking skills, and you will make a difference in your local community. This is why it’s the best part-time job in the world.
If it sounds interesting to you, you can get started by taking some classes and by getting certified. If you don’t feel like you are ready yet to teach, then give yourself 3-6 months to get ready, and remember that you don’t need to look like a fitness model or be a former pro athlete. You also don’t need to be an expert on every kind of exercise or every kind of group. What’s more important is that you care about your audience, that you are comfortable in front of a group, and that you are knowledgeable about whatever class and group that you will be leading.
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About the author: Pete Leibman is a consultant, speaker, and author who helps leaders and companies thrive. He is the creator of StrongerHabits.com and he’s the bestselling author of Work Stronger; Habits for More Energy, Less Stress, and Higher Performance at Work. Before writing Work Stronger, Pete worked as an executive recruiter at Heidrick & Struggles, a leadership advisory firm who serves the majority of the Fortune 500. In his free time, he teaches one of the largest group exercise classes in the Washington, D.C. area. He has also competed in the Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) World Championships.
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