A fitness instructor’s role doesn’t revolve around the gym as much as you might expect it to! In fact, there’s a variety of different roles that the fitness instructor has to fulfil in order to be doing his or her job properly. The best fitness instructors include all elements of lifestyle in their client programme, offering dietary advice, developing personalised fitness schedules and keeping everyone motivated.
It goes without saying that instructors have to be outgoing, friendly and inspirational, but they also have to pass on their knowledge about correct use of equipment and useful training regimes to their clients without seeming patronising, which is easier said than done.
The job can involve a range of activities or could be more specialised – a swimming instructor is not going to have the same knowledge base as a Pilates instructor, for example. But their knowledge of the human body and how it functions, as well as how to involve and make clients feel better about themselves comes from a similar school of thought.
Salary & benefits
The average starting salary for an instructor working at a health and fitness centre is around £13,000 per year, but this can rise quickly depending on new responsibilities acquired once in the job. Many instructors are freelance, however, and offer bespoke personal training as well as group classes (boot camp style camps in parks are becoming increasingly popular). These instructors set their own rates for sessions and can choose how busy to make themselves, so earnings can vary greatly.
Benefits depend on the company, but one huge bonus is never having to worry about remaining fit alongside holding down a job!
If you’re working full time in a centre, you can expect to work between 35 and 40 hours a week, normally on a shift basis which will include evenings and weekends on occasion. Working freelance gives a much larger range of hours and a lot more control, but many clients need sessions which do not interfere with ‘normal’ office hours, so freelance instructors often find themselves giving classes early in the morning and in the evenings as well.
There are a number of ways of entering the field, but the most prominent is through a nationally recognised qualification or degree. Sports Science is a well-established degree at almost all Universities and there are a host of qualifications at all levels to help with the profession.
Alternatively, another route is through starting as an assistant at a leisure centre and completing training from those around you until you’re able to prove your skills to management and step up to the instructor’s role. In this way you would normally work towards an ‘NVQ Diploma in Instructing Exercise and Fitness’. There are plenty of opportunities to follow this kind of path as an apprentice.
Training & progression
Once into the profession there are plenty of further opportunities for progression and education. There are a variety of specialist programmes which can be undertaken to work with individual sports, or rehabilitating people back into sport from serious injury, or even personal training. Nutrition is a key part of helping someone to change their body, so courses in the science of food are also widely regarded within the industry.
Once you have good experience and qualifications, the routes to moving up the ladder are opened to you. There are management roles for other instructors, bespoke personal training companies and even moving into a certain sport to work with professional teams. The possibilities are endless!