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Q & A

Got a question about some aspect of mind-body-spirit fitness? Ask! It can be as earthly as "Can a heart monitor really enhance my workout?" (the short answer to that is yes) or as heady as, "Don't I need to sell all my worldly goods and go live on a mountain top to find enlightenment?" (the short answer here is no). Needless to say, we can't answer every question we receive, but we will take one every month and answer it here. If you've got a burning need to know about something, email us, and you may find your query featured next time around.

I have done aerobics for years and I'm finding fewer classes that interest me. I think I can do better than many of the instructors I've had lately. I took ballet for 6 or 7 years, throughout high school. I'm 37 now. How do I become an aerobics instructor? Do I need to get certified?

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Getting paid to work out - sounds like a pretty good deal, doesn't it? But life in front of the aerobics class is quite a bit different from life in the crowd. You have to be able to do your own self-created choreography while telling everyone else how to do the steps. You must create moves that are appropriate for your students - choreography that's too easy will bore them, while choreography that's too complex will confuse them, and either way they won't come back for another class. Those moves also need to be safe, and choreography should be modifiable so that both the newer students at the back of the room and the highly experienced ones up in the first row (that's probably you right now) have options. In addition, you need to know anatomy so that you understand which body parts are being worked, some nutritional facts that pertain to working out - and most health clubs that employ aerobics instructors want you to have a CPR certification just in case anyone has a heart attack in class.

If you really love doing aerobics and a certain side of you enjoys ordering people around, then none of the above has damped your spirits - and you are probably aerobic instructor material. Do you need to be certified? Not necessarily, but you will need training. Aerobic dance classes are quite different in structure from ballet, modern or any other dance style. An aerobic class has certain requirements that make it more than just a dance lesson. Depending on whether you're teaching hi-lo, step, kickboxing or another group fitness style, the music must be the appropriate tempo, or beats-per-minute (BPM). You need to make sure both sides of the body are worked equally. The challenge must be appropriate to the fitness level of the students (you don't want to give the over-50 crowd the same workout you'd give a class of people in their 20s). All moves generate from certain basic steps, and you have to know how to build on them. Training will give you the essentials for whichever style of aerobics you want to teach (and most instructors know several different styles). The Aerobic and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) has workshops for all the common group fitness classes, including step, kickboxing, senior and aquatics. These workshops are offered internationally, so you will most likely find one you can attend. If you are really serious about becoming a group fitness instructor, you will want to get a certification eventually. AFAA and the American Council on Exercise (ACE) are the most well-known and well-respected certifying organizations when it comes to group fitness. The more education you have, the more credibility you will earn. In addition you may want to become a member of IDEA. This organization consists of fitness professionals from around the world, and it offers workshops that qualify for Continuing Education Credits (once you get that certification, you have to keep earning CEUs to be able to renew it). IDEA also helps you keep in touch with fitness trends and you can network with other fitness professionals at their conferences.

Keep in mind that you probably won't make a living just by teaching aerobics - it would be very stressful physically to do six classes every day five days a week, and that's how many classes you would have to teach to pay the rent. Most group fitness instructors teach other things besides dance (Yoga, Pilates, private classes), and many of them are also personal trainers (which requires a different certification altogether). But it's a great part time gig because - that's right, you get paid to work out! And how many people can say that?

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