I’m a social butterfly who much prefers the company of others. This need to be around others, particularly adults, is exaserbated by the copious amount of time I spend by myself or just with my kiddo as a work-at-home mom. Recently I decided it was time to be with more adults and join a nearby gym.
I’ve always enjoyed group fitness classes over working out alone. I have an impressive collection of workout DVDs and fitness video games, but those are harder for me personally because as easy as it is to hit “play,” it’s also as easy to hit “pause” or follow along at 50%. I appreciate the unspoken accountability that happens in group fitness environments. I got in shape for my wedding years ago with a combination of hip-hop, cycling and yoga classes. My newfound love of sweating it out amongst my peers happened when I discovered Zumba, which we’ve praised previously. I adore how hard it works me in a seemingly short amount of time. Classes go by so quickly because it’s, as my favorite instructor describes, a fitness party. It’s an exercise format that I’ve connected with and doesn’t feel like a chore to complete.
If you’ve ever considered trying a group workout class but have been reluctant for whatever reason, maybe it’s time to reconsider.
Candice Schutter has taught fitness and dance since 2001, and she extolls the benefits of working out in groups over going at it alone.
“Group exercise formats are unique in that they offer a twofold energetic contagion: Ongoing classes create a community environment that makes working out more fun and encourages attendance as people create friendships and bonds with one another around common goals,” she notes. “In addition, cardiovascular endurance is enhanced by the momentum of the group experience. Each individual person drives the energy higher!”
Schutter says that anyone can benefit from group fitness, with the right instructor and class format.
“It’s important to find a format that speaks to your sensibilities, physical requirements, workout style, and style of learning.”
When deciding what group workouts might work best for you, here are some tips to keep in mind.
- Research types of group fitness online to get a sense of what you’re in for. Chances are you can find videos of class environments. Schutter posts examples of her Zumba choreography on her YouTube channel, which I’ve sent to friends as I talk them into joining me in class. “Research is good. Experience is everything. Get a free week pass to a gym and explore different class formats to find what is right for you.”
- Some other types of group fitness include:
- Aerobic & Step Classes
- Cycling & Spin
- Dance Fitness (Zumba, Nia, HipHop, Striptease/Pole)
- Strength/Conditioning (Les Mills BodyPump, CrossFit)
- Mind-Body (Yoga, CorePower Yoga, Pilates, Nia)
- Water Aerobics
- Boxing & Kickboxing (LA Boxing)
- Bar Classes (Bar Method, Pure Barre)
- See what’s offered locally, online and/or get recs from friends.
- Ask a friend to go with you. There’s strength in numbers. Schutter says you are much more likely to attend if you make a date of it!
- Find out if you need special gear/supplies (e.g., a yoga mat, grippy socks, gloves), but don’t invest too heavily until you’ve tried out the classes and feel committed.
- Don’t give up after one class if you don’t like it. Try different instructors. Schutter says, “Trust your instincts. If you don’t vibe with a format or instructor, move on. Try something else. Be willing to invest your energy in something that brings you the ideal balance for lasting fitness: ongoing enjoyment and ongoing challenges that help you to reach your fitness goals.”
- Try different kinds of classes. What might be right for one person could not be right for you.
- Get to class early in case you or your instructor needs to set you up with anything, like settings on a bike or gathering dumbbells/mats, or to ask any questions you might have.
- Know your limits. Push yourself to keep up with your instructor and classmates, but don’t overdo it. Go at your own pace and work up to where you’d like to be.
- Try not to be self-conscious. Your classmates are watching you a lot less than you’d imagine, if at all! “I call this paradox out in class from time-to-time,” Schutter says. “Everyone is so busy being self-conscious (concerning themselves with who might be observing them) that quite literally no one is watching anyone else! It’s comical if you think about it. So give yourself permission to let loose.”
- Most of all, have fun!
Are you a group fitness enthusiast?
image via Cimm