So, what does an exercise instructor have to learn in order to be certified?
1. Anatomy! You have to learn the names of all the major bones and muscles, the different types of joints and how they work, and terms that describe direction and position (prone, supine, distal, medial, etc.) Planes of movement. Then there's the major nerves, the respiratory system, and the cardiovascular system.
2. Physiology. How the muscles work, how muscle training works, the biochemistry of energy metabolism (This last one strained my brain, and I skipped over it lightly, figuring that I didn't really need it in order to teach a good workout; that no participant was ever going to ask me about adenosine triphosphate, and that there would only be one or two questions from this topic on the test. I was right.)
3. Physics. The mechanics of how muscles and joints produce movement, inertia and momentum, action/reaction, levers, acceleration, and in the case of water--drag, turbulence, buoyancy, surface tension, hydrostatic pressure, and viscosity.
4. Equipment. What's available, how it works with the body and the laws of physics.
5. Choreography. How to put moves together keeping in mind all the factors above and how the human mind works with it.
6. Music. Different beats per minute (BPM), speeds for different purposes and formats. Copyright fees.
7.Programming and Leadership. How to assemble exercises for different class formats and populations. Demonstration of form and alignment and how to cue it for class participants. Transitions. Instructor safety considerations. High-risk and ineffective movements. (You don't wanna hurt anybody!) Professional behavior and attire.
8. Health Risk Appraisal and Screening.
9. Emergencies. Recognizing various types of emergency and injury and how to respond. Instructor considerations such as voice use and abuse and overtraining.
10. Special populations. (Anybody who isn't in their 20's and already physically fit. That's, like, almost everybody, isn't it?) Programming for children, adolescents, elderly, obese, and pregnancy. Considerations for participants with cardiovascular, pulmonary, musculoskeletal, metabolic, and other disease challenges.
11.Nutrition and Weight Management. (Sparkers have an advantage here!)
12. Business and Legal Considerations. Different business arrangements that instructors might work under, and how each should handle issues of liability, insurance, and compensation.
And that's just the general knowledge that any exercise instructor should master. For water exercise there's more: deep and shallow water programming, movement speeds, special equipment, pool and water considerations. It is my firm belief that land exercise instructors, however experienced and qualified they may be, cannot succeed leading water classes without learning about (and experiencing!) the special qualities and limitations of the water environment. Some facilities think they can plop a land instructor on the pool deck and expect a great class to ensue. I've seen enough of these disasters to know that neither teacher nor class is happy at the end of it. The water really is special.
I hope the enumeration of all of the above gives you a little more appreciation of what your instructor had to do to get up in front of the class. And for instructors it's kind of fun to realize "Yeah, I guess I do know at least most of all of that. Pretty awesome!"