Everything you wanted to know about the Exercise to Music Level 2 qualification

Everything you wanted to know about the Exercise to Music Level 2 qualification

Ok, so that title might be overselling it a bit, but I wrote this post because it’s the kind of information I was looking for when I wanted to study my exercise to music level 2 qualification and I found really hard to find.

Back in January I said that I was exploring some interesting training opportunities. From February, I have in fact been training to be a group fitness instructor, or more precisely an exercise to music (ETM) instructor. This is all part of my ‘master plan’ (as much as I have one) to do my Pilates and, one day, yoga teacher training.

Other than a longstanding running, Pilates and yoga habit (with the odd cardio class thrown in for good measure), I have no sports or fitness background. And I definitely didn’t have any qualifications. But even as far back as four years ago I had a feeling this was something I wanted to do. I’d go to classes or coaching sessions and see how good I felt, how the teacher inspired people and think – I want to be able to do that!

But I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t even really know how to say I wanted to start. It didn’t feel like something that was possible for me; I work in marketing, I’m not an athlete or a dancer.

Feel the fear and do it anyway? My tee may not be entirely accurate
Feel the fear and do it anyway? My t-shirt may not be entirely accurate!

So I did what I do which is to study something for years and dream and plan and enquire, only finally to do nothing about it. Ha! But I’m trying to get better at that. The start of a new year is always a motivator for me and 2016 was no different… only when I came to enquire about qualifications and training again, I realised that I’d done the same thing back in January 2015. And January 2014.

I was faced with a decision. Did I really want to be here in January 2017 wondering if I should take the chance; asking myself if I’m doing the right thing, will I enjoy it, will I be any good? So I decided to go for it and sign up for an ETM level 2 course.

Now, ETM isn’t exactly Pilates or yoga (think more aerobics and body conditioning). But as a lower level of qualification I thought it would be a good entry point into an industry I’ve only ever been on the consumer end of. Plus, there’s anatomy and physiology to learn and I’d not picked up a scientific text book in half my life!

I didn’t really know what to expect from doing this qualification but I figured I’d give it a go and see how it went…

Choosing where to study

After a lot of research I decided to go with a company called Health Fitness Education (HFE) as they seemed great value and offered a mix of distance and face-to-face learning, the latter of which was fairly local to me.

One key factor for me was that I didn’t want to have to pay to go to London for training days and assessments, as the train and hotel costs would have doubled the cost of the qualification. Plus, it’s extra time and effort I couldn’t really fit into my life easily.

They also had really good reviews from former students, and the staff I spoke to before signing up were very helpful, enthusiastic and answered all my questions fully.

Distance learning

The distance learning part of the course lasted six weeks. I signed up and was promptly sent two textbooks; one on anatomy and physiology and another on the principles of health and fitness.

Like I said, it’s a long time since I studied science so it did take me a while to get into the anatomy stuff, but as I progressed I began to find it all quite fascinating.

The guidance I got was that it took about one hour of study a day, which I would say is about right. I used my commute and the odd lunch break to keep up with the reading. There were also online assessments and a few worksheets to complete, which my support tutor was on hand by phone or email to help me through.

Learning all about muscles
Learning all about muscle fibres

Practical weekend

The practical part of the course involved two weekends (Saturday and Sunday, 9am to 5pm). The practical bit of the course was the bit I knew least about and the bit I was most scared of, but I was also excited to find out what was involved.

There were about 18 of us on the course and it was great to meet everyone and find out our different reasons for doing it. There was a real mix of backgrounds with some people already working in fitness, some with a background in dance, and then a few of us with no experience at all.

After introductions and being taken through an aerobics class by one of our teachers, we were taught about how to plan and deliver the different phases of our routines.

I say ‘our’ routines because this is one thing I wasn’t fully prepared for; you have to come up with your own routine. I hadn’t really thought about this, or I think maybe I assumed there would be some kind of rough guide that you can add to but no. You really are starting with a blank sheet of paper.

You’re not expected to have a finished routine right there on the spot, but you do have to think quite quick on your feet, choosing a few exercises and putting them together then progressing them to layer and build intensity.

Don’t worry, all of this is taught on the course, but I would say you need to have a good experience of going to exercise classes to be able to pick it up quickly.

We were split up into groups of threes to practice our different elements then would double up with another three to teach components to each other. You get assessed throughout and one-to-one feedback with notes to let you know what you’re doing well but also what you need to go away and work on. I found that really useful to help me feel like I was making progress and on the right track.

I’m not going to lie, to begin with it’s pretty overwhelming. You have to come up with moves, remember your moves, start getting teaching points in there, mirror your class (oh yeah, your left hand is now your right hand – and vice versa) project your voice… and do this all in time to the beat and phrase of the music! I left the first night feeling excited but like my brain was going to explode with all the new information I’d squeezed in there.

I can only compare it to learning to drive, where you don’t know how you’re ever going to be able to do all those things at once. But I can assure you that with time and a lot of practice it does start to come together.


The assessment is made up of two theory exams (Anatomy and Physiology, and Principles of Exercise) which take place on the Saturday morning of the assessment weekend. Then you have all afternoon to do last minute rehearsals for your practical assessment which takes place on the Sunday. This is a 30-40 minute class of six people (usually your classmates and any willing friends or family we could convince to do it).

I’ll admit, I completely corpsed during my run through on the Saturday but I’m so glad I had that opportunity as it meant I got it out of my system. And it made me realise that the only thing standing between a pass and a fail were my own nerves – so I had to get a handle on them.

When the final Sunday finally came around I was nervous but also excited. Over the two weekends we’d really built up a nice little supportive community between us, and we spent the last day enjoying each others classes and encouraging each other through our exams. In fact, taking part in other people’s classes in the morning helped to take my mind off my own.

Thanks to some lovely weather I spent the hour before mine, which is kept free for you to prepare, frantically running through my routine in the furthest bit of the venue’s car park. Much to the amusement of some passing dog walkers.

When I finally stepped in to the studio my assessment, I was greeted by friendly faces and once the music – and my routine – started, it really did just fly by. Before the assessment you’re given guidelines for what the assessor is looking for in the intro, warm up, main phase and cool down. Once they’ve seen all they need to they can ask you to move on at any point. As long as you remember how each bit starts this isn’t actually as difficult as it sounds and, honestly, the 40 minutes I was terrified I wasn’t going to be able to fill was over before I knew it had begun.

We had to wait until the end of the day before we were called in one by one in the order we were assessed. But I finally found out that I’d PASSED!


To sum it up, I loved doing my ETM. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, but it really did open my eyes to what I’m actually capable of if I push myself a little (ok, a lot) outside of my comfort zone.

Doing the ETM is not a small undertaking, but it was entirely possible to fit around a full time job with a bit of careful planning and dedicating a little bit of time each day to study and practice.

If you’re thinking of doing the ETM and have any questions, leave me a comment and I’ll try my best to answer.