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The Importance of Fitness Certifications

Guest Blogger: Michelle Wakefield

My name is Michelle Wakefield, and I am the Superintendent of the CRC/ Jammer for Zumba/ Zumba & Aqua Zumba Instructor/ Rockin Cycle instructor/ NASM Nutrition coach & personal trainer / AMAZING wife and mother.

My certifications are through NASM, AFFA, AEA, and ACE. I have licensing and have been licensed through Zumba in every format they offer, UJAM, Pilates, Schwinn Cycle, Les Mills BodyPump, CXWorX, Aqua Strong, SCF Drench and SCF Kick.

Needless to say, I do love my titles and certifications. I have had 13 years of experience in the fitness industry and I have been able to find success in an industry that can be very competitive. I really do feel the secret of my success has come from my humble beginnings.

When I first started in fitness I had just had my third child and was 5’4” and 220 pounds. I was just diagnosed as being obese and pre-diabetic. My husband and I had the conversation that we were just becoming parents. Eating macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets was something that parents did. What we didn’t realize was that we were becoming unhealthy and out of balance. We were tired and sluggish.

A turning point for me was when my daughter brought home a Mother’s Day card and it listed my favorite thing to do was sleep. I told my husband that we were too cool to be this uncool so I started going to the gym. The added bonus: they would watch my kids for free for two hours with my membership. It was all I could do to walk a mile and I couldn’t help but think how far I had to go. In college, my husband and I were professional ballroom dancers and fitness was everything.

Now I was back to square one.

I started attending fitness classes and found Zumba®. It was on the 24-Hour Fitness schedule, and ironically after I had my first child I saw a late night infomercial that sold the original Zumba® DVD’s. I thought to myself this was something I could handle. I went to the classes and it brought back all the good feels that I had being a professional dancer. Because of my dance experience (and because I have great supportive friends), people started telling me that I should become an instructor. I shrugged it off at first, but then decided that I would “give it a year and see what happens.” I went to my first B1 training and soon was hired to sub classes.

The Group X Manager for 24-Hour Fitness did something that actually was going to shape the rest of my career. She expected that I prove myself. I was already a great dancer and I had the license, but she wanted me to prove that I was actually a fitness professional/instructor and not just a patron looking for fame and glory. Her expectation was that I would study hard…get certifications…get more licensing…till I was an instructor that patrons could look up to and trust to help them with their health and wellness journeys.

For her company, she wanted people who stood out and were the best in the industry. So that is what I set out to be. With that came more job opportunities, more reasons to advance, as well as class filled satisfied customers that could trust the process. Things were not handed to me, I had to work for it, but it has paid out in so many ways. Job success, financial success, and even family lifestyle changes have resulted from my fitness journeys.

I always get asked if it is important to be certified. If you're interested in becoming a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, or health coach, it's critical that you first get certified. Period. Attempting to enter the fitness field without a certification will significantly limit your hiring opportunities, income and clientele.

Earning a recognized certification/license confirms you are competent and ready for the job.

As a boss it gives me and our clients confidence that you have the knowledge and skills to design and deliver safe programs to meet each client's health and wellness needs. In an industry where many people use titles they have not earned, having an accredited certification will set you apart from the competition.

I have been dancing since I was three and competitive dancing since I was eight. To be competitive it was important to take from the right instructors and to really focus on how you perform the steps. This hyper focus helped me to make the BYU Ballroom Dance team where we became USA National and British Champions.

Fitness really is the same way, to be competitive you have to learn from the right people and learn how to correctly perform each movement. For dance it was to look the right way, for fitness is for safety, results and performance.

Not only does getting certifications/licensing get you more accredited, but it also helps you avoid burnout and keeps you excited about our industry.

Attending training has always left me feeling up to date, motivated, hungry, connected, confident, which in all honesty, is the most important because it will give you excitement, passion, and longevity in your field.


Michelle Wakefield lives in Springville, UT. She's been a Zumba ZIN™ Member since Oct 2011 and absolutely loves teaching Zumba® classes. The reason is simple: Every class feels like a party! She is currently licensed to teach Zumba®, Zumba® Toning, Aqua Zumba®, Zumba Sentao®, Zumba Gold®, Zumba® Kids & Kids Jr., CIRCL Mobility™, Zumba® Step.

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