The Art of Exercise

June 15, 2016

For anyone who thought that being an exercise teacher was just coming into a studio, cheering students on and playing cool music – I’m here to tell you that is not the case. The hours of studying, coupled with planning routines, obtaining the perfect playlist and managing the class appropriately is more than anyone (until you do it yourself) would believe. I sincerely apologize to any teacher who I may have passed judgement on in the past, I had no idea!!!


First of all, every group fitness instructor that works for a reputable institution needs to be certified. There are a variety of certifications. Some are specific to the style of exercise. Some are nationally recognized and require months of preparation all leading up to a final exam that everything is riding on. Studying and taking tests was not easy for me when I was a full time student, let alone a crazed mother of three.

Musicality – what’s that?  You know how some songs make your foot tap?  Well try to imagine comprising a playlist of music that evokes that feeling upon you for an hour. Ok, maybe not the whole time. But even those songs that are weaved in to the workout to give you a breather are there strategically. The playlist almost becomes the workout. You can’t do a high intensity move with a more mellow song. They have to match up. And in some cases, the music will dictate when you go faster (surge), when your combo comes together (the top of the count) or when you are given a chance to recover (heart rate slows down). Say what?!?! If that was hard to understand, then imagine how hard it is to teach, learn and build a workout/playlist with that in mind.

Remember that time you were in class and the teacher made you do that move longer than you wanted. I certainly do. As a dancer growing up, I have always wanted the combos to go fast. I want constant choreography. Pretty much I want my exercise teacher to spend hours prepping. Not really. I just didn’t know that what I wanted was so time consuming. I thought that teachers got on stage…that was it. That was their job. Little did I know that the choreography and planning that they do is really the work. Being on stage is just the final act. And all that planning that they do beforehand has no financial reward to them, just the shear benefit of a class well done.

And after all this – the studying, the playlist, the choreography – things happen in that studio that change and the instructor has to roll with it. Students take longer to learn a combo, so the instructor stays practicing longer. Everybody isn’t riding the song as fast so the instructor has to adjust. Whatever it is, the teacher has to know their art well enough to improvise based on the demands of the people in the class. Not to mention how crucial it is to keep all the safety components top of mind.

I’m grateful that I am having the opportunity to learn this art. I’m beyond fortunate to have the best instructors to guide me. I love what I’m doing and feel passionate about it. But never for a second should anyone think this is easy. Teaching group fitness is fun, satisfying, invigorating, thrilling, but definitely not easy!!!!!

2 thoughts on “The Art of Exercise

  1. Heli, when I saw you at the pool the other day and you mentioned you were going to teach a class later, it kind of went over my head. I had no idea you were on your way to becoming a full fledged instructor! Good for you! This article was great! I hope everyone at LT reads it. As a former teacher, I can relate to a lot of what you said. No matter what you are teaching, it’s never easy. Most importantly, you need to be passionate and excited about what you are teaching and I can certainly see that in you! Best of luck to you on your journey!

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