by Tiffanie Grady-Gillespie, Certified Physical Trainer, CPT, WickedFiTT
Believe it or not, before I worked in fitness as a personal trainer and group exercise instructor, I was a group-fitness junkie. I was the one who showed up early to get the step and risers set up so I could claim a great spot in class, and I’d race home from the studio to practice the choreography.
You name the class, and I’ve probably taken it. The super-duper early morning class, the early morning class, the early afternoon class, the evening class — I totally believe each type of class has its own benefits.
Of course, to be completely honest, you obviously only get out what you put in. You can take a really intense boot camp class and only burn a few calories if you don’t follow the instructions. And you can find yourself sweaty and wiped out after a Pilates or core class because of the intensity of the moves.
So let’s take a quick look at some popular class formats, and then we’ll dig deeper.
Cardio: Generally, your goal is to get your heart rate up either through intervals or a pyramid structure (low intensity, medium intensity, high intensity and then back down).
Strength: Here, you want to build muscle mass and/or strength.
Core: This is where you want to increase your core strength so that you can have better functional fitness.
Most classes have more than one benefit, however, so a class that includes cardio may also feature a strength component, and, of course, when we use our full range of motion and move across our planes, we will naturally have some overlap (yea, three for one).
Some popular formats and certification agencies include Les Mills classes (BODYPUMP, BODYATTACK), BeachBody (PiYo Strength, Turbo Kick, Insanity). In these cases, the class really doesn’t vary much from instructor to instructor or class to class. Some of these are totally pre-choreographed, meaning that the songs and moves don’t change; others have a basic outline, but each teacher can have some flexibility on how the class is presented.
Again, the key to getting a good workout lies within you. Nobody can make you turn the dial up on your spin bike to make the hill climbs more intense or force you to go a little deeper during a squat series. Remember that your weight, fitness level, intensity and age all make a difference in how effective your workout is. I totally believe that most classes can be modified for every student, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
If you have joint issues or injuries, you may want to avoid higher-impact classes. But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid high intensity! With a doctor’s or medical provider’s clearance, you can get a great body-weight workout that raises your heart rate and helps with muscle strength and power, builds bone density and helps you lose weight without doing any plyometric (jump) training.
Do you love to dance but have trouble with advanced choreography? Maybe try a class like Zumba. You’ll typically follow the same or a similar format from week to week, so it can really help you gain confidence and retain the moves and postures without getting overwhelmed. Do you have great muscle strength but really struggle with balance? A yoga class might be the perfect class to add to your regime. If you aren’t sure which type of class is best for you, I suggest trying as many as you can.
And one last tip: You will need to dress the part! For example, for core and Pilates classes, you will want to wear fairly fitted items so that as you work through postures, often holding them for extended periods of time, you won’t be hindered or distracted by baggy shirts or shorts that, ahem, let it all hang out.
For Zumba, go all out! The more colorful gear you wear, the more you’ll get into character.
If you’re taking a boot camp or strength-training class, you’ll likely be spending some time on the floor or a mat and doing a lot of plyometric training. So I’d recommend wearing leggings and a shirt or tank top that is breathable. It doesn’t need to be as fitted as in a yoga class, but you don’t want something so loose that it gets caught on the equipment.
Remember, it’s always a great idea to switch up your fitness routine from time to time whether you are experienced or a beginner. Ultimately, the best workout is one that you’ll actually do. So get out there and start doing!
Please contact us at WickedFiTT for any additional group fitness information. Or visit our website, wickedfitt.com.