Saturday, July 21, 2018

Your Complete Guide to Group Fitness Instructor Certification

So you want to teach group fitness classes? There are so many Group Fitness Instructor (GFI) certifying agencies out there, it boggles the mind! Let’s un-boggle together, shall we? I’ve done the research so you don’t have to. Just think of me fondly when you have extra free time!

Here’s my criteria for narrowing down GFI certifications to ACE and NETA:

1. National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) accreditation
  • Although you don’t have to get certified with an agency that’s NCCA-accredited, all of the fitness center managers and GFIs I talked to said it’s better to go the NCCA route. After researching which GFI certifications are and aren’t NCCA accredited, I was shocked by how few actually are. From my research, only ACE and NETA offer NCCA-accredited GFI certifications.
  • NASM offers a Group Personal Training Specialist (GPTS) certification. I called NASM and listened to elevator music for 25 minutes before a rep answered. I was put on hold after each question I asked because the rep had to ask someone else for the answers. I asked “is the GPTS program NCCA-accredited?” The rep said she didn’t know. Then she told me to call NCCA and ask them myself. After my next question and potentially inaccurate response, she transferred me to another rep. After a series of questions, I was told that the GPTS program isn’t a certification, it’s a specialization. Since it’s not a certification, you never have to recertify. You pay $499 for the study materials and exam. That’s it. You never have to submit continuing education (CE) credits to NASM and you never pay recertification fees. I told the rep I was confused because all other certifying agencies require 20 CEs every 2 years. I asked the rep if you have to get your Personal Trainer certification first (which requires CEs when you recertify) and then do the GPTS program. I was told you don’t have to have a Personal Trainer certification or any other certification prior to the GPTS. So…long story short, I ruled out GPTS as an option.
  • AFAA is a popular GFI certifying agency. All of the fitness center managers and GFIs I talked to have heard of AFAA. NASM completed acquisition of AFAA in 2015. Before AFAA was acquired by NASM, AFAA held AFAA Apex events, where you could get GFI certification for $99. I called AFAA and was told that Apex events are no longer offered since NASM acquired AFAA. In addition, AFAA isn’t NCCA-accredited, so I ruled out AFAA.  
2. Long-term cost
  • Remember you’ll need to recertify every 2 years, so don’t just rely on initial cost of the exam to decide which certifying agency to go with.
  • Watch out for CE course petition fees! See the table below for the scoop. I hope I save you some hard-earned dough with this info!
3. Certifying agency’s reputation
  • Is the certification valued by high-quality gyms/hiring organizations? I asked fitness center managers which certifying agencies they prefer to see on a potential GFI’s resume. I also looked at job postings to see which certifications are listed there.

Group Fitness Instructor
(888) 825-3636
Certified Group Exercise Instructor
(800) 237-6242
On NCCA website’s list of accredited certifications?
Yes, through 10/31/2018
Yes, through 7/31/2017
Cost of initial certification exam only
Cost of bundled study materials + initial certification exam
Three levels (all with shipping cost included):
Pro Advantage $499
Pro Plus $349
Pro Essentials $299

Two levels:
Basic package $79 + $12.50 shipping + $239 for initial certification exam = $330.50

Premier package $99 + $14.50 shipping + $239 = $352.50

How long valid until recertification
2 years

Note:  you need 20 CE credits every 2 years to recertify
2 years

Note:  you need 20 CE credits every 2 years to recertify
Cost of recertification
Online $129

Fax or Snail Mail $139

Note about other possible fees: I didn’t find this info on ACE’s website. When I called ACE to confirm that the numbers in this blog are current and correct, I asked the ACE rep if there are any fees in addition to the $129 to get recertified. The only extra fees are for CE courses that are not ACE courses or ACE vendor courses. If you have taken a CE course that is not an ACE course or ACE vendor course, you have to petition the course for credits. ACE charges a $25.00 fee for each course you petition.

Note about other possible fees:  if you have taken a CE course that has not been NETA approved you have to petition the course for credits (you need CE credits in order to recertify). NETA charges a $15.00 fee for each course you petition. I called NETA to confirm this. The NETA rep said that ACE, AFAA, and NASM courses do not have to be petitioned, but 6 of your 20 credits must be NETA courses.
Do high-quality gyms/hiring organizations value the certification?
I didn’t see NETA listed as a preferred certifying agency on job postings. This may be because NETA is based in the Midwest and I’m looking at job postings in California. When I talked to fitness center managers and GFIs here in San Diego, they weren’t familiar with NETA. This could be a potential issue if you’re looking for a job in a location where NETA isn’t well-known. However, NETA adheres to all NCCA requirements and appears highly reputable to me.
How’s their customer service?
Excellent. I called on a Tuesday at lunchtime (12:15pm PST). Got a live rep on the phone immediately. He was knowledgeable and answered all of my questions.
Excellent. I called on a Tuesday at lunchtime (12:30pm PST). Got a live rep on the phone immediately. She was knowledgeable, she provided even more detail than I asked for which was awesome, and she was a pleasure to talk with. She genuinely seemed to care that I got all my questions answered.
Do they offer any discounts?
Military 20% off

Salute You™ Scholarship provides study materials and an exam seat to qualified service members who plan on starting a new career in fitness once military service ends

Post 9/11 GI Bill

Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA)


I hope this helps you make an informed decision about which organization to get certified with. Best of luck to you on your new adventure as a GFI!


Saturday, July 7, 2018

5 Best Booty Lifting StairMaster Tips

Are you, or do you have a loved one who hunches over on the StairMaster? Do they cling on to the handlebars for dear life, stepping on their tippy toes like a poodle with something stuck in it’s paws? If so, forward this blog post to them. Friends don’t let friends have bad form on cardio equipment. It’s time for a StairMaster intervention.

There are two types of stair machines at the gym. The StairMaster (aka StepMill, also called the StairMonster or “The Gauntlet” due to difficulty level) is like an escalator-to-nowhere. Stair steppers are a lot like StairMasters in that they simulate climbing stairs, but they have two separate platforms, or pedals, where you place your feet. As you push one foot down, the other foot rises, and the feet are in contact with the pedals at all times. Both machines work all of the major leg muscles, but I recommend the StairMaster because you can’t get away with taking shallow steps like you can with the stepper. Here are 5 tips for getting the most out of your time on the StairMaster.

1.     Slow it down to a level where you can stand up straight for the entire workout. Pull your shoulder blades back and down. Do a shoulder roll every so often to remind yourself to keep your shoulders back. We spend so much of the day hunched over our desk at work and on our cell phones. Think of your time at the gym as an opportunity to undo some of that forward posture.

2.     Rest your hands lightly on the handlebars for balance only. Once you have your balance, try resting just your fingers on the handlebars. You can also try resting just your right hand on the right handlebar, then switch to your left hand on the left handlebar, alternating every minute. If you have good balance and this will be safe for you, you can place both hands at your sides, on your hips, or behind your back. I feel safer with one hand on a handlebar. Whenever I remember to do a shoulder roll (see #1) I also check in with how much pressure I’m putting on my hands. When I notice I’m starting to use my arms too much, I adjust by hovering my fingers, barely touching the handlebars.

3.     All the fitness competitors at my gym do this. Push your heel down with every step. Really drive down through your heel. Keep your entire foot on the step. If you have larger feet, your heel might hang off the edge of the step a bit, but you should still be able to keep your foot level and push through your heel. This seems like a small detail, but it will make a big difference in how much your glutes are activated, and how cute and round your butt’s going to be.

Keep the StairMaster on a reasonable level where you can maintain good form and da booty will turn it's frown around!

4.     Just by standing straight and not propping yourself up on your arms, you’re working your core as well as your legs. Maintaining balance engages core muscles with every step. Your instinct will be to look down and watch each step go by, but instead, keep your head looking straight ahead, your shoulders away from your ears, and your core tight.

5.     Warm up (5-10 minutes) and cool down (another 5-10 minutes) by adjusting the intensity level to half or less the intensity level of your usual workout. I know it’s tempting to get right to your usual level of intensity or higher if you’re doing intervals, but the literature on injury prevention has concluded time and time again that simply warming up and cooling down prevents injury. Schedule in the extra time to warm up, cool down, and do some foam rolling and static stretching at the end of your workout.