This is a refrain that we hear from clients several times a week. Finding great people for almost every position in a health club is difficult these days. But finding a great group exercise person is even more challenging because of the special talents needed: inspiring, empathetic, motivational, self-motivating, and adaptive, not to mention punctual, having good cueing skills, arranging music, ability to self-motivate and have the certifications to teach.

Here’s how the best clubs are doing it:

Start with your current instructors

Make sure that they are treated well and that you pay them at the market rate (or a bit more). They are connected to your teaching community, so they will talk with others from time-to-time. When they talk to these other instructors, ask them to suggest working for you. But be careful to not become known as a poacher.

Local colleges

Another way to search for instructors is to go to your local colleges and search for people who are working in their fitness centers as floor technicians or instructors. Some may also be matriculating toward exercise science, kinesiology, athletic training, physical education, or sports & fitness. Let them know of your interest in having them come work for you a few hours a week. You may have to help them with certifications, but students provide exceptional energy and enthusiasm and are motivated to grow and develop. Keep reading to learn more.

woman practicing a striking move

Your Members

Some of my best group exercise instructors were found right under my nose. I specifically remember a fellow who owned a seafood restaurant in town. He was a regular morning attendee. He loved getting his workout before he started work. After he got certified we had the added benefit of him chatting up his restaurant patrons and referring many new members into the club. If you hang out with members just before class, you will eventually get to know the “regulars”. Look for those who are outgoing, fun, and are very motivated by attending classes. They’re the ones who make friends easily and grab a few others to go get coffee after class. If you ask them if they have ever considered being an instructor, the first reaction is usually “No. I couldn’t possibly…”. But if you stay with it, some of them may eventually ask for information about how to make it happen.

Your staff

Personal trainers, swim coaches, swim lesson instructors, etc all have the people skills to be good. Your Group Exercise Director should offer to his/her expertise to help people get certified by coaching them on the various tests.

Host training and certification classes at your facility

Companies like MOSSA, Les Mills, Keiser, and others will charge you a fee to send a nationally certified trainer to the facility to certify instructors. The cost for air, lodging, food, and the instructor may be around $1800-$2500.

I found that if you plan early enough you can sometimes get the costs down if the company providing the instructor is already planning to send someone nearby- another part of the state outside your market area, but close enough to rent a car vs air fare.

But let’s assume that the cost is $2200. Your staff, or potential instructors, go for free. Then you market the remaining spots to other local instructors for a fee of $250 per person. I’ve found that you can expect 6-8 non-staff attendees. That brings your net cost down to $400-$1000. A good investment if you gain 2-3 great, certified instructors.

Building a world class group exercise staff can be really rewarding. You will, occasionally, get lucky when someone who is certified moves into your area and seeks you out. But, generally, you need to invest your time to grow your own.

richard synnottBy Rich Synnott
Vice President Active Entities