AFAA Group Exercise Certification

Ever wondered what it takes to become an AFAA certified Group Exercise instructor?




AFAA stands for Aerobics and Fitness Association of America and has been educating fitness professionals since 1983.

Those seeking Group X certification from AFAA can expect to learn:

  • Basic Anatomy & Kinesiology
  • Nutrition and Weight Management
  • Group Exercise Program Design
  • Exercise standards, selection, technique, guidelines, choreography, cueing, etc.
  • Injury Prevention, Emergency Response and Special Populations
  • Business Skills and Legal Responsibilities (Substitute teaching, Law and Exercise)


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AFAA provides two formats for certification:  all online or in person.   I chose to do the live option and used the 3 months prior to the live certification to read, fill out the study guide, memorize and practice my skill sets.  

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I was a ball of nerves the morning of the live certification.   I didn’t spend as much time as I needed studying for the written test.   There were many concepts that I wasn’t 100% confident in, however, there was no turning back!

My certification was held at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln campus.   After signing in for the day, we all sat and waited for our instructor to kick start the morning session.

Just enough time to get your stomach in even more knots.  :/




In preparation for the certification I not only studied but also researched and read multiple blog posts about AFAA certifications about what to expect.   Based off their recaps, I was fully anticipating the first few hours to be a study session.

NOT the case.

My facilitator had us working out the entire day. 

We first started out doing an hour and a half of practicing different exercises.  Our facilitator would call out a move and we would perform.   He asked us multiple questions relating to:

  • muscle groups being used
  • muscular contractions (isometric, concentric, etc)
  • joint actions (flexion, extension, adduction, rotation, etc)
  • muscle actions (agonist, antagonist, assistors, etc)

This was a fun way to review terms, however, there were a couple gals who were very knowledgeable and would quickly answer his questions before the rest of us had time to process and speak.   I am very much a processing type of girl.  Ask me a question, let me think through it, and then I will answer.  So, sadly, I was distracted by these girls and felt they were just trying to ‘show off’ their knowledge base.    It left me a little frazzled.

After about 90 minutes we had a break and I spent that time with my head buried in my study guide.



The next part of the morning was spent demonstrating a general group exercise class.  This was also part of the practical portion of the certification testing that was to be held in the afternoon, so I appreciated the opportunity to practice and gain feedback.

We were given a 5 minute block in which we were to demonstrate a generic warm-up, workout and then a cool-down.   We were prepped that we’d be judged on not only skill set, but appropriateness of exercises, energy and rhythm.

I was not worried about this portion at all.   I think my musical talents helps me tremendously in this area, but also my knowledge of choreography and understanding the importance of an 8 count.

I kept my warm-up pretty basic.  Think step touches, cross lunges, repeater knees, grape vines, etc.   For the workout section I did a mini cardio kickboxing routine and then kept my cool-down similar to my warm-up, but focused on bringing down the exertion level by minimizing arm swings and bouncing.

This concluded the morning session and led us right into lunch so I took off for a little walk around campus to get some fresh air.


Memorial Stadium!

I should note that just a few weeks prior to this certification the Iowa Hawkeyes and Huskers faced off in a Thanksgiving weekend football game.

And, the Hawks won.

Of course, me being me, I wore my Iowa sweatshirt on campus.   A friend didn’t think I would follow through with it, so for proof, I took my life in my own hands and asked a student to take my photo.  😉



After my walk and another cramming studying session, it was back to work.

Our next activity had us practicing our 10 muscle groups, of which was also part of the practical exam.   This is where the facilitator calls out a muscle group and we demonstrate an exercise that engages that particular muscle and follow it up with two stretches to stretch it out.

The groups tested:

  1. Pectorals
  2. Trapezius, rhomboids, latissimus dorsi
  3. Deltoids
  4. Biceps, triceps
  5. Hip adductors, hip abductors
  6. Gluteus maximus
  7. Quadriceps, tibialis anterior
  8. Hamstrings, gastrocnemius, soleus
  9. Rectus abdominis, obliques
  10. Erector spinae


We ended the ‘Study’ portion of the day by teaching the class one exercise, three different ways.

I chose a sit-up:

  1. feet on floor doing a crunch
  2. feet on floor with full sit up
  3. V-up


We were given about 20 minutes to study and ask questions before starting the practical portion of the examination.



They first spread us out across the room with identifying numbers.  Everyone tests at the exact same time, so be prepared for that!   I was put in the front row so no chance of cheating there!   Maybe I should take that as a compliment as maybe they recognized I knew what I was doing?  hahaha..   Right.

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  1. Group exercise class demonstration: 5 minutes
  2. 10 muscle group exercises with accompanying stretches.
  3. Individual presentation of 1 exercise (I chose the sit-up)



100 questions.   Multiple choice, T/F, essay, matching.

And it was hard.  There were a lot of muscle group questions.  I was prepared to locate the muscle group on the human body.  I was not prepared to explain what muscle group was acting as the antagonist and agonist.  Be sure to study that!


Once we were done with the test, we were free to go.   We were told it could take 4-6 weeks before we’d receive our results.  Talk about waiting on pins and needles!

Regardless, I had fun getting to know several of the gals throughout the day.  You bond quickly over nerves and questions.




And 4 weeks later I received my results in the mail that said I PASSED!




I believe becoming a Nationally Certified instructor is important.  It not only gives you the extra credentials  but it also shows devotion to learning more about the human body and commitment to helping people get fit and healthy the right way.

Living in the city, most gyms require some sort of national certification to teach in their facilities, so if you are thinking of becoming a group exercise instructor, I strongly recommend you get a mentor, sign up for a certification and get to studying!

Good Luck!


Tranformations Take Time – My Two Years

Transformations take on many different shapes and sizes.

  • Physical Transformation
  • Emotional Transformation
  • Psychological Transformation
  • Social Transformation

Two and a half years ago I set out on a physical transformation.   Little did I know that the process would also take me on an emotional and psychological journey as well.

I had never been a ‘fit’ girl.  Growing up, no one would have called me athletic either.   I am not competitive or aggressive in the manner that is required in sports.  I was active, but not overly active.  I was interested in fitness, but never followed through. I became NETA certified and taught aerobics and weight training at my hometown gym in my early twenties, but let it go around the age of 24.

I went through a major life change at 25 that put me in a new city, newly single, no job and away from the only lifestyle I had known.   There was nothing wrong with my “old life”.  In fact, most people would have found it comforting and right on track with a normal life progression.  I was surrounded by good people, family, a nice country home and the start of a good career.

But for me, I needed change.

I was longing for something different outside of my small hometown.   And so, at 25 I set out for the new.   My “new life” provided a few challenges, but it was also the best decision I had ever made for myself.   My new life gave me new freedoms, a new career, a new degree path, new focus, new friends, old friends,  late nights and a lot of parties.

 Life. Was. Good.  

And I was eating it all up.




I was comfortable.  I met my now-husband after moving to the city and we grew our circle of friends together.   We lived the rock star lifestyle, if you will.  He worked weekends at a bar.  I frequented the bar with my girlfriends.   We ate bad food, drank far too much and lived it up.


Clint loved me regardless of my size, weight and always came back with “you are beautiful” when I would stand in front of my mirror trying on multiple outfits, never happy with what I saw.

I had become so unhappy with how I looked and felt. 

December of 2011 I decided I had enough.   I was tired of hating the way my clothes felt.  I was tired of hiding in the corner when we went out because I hated the way I looked.  I was tired.

January 2012 New Years Resolution –  Kick my exercise habits in gear.

Knowing my lack of follow-through on anything fitness related, I knew I needed something with structure.   I researched quite a few home videos before ordering TurboFire.   I chose Turbo for its fun rhythms, kickboxing undertones and the structured 8 count.   The cheerleader and music teacher in me knew I’d fall in love with this program.   Once I fell in love, I knew I could stick with it.


I’ll be honest.  The first few weeks were rough.   Finding the TIME was difficult.  Finding the ambition after a long work day was torture.

But, I did it.

I made my ‘basement workouts’ a part of my daily life.



Once I got the fitness part down, tackling the nutrition came next.   And this was and still is the hardest part for me.   I began to incorporate more protein, limit the carb intake to my early meals, limit the sugar and add in more vegetables.   I also started to incorporate Shakeology in my diet, just like I was told to via TurboFire.

See, sometimes I DO follow orders!  😉

 I have to disclose that I did NOT use this as an entire meal replacement nor did I drink it daily.  Sometimes shakes gross me out!   I used my shakes as either a meal 2 or 4.   Why?   Because of the nutrition content.   Never once did I replace a lunch or dinner.  That game just isn’t for me.

So, what about my Turbo results?  

Down an overall 8 inches and 13 pounds.

I was on a ROLL!

I felt good, I was looking better, my confidence was building, I enjoyed shopping a little more, much to the dismay of my wallet.

And I was LOVING working out.  It had become my addiction.

No, better yet…


Fast forward to January 2013.   I set a goal to run my first half-marathon.

I kept it a secret from everyone for a long time.


Fear of Failure

I won’t get in the story of my training, as you can read it here.  What did happen is I followed through, I conquered, I cried, I laughed, I LIVED!

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So, what about this two year transformation?

Physical:  Down an overall 13 inches and 20 pounds.

Psychological: A changed mindset.  I COULD do things I never thought I could before.

Physical, Psychological, Emotional and Personal:  I became a Nationally Certified Fitness Instructor through AFAA and also became certified in TurboFire and Insanity formats.


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Who knew in two short years I would gain the confidence to stand in front of a class again and TEACH?   My physical transformation took on a whole new life.

Transformations Take Time

1 year it took me to get hooked on fitness.

1 year it took me to lose and maintain a 13 pound loss.

1.25 years it took me me to run a half-marathon.

1.5 years it took me to gain the confidence and courage to study, test and become AFAA certified to teach group exercise classes

1.5 years it took me to become certified in TurboKick

2 years it took me to lose 20 pounds.

And guess what?

2 months this last summer it took me to add 7 pounds back on.

But, you know what?

That’s ok.  I know where I faltered.  Nutrition.   It’s a tough game to play.   And this Harley chick loves Vodka, Burgers, Fries and Beer.

You know what else?   I have already lost 3 of that 7.

And one more thing…

The scale means NOTHING.

It’s only part of the story.

So, what now?

No, I am still not the media’s definition of physically fit.  I could still stand to drop my body fat %.  I could still gain a lot by adding in weight training consistently.

BUT, physically, I CAN knock out teaching 6 classes a week.  I can still keep up, I can keep the class motivated, I can maintain proper form and crank out those advanced Insanity moves, each and every time.

Psychologically I have my head in the game.  I have a clear focus.  I am determined.  I have goals.

I have one MAJOR goal set to accomplish by December 2014.

Am I going to make it?

Ya, duh!

Am I going to tell you?

Heck NO I’m not.

I still have a fear of failure.  Who doesn’t?

I am still human, I still have flaws, I still make mistakes.

But, I am emotionally there.  Physically there.  Psychologically there.


I can’t be stopped now.