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10 Tips On How To Be A RAD GFI (Group Fitness Instructor)


I can’t remember what happened 10 minutes ago, but I’ll never forget what happened 10 years ago.

I was a graduate student getting my MFA in Acting at The University of Texas, Austin, handling some Shakespeare with 11 other RAD artists by day (and night…and weekends and every other time you can imagine).

However in between theatre classes I was hitting up fitness classes.

The Division I school had physical activity on lock so the fitness centers (yep there was more than one) were the truth. I totally took advantage of this opportunity (and the opportunity to get away from my classmates – tots love yall, but those 3 years were a social haze), and in no time TurboKick and Body Sculpt classes became my jam. However I never imagined I would graduate from UT with a MFA and a GFI (Group Fitness Instructor) behind my name (full story here).

Well I did yall! In fact, I’ve been living this spilt passion life for 10 years!

So since today marks the day that I passed my GFI exam I thought I would pass along a few tips on how to be a RAD GFI for all my soon to be and current studio teaching homies out there. Not about that pro studio life? Keep reading anyway. It may give you a greater appreciation for your favorite fitness instructor and make you want to high five them under your leg next class just for simply being so RAD.

Okay here we go!

1) Spoiler Alert: It’s Really Just A Personality Contest

I mean yes those umpteen hours that I spent to get certified count. However what really got me over 100 classes in the last 10 years has been one thing: personality. I knew this early on, but learned this key element for real for real 6 years ago when I auditioned for Equinox. Everyone at the audition could squat, bicep curl and burpee like nobody’s business. However it was those of us who could do all the above with a spark of originality (read personality) that were chosen to lead the nation’s top group fitness classes. So no matter where you may “5,6,7,8” just be the only great that really counts. Yourself.


2) It Ain’t Your Workout Boo

Yes bring all of you to the floor, but it ain’t your workout boo. A good instructor understands that the quality of the class relies on their ability to cater to the community. With 50+ people trying to get in #beastmode, trust me, it takes enough multitasking as it is to make sure Sally in the back isn’t squatting into her knees and Mark in the front isn’t going to barf in between those burpees. Dramatic I know, but really, don’t worry about getting your workout sesh in and make your class about helping others get their best workout in first.

3) Rehearse Before The Show

One of the many qualities that my MFA and GFI have in common is that they both give me a performance high. It’s a show people! So get your prep game up, show up and use your energy to help others get their heart rates up. Because let’s be honest, if you went to a play and the actors didn’t know their lines you would totally be like, “what the?!” Welp the same goes in the fitness studio folks. People come for an experience, so make it RAD by rehearsing before the show.


4) Never Stop Learning

Man has the industry changed, and man have I. I remember when I first started teaching step aerobics was my favorite thing to teach. However getting guys in class was nearly impossible. Now I teach a gazillion formats (almost everything except spin and yoga – because I’m not into them – don’t judge) and the majority of my classes are gender balanced. So whether you’re a pro fit newbie or a veteran, the best way to be indispensable in this industry (heck any industry) is to never stop learning.

5) Originality > Trendy

But don’t feel the need to teach everything if you aren’t into everything. I happen to enjoy a lot of formats. However it wasn’t until I developed and owned my signature style “RAD Live!” that I really started to make an imprint on the industry. Again, personality is key, so don’t let this ever so trendy fitness movement today make you forget why you decided to be sweaty for a living in the first place.

6) Take Classes Like Crazy

Speaking of learning, a super RAD way to stay sharp is to take classes. Not only will it allow you to hang up your teacher hat from time to time it also gives you the invaluable experience of being a student. The best leaders are even better followers. Plus sweating at the command of another instructor will give you insight on what to do (or not do) in your own classes.


7) Dress Up While You Shape Up

Before fitness fashion was a thing I was certainly president of the Glam Fit Fam! I truly believe that when you look good you feel good. So yes sweating may be our job, but it doesn’t mean that we have to look a hot mess while doing it. People will take you much more seriously when you look put together (even in Lycra), so get on this athleisure bandwagon already. It’s totally a thing.

8) Say Their Name Say Their Name

Speaking of “things,” having “followers” in the fitness industry was a thing before social media ever was. Again, people are taking your classes not because your lunges are RAD, but because you are. So honor their devotion with a little personalization and learn their names m’kay.



9) Encourage, Don’t Discourage

Getting close to the end, but I lead with this tip every single class. Especially now that the industry is so vanity driven. Everyone (fit or not) is battling some personal demon in relation to their self image. So the last thing anyone wants to hear in a class is, “Let’s get these squats in so we can rock those mini skirts ladies!” Not only is this demeaning but it goes against our entire function as GFIs: to encourage others through fitness. Language is everything and people work out to release stress. So stress the improvements in their overall strength as opposed to to their outer appearance.

10) Master Your Music

Saved this one for last because this is the last thing most people say to me after class, “Oh my goodness you have the best music.” Not pumping my own bass here, but I’m serious about my tunes. My classes are choreographed and therefore intentional, so keeping track of my tracks is key. And easy thanks to my resident DJ.  I get new music every month (and you can too – peep the sidebar) so drop in and drop it like it’s hot sometime soon boo.

Well that’s all! I hope this helps you current, future and groupies of GFIs.

Got to run…have to go teach! 😉

Fitness fashion courtesy of Onzie

Sneakers courtesy of Six:02: Nike Free TR 5 Flyknit

Photo cred: Katie Henry Photography 

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