By Tyler Valencia, MS, PFT, PES
If I were to tell you that there was an endless supply of potential clients in a gym that would ask you to train them, would you take advantage of it? This endless supply of clients does exist in every gym and health club, but the willingness of every trainer to jump on-board doesn’t. “In group exercise you have a market of buyers, in personal training you have a market of sellers and the sellers are the personal trainers” said Ron Merryman, Executive Director of YouFit Health Clubs. “In group exercise the buyers are the class participants and they come ready to purchase.” By teaching group exercise, a personal trainer can drastically increase his/her exposure to daily health club members and directly showcase their talents. This is opposed to doing floor shifts or demos as a personal trainer. When you’re a personal trainer, your audience is typically not ready to purchase or doesn’t want to be bothered while working out. I know that I don’t want to be bothered when I workout, which is why I wear headphones. The same applies for 97% of gym goers.
Teaching group exercise doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to learn to teach choreography or wear a headset (I know some people assume these are the requirements of group exercise). Today we have formats such as bootcamp, suspension training, HIIT or kettlebells, which emphasize strength training with dumbbells, barbells, ropes and other popular workout equipment. In my own workout routines, I perform powerlifting and Olympic lifting, but would gladly teach a bootcamp or HIIT class because of the benefit it would have on my personal training business. The old stereotype of group exercise still exists, but entry level personal trainers can stay within their comfort zone with weight training and do so in-front of a larger audience.
“On a weekly basis someone asks me if I do personal training” says Helene Scherer, group exercise instructor for the Bay Club Thousand Oaks & Canoga Park. When you think about the typical buying ratio of potential clients resulting from leads, it is typically around 30%. So for every 10 leads provided by your club, 3 will purchase. The frequency of leads typically averages around 3-4 a month, and the quality of the lead will depend on the gym that you work in, the location, the time slots you have available and even the set-up process of that lead. Along with creating quality leads for personal trainers, the fitness manager and entire gym staff all play a part in increasing the quality of a lead. A new member signs up with a sales representative and is greeted on a daily basis from the front desk staff. By the time a new member is in front of a personal trainer, he/she has already greeted and spoken with 2-3 other departments within a gym. These other departments can help build up the status of a trainer and increase the chance that a lead will purchase. This is where ensuring that each employee actively plays a part within the larger health club message as well as consistently working as a “team” can pay off.
How to Choose Your Group Exercise Niche
The fastest and easiest way to teach group exercise is to start with the style of exercise you prefer. If you enjoy strength training with barbells and dumbbells, then a bootcamp or HIIT class could be the easiest transition. It’s important that if you teach these classes that you come prepared with modifications and progressions, since the fitness level of each participant will vary, but with quality programming your class can easily become one of the most popular.
If group exercise is something that interests you and can be another revenue stream for you within the health club, finding out the requirements for each class is a great place to start. If you want to teach step aerobics, understanding choreography is typically a requirement. Speaking with the group exercise manager about what he/she requires for each position will be a start and a try-out or demo routine might need to be displayed. Other qualifications might include a primary group exercise certification (such as the KIPS Group Exercise Instructor Certification), a specialty certification (Les Mills, Zumba, Kettlebell, TRX, etc) or prior experience teaching the format. One last tip to consider is asking the group exercise manager to be added to the substitute list. If a group exercise instructor is ill or on vacation, subbing their class can open the door to showcase your talents and potentially land a new class or takeover an existing.
While we all want to be the personal trainer who shows up to work, gets all the clients and sets his/her ideal schedule, this status is typical to the top 5% of trainers. Many of these trainers probably used group exercise to get to this level or probably still teach group exercise. If being a successful personal trainer is a part of your plan, take a moment to consider teaching group exercise. Not only can you increase your revenue stream, but you can also increase your leads per month, meet more members within your gym and find your niche.
Tyler Valencia is the President of KIPS. While working for a Southern California online education company he started his first business, Time 2 Train Fitness which specialized in bootcamp and personal training. Time 2 Train Fitness went on to receive the distinction of 3X Best Bootcamp and 2X Best Personal Trainer with the Long Beach Press Telegram.