Going for the Group!
“Go, Wednesday Warriors, you got this! Front row divas, sprint. Watch how they do it, everyone!”
The voice of my Wednesday morning spin instructor rings out across the studio, pushing us to pedal our hardest. During the class, she calls us by name to encourage us to pick up our speed or increase resistance.
I started taking Donna’s class in May when I joined the gym. I had taken spin classes before, but since it had been over a year since my last one, I introduced myself before the class and asked for assistance in setting up my bike. She took the time to make sure I was aligned properly, asking if my seat and handlebar height felt comfortable.
Initially, she jokingly called me newbie, but was always supportive as I relearned how to ride the bike and worked to keep up with the class. As the months went on and I became a stronger and better rider, she always took a minute to compliment my changing body or push me to add just a touch more resistance to the wheel.
Even to this day, if I feel uncomfortable on the bike, she takes the time to help me adjust my settings.
Donna is the very definition of an excellent group exercise instructor. Her classes are challenging but also consistently fun and energetic. A teacher can make or break a class, but she keeps me coming back week after week.
I see a lot of women on Facebook asking for motivation to get to the gym or feeling intimidated by the group classes they see. I get it; it took me ages to work up the nerve to take a spin or Zumba class. But after two years of at home workouts, I can honestly say that group exercise classes are what works for me.
I love the camaraderie. When one teacher calls out instructions for more pushups, I know someone else in the class is making a face just like I am and if we meet eyes, we’ll share an eye roll or grimace.
I love the energy. The teacher, of course, really sets the tone for the class. One of my favorite Zumba teachers is so fun and playful that I always feel a burst of energy the second I walk into the studio. The music pounds, the class jumps into action and we all move together.
I love the instruction. Dance has always been my preference for working out, but I’ve gotten more and more into circuit training and boot camp-style classes. They really challenge my body, but I’m proud of how I can keep up.
The best teachers are the ones who take a minute to correct your form or show the whole class how to do a safe squat that won’t irritate your knees.
I love the variety. Even if I take the same class with the same teacher every week, the moves and music are usually totally different. The classes help me to challenge my body in new and interesting ways.
I love using new equipment. From gliders to resistance bands to body bars, I never know what to expect when I walk into a class.
I appreciate the familiarity of the instructor and the effort he or she has put into planning out a new class.
All of these factors keep me coming back to the gym day after day, week after week.
The hardest thing about developing a fitness routine is taking that crucial first step: getting to the gym. Once you’re there, the machines and weights might seem intimidating. Or you might get in a rut with doing the same workout day after day.
With a group class, you have a challenging and effective workout designed to be done in a specific amount of time. Just show up and follow along.
Here are some suggestions for taking classes:
Introduce yourself to the instructor
Explain that you’re new to the class. Tell them if you have any injuries. Make sure you share if you’ve done classes like this before or you’re a total newbie. If you had any questions or concerns, check in again after the class. The teachers want you to get the most out of their class, so I usually find them very willing to check my pushup form or give me suggestions for stretching body parts that bother me.
Try multiple types of classes and multiple instructors
My gym offers a spin class 6 mornings a week. I’ve tried every class to find out which instructor works best for me. I’ve walked out of some classes unimpressed by the teacher, but I always try to give them a second chance. Recently, I found a new Zumba teacher that I really like, although after her first class, I wasn’t sure how I felt about her. I’m glad I went back for a second class with her because now I’m definitely working her into my weekly routine.
Make yourself comfortable
Music definitely helps give a class energy, but I always bring earplugs because it’s just too loud for me. I always make sure I have my water bottle, a towel and tissues. I like to get to a class a few minutes early to find a position where I can see the instructor clearly too.
Don’t be afraid to try something new
Again, make sure your teacher knows you’re new to that type of exercise, but look to your classmates for inspiration. Don’t see them as competition and don’t feel intimidated when they seem so good at what they’re doing. Remember, they were new once too. If I notice a newbie in one of my classes, I like to say hi after and commiserate over the class, often adding in how long it took me to get the moves down.
You’ll see the same people week after week. Hand someone a mat or say hi when you walk in. Classes can be a great way to socialize with people who share similar passions and goals. My gym has become a wonderful community for me, filled with supportive and encouraging people.
Group exercise may not be for everyone, but if you are trying to start a good exercise routine, classes may help offer a fun, motivating challenge to help you look forward to working out regularly.