Almost a fitness instructor

fitness instrcutor

(Photo by Photographic Blonde)

Back in January, I mentioned that one of my goals for 2018 was to get my Level 2 Fitness Instructor certification. Apparently, there is no Level 1. I don’t know why. You just start at 2.

Since then, I have been attending 4-hour long sessions, every other Friday at The Castle Leisure Centre, operated by Everyone Active, one of my lovely clients. I’ve also been studying, and doing lots of homework, a completely foreign task for someone who hasn’t studied for something since 2006.

fitness instructor certification

They highly recommend a glass of red wine to help get the academic juices flowing…

I’m pleased to say that last week, I passed my practical exam!  Under the watchful eye of our instructor, the exam took place in the gym and involved me taking my colleague through a warmup and a variety of exercises as if I was leading her through an exercise programme I had created. The key for instructing exercise I learned, is a technique known by the acronym NASTY. It stands for:

  • Name the exercise
  • Adjust the machine
  • Silent demonstration
  • Teaching points
  • Your turn

As long as you follow this model, you can’t really go wrong.

Except in my case, where I forgot all the names of the muscles and said idiotic things like, “This is the shoulder press. It works your….shoulders.” Gah! I quickly realised that as soon as you say something dumb like this, it completely undermines your credibility as an instructor. Better to just say something assertively and move on! At one point, I also made up a muscle name when instructing a lat pull down. I think I said something like latimus… which sounded like platypus. It’s not a muscle.

fitness instructor manual

I have to admit, I didn’t study as much as I would have liked, and to be honest, I don’t feel good about my performance. I know I can be better. But I achieved the right outcome, so that’s all that matters.

Next up, there are two written exams. One on anatomy (which I will be studying intensely for!) and another on the principles of exercise. If I pass both of them, I am officially a qualified fitness instructor!

This has been a really fun and interesting experience. I learned a lot, not just about instructing exercise but about my own abilities and how to improve. The unfortunate side effect of knowing how to exercise correctly is that I am now extremely aware of everyone else doing everything wrong. I can’t help but cringe at bad form, poor posture or incorrect uses of machines now that I actually know what I’m doing!

Once I pass the written exams, I am able move on to a Level 3 personal trainer qualification, or train to teach specific exercise programming like some of the Les Mills classes I love like BodyPump or RPM – an exciting prospect given it was a BodyPump class in Canada close to 10 years ago that got me interested in fitness in the first place!

Till then, you’ll find me with my nose in my notes. And for the record, the actual muscles used in a shoulder press are the deltoids, upper trapezius and the triceps.


  1. Keith McArthur April 3, 2018 / 8:44 pm

    Platypus = ridiculous animal.
    Latimus = rediculous muscle.

    • thoughtsandpavement April 3, 2018 / 8:45 pm

      Hah. Agree! It definitely provided a bit of comic relief if nothing else!

  2. Alison clare April 3, 2018 / 11:22 pm

    Good for you!

  3. April C April 9, 2018 / 1:25 am

    Must be so interesting to learn this stuff! Way to go!

  4. Petra September 5, 2018 / 10:51 am

    best of luck or maybe you have passed all already. I was going for a fitness instructor course but found the study hard to fit in with a family. Getting any quiet to do it is tough well done you.

    • thoughtsandpavement September 5, 2018 / 11:10 am

      Hi Petra,

      So strange that you should post this comment today! I actually wrote my two exams THIS MORNING! I am reasonably sure I passed, but will find out tomorrow. I’ll do a blog post on it once I have the news. You’re right though. The studying was very time consuming and difficult. I don’t have any kids, so finding time was just a matter of willpower! If you do decide to do it, feel free to email me with questions! 🙂

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