Get to WERQ: The next steps after completing your WERQ instructor certification.
Congratulations! You successfully completed your WERQ instructor certification and are ready to take on the world as part of the WERQforce. You have been given the tools necessary to teach a safe, fun, and effective class and you're eager to get started as an instructor.
If you're new to the fitness teaching world, the initial steps to landing your first instructor gig can be a bit daunting, overwhelming. But do not fear, I have some tips and tricks to get you on the right path. I share from the experience as a current WERQ instructor and fitness lead at a gym where I train, audition, and evaluate current and prospective instructors.
1. Make It Official--Put It Online!
Register on the official WERQ instructor web portal for access to routines and join the WERQforce facebook group. I didn't realize at first how valuable this facebook group would turn out to be. I go on there a lot and ask for recommendations of music, ideas for marketing, share insights about the local WERQ community, etc. Your fellow instructors have a lot of experience in a variety of settings and wish nothing but success for their colleagues.
2. Use your role as a participant to your advantage.
If you currently take WERQ classes as a participant, then you have the home field advantage right from the get-go. You have familiarity with routines, you are more comfortable with the cueing method, and you have an active instructor there to assist you. Here's my advice to you WERQaholics who are now certified to teach:
List out the dances you know and love. The ones you REALLY know and you TRULY love. If you don't already have them memorized by heart, it won't take you very long to get there. An average 1 hour class takes 15-17 songs, so go back through your mind to think of routines from the past that you could easily pull out of your back pocket to make this list as complete as possible. You want to present your best and feel confident when you begin auditioning and teaching. You may have to still memorize something totally new for a full playlist, but at least for your audition, you should have a handful of songs that are solid. (Auditions do not typically require a full hour class, just a portion)
Ask to co-teach. Be communicative with your regular WERQ instructor and tell them that you're wanting as much teaching experience as possible before you audition or start teaching on your own. I don't know a single fitness instructor who doesn't happily allow a "trainee" (for lack of a better word) to teach a couple of songs for them. They can give valuable feedback and these mini teaching sessions will take the edge off in terms of nerves and butterflies in the stomach!
And of course, ask if the facility is hiring! Why not teach where you WERQ?? If they don't need anyone on the regular schedule, see if you can be on the sublist!
3. Get CPR Certified
This is one area I went over in my post about what to do before getting WERQ certified, click here. You can find some tips on where to get CPR/AED certified. I guarantee you that no matter where you end up teaching, you'll have to have this certification first. So if you aren't already certified, just get it done. It's a few hours max, so easy.
4. Build Your Playlist, Memorize Dances, and PRACTICE!
You'll need a premium music service, so yes, one that costs money. Commercials do not go over well in a class. :P I use Spotify premium and it works great for me. Plus, WERQ corporate publishes "listen to" lists for instructors before new choreography comes out, so that's a added bonus to Spotify. I know other instructors that use Amazon prime or Apple music... Find what works best for you. (FYI--this is a tax write off, so keep your receipt(s) of the charge(s))
If you weren't an avid WERQaholic from before, then you may have to start memorizing routines from scratch. And that's ok! I was not able to attend WERQ classes regularly, so I basically started with nothing in my back pocket. It will take longer to memorize 15 or so songs, so be patient with yourself and you'll get it. As you continue to learn more dances, it starts to get easier to memorize new ones. You'll pick things up faster.
For your playlist: WERQ has hundreds of routines from the past several years up on their website. Trust me on this: FIND SONGS YOU KNOW. Songs that you can sing along to like it's your day job. For your first WERQ playlist, there is no need to stress yourself out by learning something that you have NO familiarity with. Not saying it can't be done, but again we are aiming for feeling as confident as you possibly can when you teach. My first playlist probably aged me. It was all songs from several years ago because those were the only songs I knew well! But that's ok, my participants all love a good throwback! And yours will too.
Once you have a list of songs, start to rank them in levels of energy. What are your really high energy songs? Which ones are more mild that could be used as a recovery? Sequencing a playlist is a bit of an art and it could take a few tries of teaching for a full hour to see where you need to make adjustments so that you don't feel like you're going to faint halfway through. You're WERQing hard and that's great! But you have to be safe and accessible, not just for your participants, but for yourself as well. Other things to think about with sequencing: not putting multiple songs with squats in a row (or in this spirit, songs that work one part of the body more so than normal), not having the same artist multiple times (people get bored with that, at least I know I do), and having a variety of music styles. Not to say you can't be on team hip-hop or team pop, but your participants want to know that "their song" or "their style" will be part of the class at some point. Keep people coming back, know your audience.
Trouble memorizing routines? See this little video with some of my best tips.
And last, but definitely not least, practice. Get as solid as you possibly can and your cueing should be part of this practice. Getting your cues in your body just like the choreography is crucial. (This includes layering!) And don't forget, you need to be able to lead it on the right and on the left. (This comes easier to do the longer you teach) If you can, get people to "take class" from you and get feedback. Or film yourself and watch! Listen to the music as you drive in your car, or as you wash dishes and visualize the choreography as you go. As I've been saying, this is about getting you prepared to give the best audition and first class you can. Confidence and comfort are your goals.
5. Create your warm-up and cool-down
This may surprise you, but creating the warm-up and cool-down can take longer and be harder to memorize than it seems....at least for me and some other WERQ instructors with whom I had a recent conversation. Be sure you keep your guidelines from your WERQ certification manual, you'll want to reference that when you get around to choreographing your warm-up and cool-down.
Starting with the warm-up: find the right song. Remember, WERQ routines are based around top 100 music, so you'll need to find a top 100 song that has not already been made into a routine. Luckily, WERQ has ongoing, updated lists of warm-up and cool-down songs. You can find them on the WERQ Fitness blog or their social media accounts. "Lit" for warm-ups and "Chill" for cool-downs. They are hand selected, current songs and the BPM's are listed! Makes the searching game so easy!
Why do you want to know the beats per minute? Maybe you find a great song that you love, but the tempo just makes your preview moves way too fast or way too slow. Then all you have to do is find a song with more or less BPMs. Searching the WERQ lists for a specific beats per minute level makes it so easy. In terms of what moves to include in your warm-up, the manual has everything laid out for you. The breakdown WERQ creates makes sense and keeps it simple.
And now for the cool-down. The WERQ cool-down certainly stands out from other beat driven cardio models in that they use yoga inspired postures/poses for stretching and also requires some dance (warm-down) and balancing components. Lots of other models just require head to toe stretching. The signature WERQ cool-down encourages us instructors to get a bit more creative.
First: Find a "Chill" cool-down song through WERQ's online lists. Then create your dance choreography! This is truly your creation, make sure you really love it. Feeling silly about a cool-down will very likely bleed into the experience of your participants.
And for the rest, the whole reason why I decided to write this post: the yoga inspired stretches and balancing postures. (I'm not gonna tell you how to dance, you just proved that through your certification! Get it!) If you are not comfortable with yoga, then this might be the main reason you have held back from taking the step to get hired at a gym or studio. I know 3 instructors in my area alone who expressed anxiety about the yoga portion of the cool-down and how they have been putting it off. Well, watch my ideas in this video--I didn't realize how much of an advantage I had being a 200 hour certified yoga instructor when I became a WERQ instructor! You don't have to go over the top and try to look like you belong on the cover of Yoga Journal. That's not the point here!!!
What I've included in this video is not going to fill up an entire cool-down, but it will cover the yoga portion for you. Add in your dance moves, maybe a few extra basic stretches that the general public is familiar with, and you've got yourself the last piece of your playlist! Congratulations!
6. Prepare for your audition
Get yourself some WERQ gear and get ready for that first audition! I have a whole blog post dedicated to preparing for a fitness audition. Check it out here. It covers communication, class introduction, and participant engagement. Though not specific to WERQ, the 5 tips are universal and backed from personal experience as one who auditions new employees.
And there you have it! You're ready to rock your first class and take the next step in your WERQforce journey. It's a great community and we welcome you with open arms. This is only the beginning, so much awaits you!
Got a question or comment? Write your thoughts below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy WERQing!
--Cara Viner is a Yoga Alliance 200 hour registered yoga teacher, a cycling instructor, and a certified WERQ instructor from Iowa City, IA. She writes solely as a regular WERQ instructor and is not a member of the WERQ master crew.