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Cross Training Instructors for the Hire!

Guest Blogger: Megan Cooperman

I recently received an email from a company selling its service to fitness instructors and personal trainers. It said, “learn how to become indispensable in 90 minutes.”

While I am sure this company has valuable tips, I am confident my advice offered here may also help you become vital in the fitness industry, especially with group fitness. And while it may take you just 5-10 minutes of your time, my advice is free, unlike the email campaign I received.

So here it is...My advice to you: Teach aqua fitness! Get trained to teach aqua fitness. Open the door to aqua fitness training, and it in turn will open many doors for you.

Opening Doors

Like many others who teach aqua fitness, my invite to the industry came from the demand for instructors. Twenty-five years ago, I taught land-based group fitness at the University of Maryland and took aqua fitness classes. They lost their aqua instructor and asked me to step in and teach. They handed me a list of water exercises, provided a 30-minute training with the group fitness director, and off I went.

Like many aqua instructors, I figured it out as I went.

When I agreed to teach my first aqua class, I didn't realize how valuable teaching aqua would be. Throughout my fitness career, aqua has opened doors for me again and again.

When I moved to New Jersey and then back to Maryland, being an experienced aquatic fitness instructor got me in the door at both my jobs. In 2013 after auditioning to teach at a facility, a group fitness director told me, I don't need you to teach Zumba. I have many people who can teach Zumba. However, I do need you to teach aqua fitness...If you teach that, I will give you a Zumba class too.

Again and again, aqua opened doors for me. I secured extensive group fitness teaching jobs at various sites, a group fitness supervisor job, an assistant director for group fitness, and a fitness manager role -- all because aqua fitness instruction was on my resume. And all of that help me secure my present job managing a fitness center, pool, and programs at a senior retirement community in Washington, DC. I was appealing to them because they no longer needed to find subcontractors to teach aqua or manage their pool programs for them.

In my various roles, I also supervised group fitness programs and hired instructors for ten years. Seeing aqua fitness on someone's resume was a golden ticket. 99% of the time, if someone had aqua and knew how to teach it (and teach it well), they were hired. Those instructors who could also teach various other formats were a huge win-win. They could cover a variety of classes and formats; not only are these instructors more desirable, but they also make more money being able to teach more and sub more class options often in demand.

In 2016, I became a master trainer for a dance-based fitness program called LaBlast. At this time, LaBlast was developing a new aqua-based program called LaBlast Splash. Again, aqua opened the door. I was lucky to help create this program and eventually traveled to Holland and Belgium with LaBlast creator Louis Van Amstel to teach it to other instructors. As a master trainer, I stressed the value of having an aqua fitness certification. I encouraged it because of the opportunities teaching aqua fitness gave me and how I saw aqua, many times, help others get employed and have opportunities come their way.

Learning the Hard Way

Instructors who have taught group fitness, any type, for a long time will tell you that instructors develop a "go-to style" and preferences. They fill up their teaching bucket and toolbox with multiple ideas and tips they picked up in educational trainings, classes, certifications, and at conferences. The more you gain and learn in both land and aqua fitness, the better an instructor you become. Education is optimal, and it doesn't stop as you get older. Like any field of work or study, being up to date helps you do your job well.

When I first started teaching aqua fitness, I gained the skills and training I thought were beneficial. Oddly enough, no one ever suggested I get AEA certified until ten years into my aqua teaching career. As an instructor who always strived to teach high-energy and safe aqua classes, I forgot to take care of my safety while teaching. After I injured my neck, I finally decided to secure the gold standard of aqua certs, the AEA certification.

Taking the AEA certification was an eye-opener for me. It was the first aqua fitness training I took where safety for instructors was addressed in-depth. Group and aqua fitness instructing can be a long-term career if instructors learn how to protect themselves and their students. Injuries like my own sometimes are preventable; with proper education, I took steps to learn the tricks and tips on teaching exciting and entertaining classes that do not hurt my body in the process.

Getting AEA certified provided high-quality training focused on safety and also introduced me to fantastic aqua trainers like Jenni Lynn Patterson LaCour and Katy Coffey. I first met and saw Jenni teach at an AEA conference in 2019. I was immediately impressed with her teaching and followed her on social media. The more I learned about Jenni's skills and programs, I was sold. Jenni has successfully built aqua programs and taught effective, safe, thorough, and marketable classes to all people.

Open Doors, The Future

During the past year, the fitness industry and group fitness instructors have faced unprecedented challenges. Many of us lost teaching jobs, connections, and income. If you already are an aqua instructor, you know it was tough when there was no physical way to teach people virtually without the pool. It challenged all of us to reevaluate what we do and what we like. In some cases, instructors learned to teach new fitness formats or spent time educating themselves, finding new opportunities, opting to move on or patiently wait it out.

Now with things turning around and opportunities coming back, fitness centers and gyms that made it through the pandemic and had to let go of most of their teaching teams are refilling positions, slowly adding classes and staff back. Pools are opening up, and once again, group fitness instructors are in demand, especially experienced aqua instructors.

As we all know, aqua will always be in person unless you own a pool, and for many, that is not the case. Look through Indeed, LinkedIn, or other job websites. I can guarantee you will find postings for group fitness instructors, specifically aqua instructors.

If you are not aqua trained, now is the time to learn, teach and build up your resume specifically with high-quality aqua programs. If you are already an aqua fitness instructor, focus on securing more education in quality programs like S’WET that will expand your teaching toolbox, give you advanced skills, and help you have a long-term aqua fitness career. Become indispensable!

Open the door for yourself now, and many more doors in the future will open!


Megan Cooperman, from Maryland, is a seasoned fitness pro with 25 years of experience in the fitness and health industry, from instructor to group fitness manager. A Maryland Distinguished Scholar In the Arts (in dance), she has taught various forms of dance and fitness ranging from toning, barre, aqua, aqua spin, Zumba, mat Pilates, arthritis, TRX, and more!

Megan is presently the Fitness Manager at Ingleside Rock Creek, has a master’s degree in counseling, is securing a 2nd master's in industrial-organizational psychology, is certified by the Aerobics & Fitness Association of American (AFAA), American Council on Exercise (ACE), and Aquatics Exercise Association (AEA). In her free time, she works as a master trainer with Louis Van Amstel, World Ballroom Champion from the TV show Dancing with the Stars, training instructors on how to teach ballroom dance fitness.

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