What style of training courses are proving most popular? We spoke to
the managing director of training provider Health and Fitness Education
(HFE) to find out what he thinks the current demand is.
FitPro: How do you ensure that instructors transitioning from
pre-choreography to freestyle teaching have the right skills in order
for them to create their own choreography?
Lee Cain: We’re advocates of both freestyle and pre-choreographed
group exercise formats and we actively promote both in our delivery.
However, our Level 2 Exercise to Music courses are entirely freestyle in
so far as our students are taught how to be creative with their
choreography, how to make classes their own, and how to use the
choreography to create a fun and lively experience for participants. In
this area, we also commissioned the veteran group exercise presenter,
Kardy Laguda, to create some freestyle choreography workshops to help
our students tap into their creativity. These resources have been really
popular and successful, and our students can watch these videos at
appropriate stages in their course to help them plan and prepare
authentic and creative choreography.
FP: What do you think are the key tools/skills an instructor needs to keep class participants coming back for more?
LC: First and foremost, classes need to be fun. If participants
don’t enjoy the class then it’s unlikely they will keep coming back.
Regularly changing choreography, uplifting and varied music, and a good
sense of humour are certainly elements that contribute positively to the
fun factor. Group exercise participants are driven more by social
motives than they are by a burning desire to shed calories. Classes
therefore also need to be interactive.
Above all else, instructors need to be authentic. All too often an
instructor will see an Australian or American presenter at a workshop or
on a video and try to emulate them. This just isn’t authentic and in
more cases than not it only serves to make participants cringe.
FP: What tends to be the most popular style of training course for
people new to the industry? Are you able to offer any explanations on
what has driven this pattern?
LC: Level 2 Fitness Instructor qualifications (gym instructor,
exercise to music, aqua and circuit training) are the entry-level
qualifications for those joining the industry. Gym-based training and
exercise to music are without doubt the most popular of these
qualifications and it seems to us this is simply because there are so
many different places that you can work with these qualifications.
Water-based exercise and circuit training aren’t anywhere near as
popular as they used to be now that the studio offering of most health
clubs is so diverse.
FP: How often should instructors attend physical workshops to increase their knowledge- based skills?
LC: The educator in me would say people should attend ongoing
professional development programmes as regularly as they can afford to,
from both a time and cost perspective, and at least annually. However,
over the past 15 years or so, the world has completely changed and
people literally have at their fingertips new information, research,
data and media. The model whereby we mandate to instructors that they
should attend so many workshops in a year is completely out of date and I
personally think if we persist along these lines then we’re likely to
suffer the same fate as many other industries.
I think that students want to engage with their education and
professional development in smaller and more frequent bouts, much the
same way they access other forms of media. This is one of the reasons we
developed a mobile app that would enable our learners to take their
course with them on their smartphone wherever they are. So, whatever
rules are put in place by industry regulators, employers and
professional bodies, I think the content has to be sufficiently
accessible and flexible to allow the audience to dip in and out as they
need to. Of course, there is no substitute for face-to-face training,
especially when it comes to practical training, but we do need to find a
FP: Why is the fitness industry such an exciting place to work?
LC: In a word … diversity. There are so many different roles in this
sector and there is so much flexibility around those roles. In group
exercise, instructors often work on a freelance basis for a variety of
different clubs and in numerous locations. A common reason people change
their career is boredom, but it’s hard to get bored in the fitness
There are also lots of people working in and joining the fitness
industry on a part-time basis. To quote them, they have a ‘proper job’
in the day and then at weekends or in the evenings they get paid to do
what they love. How many industries work like this? It sounds like a bit
of a cliché but, in the fitness industry, no two days are the same and
no two clients are the same.
FP: What insider tips would you give on how to succeed within the industry?
LC: You have to have a genuine love of people because, above all
else, the fitness industry is about working with people. It doesn’t
matter what technology you have, how good you look or what you can do
physically, if you can’t communicate with and relate to people on their
level, you don’t stand a chance of making it in the fitness profession.
Next, you need to find an area of the business that you’re really
passionate about, and master it. Too many people think that because they
have a qualification, they instantly become experts in the eyes of
others. It takes a colossal amount of energy at the start of the journey
but it is here where most exercise professionals learn lessons that
just can’t be taught or assessed on a training course. It’s not uncommon
for new instructors to undertake voluntary work once they’ve completed
their qualification to get this invaluable experience.
FP: Can you tell us some more about the demographics of those taking
on the training courses? How many on average are tapping into the
special populations training?
LC: The fitness industry is an amazing sector comprising people of
all ages, backgrounds and skill sets. I think many people from outside
the sector, especially those who don’t use a gym, view it as a young
person’s industry, but it really isn’t the case. We have students on
courses in all shapes, sizes and ages. The oldest person we had on a
course was 74 and it really isn’t uncommon to have people over 60
working towards a fitness instructor qualification. Life expectancy is
at an all-time high and most people now realise if they want to remain
independent in their twilight years, they need to remain active. Who
better to work with older adults than older instructors?
While we can’t speak for other providers, we certainly find that
personal training certainly seems to attract ‘younger’ people, whereas
the group exercise courses have a much more mature learner base. As you
might expect, there tends to be a fairly even ratio of men and women
aspiring to become a personal trainer, but the group exercise programmes
are certainly dominated by females.
Visit hfe.co.uk for more information.
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