Fall is drawing close and for most kids, school is already in session. My school days both as a student and a teacher are long over, but I go to class every day. A group fitness class, that is.
I was initially resistant to the idea of working out with a large group of people. I am not especially coordinated, and years ago I wasn’t exactly fit. The fear of missing steps, falling, and looking like a fool was enough to keep me tethered to the elliptical. It was when I discovered indoor cycling that my world changed.
The room was dark. I could sweat in secret. The energy was infectious. I pedaled so fast and furious and got so carried away that I was wiped for the rest of the weekend. And I loved every minute. Fast forward to today and not only am I still pedaling, but I’m teaching the very classes of which I was originally so afraid. I discovered that group fitness classes offered much more than a way to get healthy.
Here are a few reasons why you should try them.
1. Variety — Pilates, yoga, cycling, bootcamp, barbel, interval training, boxing, kickboxing. The possibilities are endless. I’m not a step aerobics girl. I’ve had too many face to face encounters with the step, literally, to go back. But cycling makes me smile all day. Bored with then same yoga video you’ve been doing at home? Fitness classes offer variety, even with the same instructor. One month my strength training class may focus on arms. The next month it’s legs. It never gets old. My muscles never get bored and I never plateau.
2. Energy — I’m talking about the energy in the room and the energy you carry with you all day after a class. I can’t count how many days I walk in a room feeling like a slug only to leave feeling like a superstar. The energy the members bring feeds my soul. Alone, I might quit after a few sets of sprints on a bike, but with a group, not only will I finish a set, but I will finish it strong. Energy is infectious. If you're lacking, there's always someone there to push you along.
3. Proper form and technique — Personal trainers are great. I work with some of the best. Group fitness classes aren’t one-on-one like personal training, but you get some of the same benefit. Group fitness instructors have gone through extensive training and are certified to teach. To retain my certifications I participate in new courses and training, so I’m up to date on the latest studies and trends. I can cue you on proper form and technique for a particular exercise. I can explain the “why” behind the “how”. You can see me doing it while I’m describing it. My job isn't to get you ready for a season or event. My goal is to keep you body healthy and strong for as long as you have it. I can answer any specific questions you have, especially if you need a personal modification. You can’t get that from a magazine or video.
4. Fun — Those 5:30 a.m. classes, despite the early hour, are some of the most fun classes. Members shuffle in the doors, but skip out. It’s so satisfying to hear a 60-year-old woman yell out, “I’m sexy and I know it” in the middle of a giant hill climb. We love to take it back to elementary school in bootcamp and hopscotch, jumprope and frog jump until our legs fall off. It’s not often I get to shuffle and dance to M.C. Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This,” but I did it yesterday and it was awesome. Time alone on a treadmill may drag, but I swear it speeds up double-time in a classroom. You're done before you know it.
5. Support and encouragement — I’ve been teaching my classes with a broken hand and separated shoulder for the past couple of months. There’s not been one day when someone hasn’t helped me set up my bench or ask how I’m doing. And it’s not because I’m the instructor. When a friend was battling breast cancer, the entire class signed cards and sent flowers. When she returned, it was to a standing ovation. Those are extreme examples, but everyday I see members encouraging each other, helping each other through push-ups and squats. Pushing each other to sprint a little faster, climb a little harder, lift a little heavier. Even the most reserved members find connections in class. Sweat bonds people tighter than glue.
I still love to workout alone from time to time. But even on my worst days, group fitness classes lift my spirits. I’m physically pushed and emotionally lifted. No pencils. No books. It’s the best type of classroom.
Kim Cowart is a wife, mother, 24-Hour Fitness instructor, marathoner, Headsweats and Sun Rype Ambassador. You can follow her running adventures at www.kiminthegym.com.