Exploring this Job
To explore this career, be sure to get fit yourself! If your school offers exercise classes or some other after-school fitness program, sign up and note what you like and dislike about instructor methods or the environment. If there is an affordable gym or health club in your community, take a tour and even a sample class or two. Some clubs offer guest passes for a small fee so prospective members can try out a facility before committing to a membership.
While at the facility, talk to an instructor, manager, or trainer about his or her job and work environment and how to best break into the industry. This way, you can learn about what goes into developing, running, and maintaining a fitness program.
You may even be able to obtain a part-time job at your school or community recreation and fitness center. This would give you the chance to see if you enjoy working in fitness.
Fitness directors are a crucial part of sports and health facilities. They coordinate the schedules of exercise instructors and personal trainers. They also make sure that their institution offers a wide variety of options to keep customers happy. For example, a fitness director who works at a nursing home must plan and direct classes that appeal to an older population. This director ensures that instructors have experience working with the elderly and then arranges for a class that is low impact or held in a swimming pool. Exercise classes can be held even while clients remain seated.
On a cruise ship, fitness directors must cater to a wide variety of clients. There may be children on board who would enjoy exercising through games while their parents might enjoy a step aerobics class to help counter all the food eaten that day at the buffet. This balancing act can be a large part of the fitness director's job.
In addition to planning class schedules, directors oversee the overall operation of the fitness facility, making sure equipment and rooms are clean, exercise machines are operating correctly, and the temperature of rooms is comfortable.
Directors must also be observant and make improvements to the programming schedule. For example, perhaps a water aerobics class has not been well attended and is taking up unnecessary lanes in the pool. The facility's fitness director, after talking to lap swimmers that exercise at that time, might decide to eliminate or move the water aerobics class to another time slot, or simply reserve fewer lanes for the class. These are the types of adjustments that directors make on a monthly, if not weekly, basis to keep customers happy.
Because many clients may feel uncomfortable making suggestions or complaints about a class directly to an instructor, fitness directors also serve as a sounding board. Perhaps during an aerobics class, participants are having a hard time hearing the instructor over the music. In this case, a class member can bring the complaint to the attention of the fitness director, who in turn might provide the instructor with a cordless microphone to use during class. Fitness directors keep the peace in health and sports facilities and, as a result, help to keep the facilities in business.