By Nicky Coyne

The days of the leg warmers, leotards, sweat bands, and curly perms (for men and women) have well and truly passed and so has the job title aerobics instructor. So what is a fitness instructor in 2018?

The differences between a fitness instructor and a personal trainer is definitely not as far apart as it was a few years ago, and it has a lot to do with what the customer now expects from a fitness instructor. Class participants expect to be coached and motivated, to have their form corrected if needed, to understand why they are doing a particular move or exercise and how it will benefit them.

Social media has videos and workouts posted by fitness enthusiasts and fitness professionals, demonstrating their work outs, with every focus imaginable – butts, abs, HITT, Tabata, fitness motivation, etc. This makes fitness classes available to everyone in the comfort of their own home and at no cost. So, when someone does venture out to find a class, they already have an expectation of what the instructor should be…. good or bad!

There is a lot to be said for classes that take place in studios, community centers, and gyms all around the country. The community that is created in these classes creates exercise adherence and accountability. The promise of fun brings men and women, who would not normally venture into a gym environment, to take part in a range of classes, whether it be a Latin music based class that encourages class participants to ditch the workout and join the party or sweat, sculpt and rock with a set of drum sticks! We can’t deny that music and fun is still a big part of why the fitness instructor needs to connect music and movement.

Customers are always going to be looking for classes that promise they will drop a dress size or lose weight, but savvy fitness professionals know that with rising obesity rates, sedentary lifestyles, and chronic diseases now being diagnosed in teenagers, that our role is about creating experiences that our participants will not only enjoy but which can fit in with busy lives and which will be sustainable over a life time. Education has to be part of the process. When class participants understand what is happening to their body when they feel breathless, how their body is going to adapt to the demands being put on it, and how in a few weeks they will have made huge improvements to their cardiorespiratory fitness that will impact their daily life, then we have buy in and from there we get exercise adherence.

So, that being said, the fitness instructor in 2018 has more opportunity than ever before to create a career that allows their personality and passions to shine through. Specializing in small group trainings, where the focus can be on a particular fitness goal and which offers a more personalized service without the associated cost of one-to-one training, opens up the opportunity to promote yourself to a warm market of people who already have a connection with you.

Of course, continuing education is the answer to keeping up-to-date with industry knowledge and trends. As a fitness instructor, you are in a position to inspire and motivate those looking to make changes, whether it be through fitness classes, small group training, better food choices or life coaching. You could, quiet possibly, be the person to save their life!

You are a super hero! You are a fitness instructor!


With over 25 years of experience in the fitness industry, Nicky brings a wealth of knowledge as well as a sense of fun to everything she does. Nicky is a certified personal trainer, fitness instructor, coach, presenter, and canfitpro Master PRO TRAINER (FIS, PTS, HWL). As a leader in the fitness industry, Nicky loves mentoring and sharing her passion for fitness with new fitness professionals as they begin their journeys into the industry, as well as helping people make changes that empower them to live younger for longer.