I recall a time in first grade, getting permission to use the restroom, which was located way on the other side of the school! At least it felt that way at the time. Upon my return, I started looking for my seat in the classroom, but something wasn’t right. The room looked a bit odd, the faces unfamiliar, and I couldn’t pinpoint my seat. I started to panic, and before I could figure out what to do, two (slightly) older boys shouted to the top of their lungs, “This is not your classroom!” as they pointed and mocked me, “She’s a first-grader! She’s lost!” Mortified, I burst into tears! If I hadn’t gone to the restroom moments earlier, I believe I would have wet myself too!
As daunting as the memory may be, I’ve since then matured and grown thicker skin, as we all do with time. New surroundings may still be intimidating for some adults, and we all know that just as children can be insensitive, adults can be too.
Let’s say you’re new to group fitness and gathered the courage to sign-up for a class, but you really don’t know what it is you actually signed-up for. You may not feel comfortable enough to ask questions, or are unsure of what to even ask. Maybe the front desk attendants are too busy, the instructor appears callous, the participants pretentious…or maybe you’ve had a so-called traumatic childhood experience like mine that leaves you dreading talking to strangers no matter how friendly they may seem!
Whether you’re thinking about participating in a group fitness class for the first time, or have been going for a while and are unsure of what it is you’ve actually been doing, I’ve laid out some group fitness information below to help steer you in the right direction, without having to fear looking foolish.
First, let’s take a look at the main types of fitness classes:
Examples of aerobic classes:
- Cardio Kickboxing*
- Cycling or Spinning®*
- Step Aerobics
Who can benefit from aerobic exercise?
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week to improve overall cardiovascular health. 30 minutes of aerobic activity a day, five times a week has been found to improve endurance and prevent cardiovascular disease. Cardio, often interchanged with aerobics, stems from the Greek word for heart, “kardia”. This type of exercise can also be effective for fat loss, depending on the amount you do and the amount of calories you consume.
Examples of anaerobic classes:
- Boot Camp
- Cardio Kickboxing*
- Cycling or Spinning®*
- HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
Who can benefit from anaerobic exercise?
Anaerobic exercise can help develop strength, speed, and power. They usually include resistance equipment such as dumbbells, barbells, and bands. In a cycling or Spinning® class, the resistance tool is the bike! While aerobic exercise can assist in fat loss, anaerobic exercise may burn more calories than aerobic exercise after the workout is done, due to its effect on the metabolism.
⁽*⁾ Cardio Kickboxing and Cycling or Spinning® classes generally include both aerobic and anaerobic periods within the duration of the class.
Examples of mind-body classes:
Who can benefit from mind-body classes?
There are numerous styles to yoga. Not being an expert in the practice, I would not dare attempt to recommend a style to any of you. Instead, I’ll briefly share my experience with two different styles of yoga, and then make my comparison to Pilates.
My first yoga class was Vinyasa. While I did not expect to sweat as much as I did, I was very satisfied with the outcome. I ended the class feeling limber. My tight spots were no longer tight. I felt relaxed both mentally and physically. I continued to return to that class for a long time. I only stopped when I changed gyms.
My experience with another instructor was very different. Although they were instructing the same style of yoga, I did not sweat. As a matter of fact, I think because my body did not receive an adequate warm-up, I ended up injuring my hip in pigeon pose. I’d say that it took about 3-4 weeks to heal.
The other style of yoga that I’ve tried is Budokon. I spent more time in class wondering how the instructor got from here to there than anything else. I can’t even say that I held anyone back because the instructor (who, funny enough, was a co-worker of mine) seemed to set the pace to the most advanced students in the class, leaving me behind with no proper guidance. It was frustrating and nothing like the Vinyasa I enjoyed so much. I never returned.
Pilates was very popular among my fellow Ballet dancers growing up. Similar to Ballet, it can help improve flexibility, balance, and posture. Pilates is based around core exercises that help strengthen and tone the abs, back, and buttocks. Although Pilates is not a spiritual practice, it can bring mind to body awareness through focusing on muscle control and synchronized breathing, much like yoga.
What is your goal?
As you may have already caught on, we could all benefit from each type of exercise: aerobic, anaerobic, and mind-body. Don’t show up to a class just to say you did something at the gym. Instead, discover a style that you enjoy within each exercise category. For instance, if you dislike Zumba®, give Cardio Kickboxing a try. Once you’ve found the classes that you enjoy, decide how to divide your time between them by asking yourself the following:
Has your doctor said that you need to lower your blood pressure? – Make cardio classes priority.
Are you trying to lose fat and become stronger? – Aim for more classes with resistance-based workouts.
Do you want to improve your flexibility? – Sign up for more Pilates and yoga classes.
Before stepping into your next class, remember the following:
- Always consider your current state and your goals when selecting a class format.
- Show up early to your first class or not at all! (You may miss important instructions that will significantly alter your class experience).
- Introduce yourself to the instructor and tell him/her that it is your first time.
- Keep in mind that we were all once beginners.
Now that you know how to choose the right class, learn how to choose the right instructor from my previous post, Is Your Group Fitness Instructor a Teacher?
What are some of the things you expect in a group fitness class? (Comment below).