Don't be left out!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Get More from Group Exercise Classes

Group exercise classes come with a long list of benefits- a consistent class schedule, a safe and effectively designed routine, accessible to most gym members, and an opportunity to spend quality time with friends just to name a few.

I couldn't help but notice since New Year', group exercise classes at my gym have been filled to the brim.  As a former group exercise instructor, this warms my heart as I've seen many transformations (inner and outer) take place and friendships develop in group classes.

Whether you're new or old to group exercise classes here are five insider tricks to getting even more from your group exercise classes.

Don't follow the crowd:  While everyone in the class may be asked to perform the same movement, you're not all on the same fitness level.  If there is one downfall about group exercise classes, the pressure to "keep up" with your peers is it.  Just because the woman next to you is able to push the pace or perform perfect push-ups, doesn't mean you have to as well.  The same holds true on the opposite end of the spectrum.  Maybe you are the girl who can do perfect push ups on her toes but the instructor has recommended performing them on your knees.  Keep in mind, instructors have to teach what suits the majority of the class, and that may or may not include you.  Whatever the situation, stay focused on what you can do well and build from there.

Come early or stay late:  If you're new, have questions and/or are curious about modifications come early or stay a few minutes late to pick your instructors brain.  When you're in the middle of teaching a 20+ person class it can be hard to give personal recommendations without singling a member out.  Don't be afraid to ask for a quick form check or regression/progression if needed before/after class.

Find out what other classes your favorite instructor teaches: If/when you find a favorite instructor, ask him/her if they offer any additional classes.  More often than not, group exercise instructors teach multiple classes at the gym. If they don't mind, ask them to contact you if they're substitute teaching for another class or adding additional classes to their roster. You just might find yourself expanding your horizons in a new class with the same instructor you love.

Find a buddy: Just like any other workout outside of group exercise, everything is more fun with a friend.  But fun factor aside, friends can also help hold you accountable to your exercise routine, especially when that friend is Susan, who you just met but always on time to class and gives it her all.  Don't be afraid to introduce yourself to veterans of the class and swap emails or phone numbers, to help keep you honest.  

Look at the big picture: Many group exercise programs are structured to offer both cardio and strength based classes at similar times everyday of the week to help you included both aspects into your routine.  For example there may be cardio kickbox class at 9 am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday while at the same time on Tuesday and Thursday a dumbbell strength class is offered.   If you enjoy group exercise classes and are able to visit the gym at a similar time each day, this may be a great way to get in both cardiovascular and strength workouts.

Your turn:  Do you attend group exercise classes on a regular basis?


  1. Yep! I love my group classes! I can't go to the new Y, because all my friends and favorite classes are at Walnut Creek. For sure, having a buddy keeps me accountable. In fact, several of my workout friends depend on me getting there early to set up their weights for body pump and we call each other out if someone doesn't show up! Good tips :) -- And -- new folks, don't be shy, it may seem like I know everyone and how to do the moves, it's because I've been there a long time, but I'll welcome you right in :)

  2. The only group classes I do regularly now are spinning and yoga, but years ago there was an instructor I LOVED and I took all of her classes (pre-kids, obviously, when I could just wander over to the gym whenever I felt like it!). Her classes were so much fun and I loved the camaraderie of the group setting, but honestly now, for any kind of strength training I'm so limited on time that I need to do my own lifting routine.