How Fit Do You Have To Be To Be A Fitness Instructor?


If you want to get into the fitness industry but you’re not sure if you’re fit enough, this article should put you at complete ease.

I’ve been a fitness instructor several times throughout my fitness career, so I can tell you exactly how fit you will have to be a fitness instructor.

Sound good?

Let’s go…

The role of a fitness instructor will require a person to be physically fit, due to working long hours on their feet, teaching multiple high-intensity classes, and maintaining the gym, which can include lots of heavy lifting. You don’t need to be an athlete, but you will need to be moderately fit.

First of all, I want to tell you that you do not need to worry too much if you are not in the greatest of shape but still want to work as a gym instructor or fitness instructor.

You certainly can still work in the industry, but in the interest of full disclosure, you may struggle with some aspects of the role.

The reason I am writing this article is that being a personal trainer and a fitness instructor are two massively different roles.

Surprisingly, you get a lot more downtime as a personal trainer as you might have gaps between clients, this is something you will not get as a fitness instructor.

Why do you need to be fit to be a fitness instructor?

how fit do you need to be a fitness instructor

Ok, to start with, you really will need to be in at least fairly good shape, because you will barely get a point in your whole shift to sit down.

The very second you finish teaching a class, a gym member might come up to you and ask questions that may require a demonstration. Then as soon as the busy period starts to wind down, you will be moving on to tidying the gym after the lunchtime, morning, or evening rush. This will involve lifting a lot of dumbbells and putting them back where they should be.

Even if you aren’t fully taking part in a class whilst you are teaching it like some instructors might, the fact that you will be constantly demonstrating and moving around the studio so you will still get pretty exhausted, and you’ll be teaching several of these classes a day.

When I say you are on your feet all day, I seriously mean it. From the start of my shifts until I sat down at home, I literally didn’t sit down. Even during the quieter portions of the day, I would be standing behind the reception.

I regularly clocked up 20-25k steps a day.

That’s 125k steps in 5 days!!!

Can you get away with being a bit out of shape?

Yes, the good news is if you are not in the greatest shape, you can totally get away with being a little out of shape.

The only issue I can see you have in this situation would be that people might not take you seriously if you are clearly out of shape, as they might think that you are not following your own advice.

For example, It might be a little embarrassing if you have to stop halfway through a class because you can’t keep up with the members who are taking it.

There used to be a personal trainer that I knew that taught spinning classes (an intense exercise bike class), but stood next to the bike instead of riding it because he wasn’t in good shape at all.

This didn’t go down too well with the members.

What does being “fit” really mean?

I think this is an important question to ask because each person’s definition of what being “fit” means is different.

In order to be a fitness instructor, do you need to be able to deadlift 200lbs and run 5K in 20 mins? Absolutely not.

I’ve heard that in order for you to be a “good” teacher, all you need to do is be at least a few steps ahead of your students. I think this is pretty much the same for being a fitness instructor.

As long as you can teach a class without sweating more than the participants, tidy up the free weights area without asking for help and not complain of sore feet after the first few hours, you should be good.

Do you need to be muscly to be a fitness instructor?

So when some people think of the word “fit” they might automatically start to envision a huge muscle-bound trainer with arms the size of tree trunks.

Do you need to look like this?

No, and to be honest, hardly any fitness instructor or gym instructor does.

Sure, personal trainers are sometimes pretty big, but fitness instructors definitely don’t need to be massively muscly.

It might help to have some decent strength behind you, as you will be lifting a lot of weights around the gym, and it might help with spotting people in the free-weights area, but being huge or “shredded” is certainly not necessary, so don’t worry if you aren’t.

Can you be overweight and be a fitness instructor?

Yes, you can, but I would say that there is a limit.

It’s also important to remember that people can be in an excellent physical condition without having a body that might make the front cover of Men’s Health or Women’s Fitness.

From working as a fitness instructor for many years, I can say that the vast majority of fitness instructors are not ripped up muscly people, they actually have pretty normal body shapes. It’s the personal trainers that are usually more muscular and lean as that’s an important part of their personal training marketing and “personal branding”.

Why you shouldn’t compare yourself to others

Whether you are a fitness instructor, personal trainer, or anyone for that matter, you should never compare yourself to others.

Everyone is different, with different strengths, weaknesses, and body shapes. People will rarely judge you for your size or shape, as they know that for you to be working in the role you must have more knowledge of exercise and fitness than them.

There will always be someone stronger, someone fitter, and someone that is more knowledgeable than you. If you constantly compare yourself to others around you, you will never be satisfied with who you are and how you look.

Instead of comparing yourself, it’s far more useful to work on your own self-confidence so that you can go through life not needing to worry about other people’s impressions of you.

How fit you ACTUALLY need to be

Ok, we have covered a lot so far about why it’s not important to be completely ripped up and shredded as a fitness instructor, so to finish the article, let’s look at how fit you will need to be to do the role effectively.

You will be fit enough to work as a fitness instructor if you can perform these tasks:

  • Teach 30-45 min exercise classes with demonstrations
  • Stay on your feet for 7-8 hours at a time
  • Comfortably lift weights (DB’s weight plates etc) for gym tidying
  • Walk 20-25k steps a day
  • Clean equipment for 45 mins to an hour each shift

You can see that you will not need to be an elite-level athlete to be a successful fitness instructor, but it actually may be more of a physical role than you might be prepared for.

The one aspect that really surprised me when starting was the fact that you never get to sit down (at least I didn’t), and that really was difficult to get used to. After a while, you do get accustomed to it and it makes you really grateful for a seat on the train or bus home.

I can also pretty much guarantee you an excellent night’s sleep after one of these shifts, because no matter how in shape you are, you will be pretty tired after a whole shift as a fit pro.

One final point is that you can see from the list above, that just by working as a fitness instructor you are pretty much guaranteed to get in shape. You will be exercising so much completing your day-to-day tasks that even if you start off in pretty bad shape, it won’t last for long.

Conclusion

So hopefully that has cleared up any concerns or worries you may have had about getting into fitness.

The main takeaway should be that you shouldn’t be concerned about not being fit enough to be a fitness instructor. Most people would be able to complete the list of tasks I’ve mentioned above fairly easily.

It’s only if you struggle to stay on your feet due to medical reasons or really can’t keep up whilst teaching exercise that I think you would find the role too physical.

If you are interested in getting into the fitness industry, I can assure you that you will have great fun and should go for it.

Go get ’em!

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Chris Walker

Chris Walker worked in the City of London as a fully qualified REP's level three personal trainer for just under ten years. He built and maintained a client base of 40 individuals and worked with several high profile clients, including actors, actresses, comedians and politicians.

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