Fitness classes are all the rage, especially this time of year.
As soon as January 1st rolls around, lots of people start signing up for Zumba, spinning, cardio kickboxing, yoga, bootcamps, or whatever other group fitness classes are offered in their areas. Hell, even Jazzercise is still around after all these years.
What is it about training in this kind of setting that’s appealing to so many people, and is this something you should pursue?
Of course, that depends on your goals and what you want from your training, but there are a lot of good reasons for training in a group class setting, but it’s not the right approach for everyone, though.
In this article, I’ll go over the pros and cons of training in a group setting, so you can find the approach that works for you.
As you set your goals this year, my ICE program might be just what you need to jumpstart your training and start building the foundation you need. Maybe you can get a friend or two to join in the fun , but have a read before you make your decision.
3 Reasons to Start Going to Group Fitness Classes
Let’s start with the pros of training in a class setting (good news if you just bought a full year worth of Zumba classes .
1. Great for Motivation and Staying Consistent
Training with a community of like minded people can be powerfully motivating. Working out with such people tends to increase your intensity during workouts and provide accountability. There are also interesting mental health benefits to group training (especially outdoors), particularly with reducing stress and improving general quality of life.
With that community accountability and magnetism, it becomes easier to tap into the mighty power of being consistent and persistent with your training.
Having somewhere that you need to be at a certain time with real people expecting you (not some YouTube or DVD virtual class/trainer) can encourage you to find a really solid rhythm to your training. The act of getting ready and showing up becomes a ritual, which can further reinforce the positive habit change.
2. Affordable Alternative to Personal Training
Price-wise, you’re also in luck, at least when compared to 1-on-1 training.
If you’re going to classes with quality instruction, and the classes aren’t too crowded, you can get some of the benefits of supervised training without the massive price tag that comes along with personal training, and you’ll be able to do far more sessions for your money.
3. Gives You a Chance to Try Things Out
Many small group training studios, dance studios, and martial arts schools offer time-limited class programs, or free trials. This allows you to make a small investment in experimenting with new things until something really catches your attention. Then you can dive in deeper.
3 Reasons to Avoid Group Fitness Classes
For some people, group classes are the best possible training option, and if that’s you, then by all means, keep doing them! (Be sure to read the next section on how to make sure you’re going to high quality classes.)
Here are some of the cons of training in this setting.
1. Lack of Continuity
With the exception of some specific classes (such as a particular martial art, or yoga, or style of dance), most drop-in classes at your local gym or fitness studio won’t necessarily follow any sort of path toward an end-goal.
You might go to the same exact class on a Monday, a Thursday, and a Saturday of the same week. It’s just about showing up and doing something, rather than showing up and working toward something. And that’s fine, sometimes, but that lack of continuity makes it hard to stay motivated and stay on track.
And for those classes that do have a sequence or plan, if you miss a class or two or three, when you come back to class, it’s often hard to just pick up where you left off.
2. Poor Setting for Learning Skills
Related to the lack of continuity, this type of setting makes it much more difficult (if possible at all) to learn specific skills. Skills-training, by definition, requires continuity and logical progressions.
Another aspect that makes a class setting less-than-ideal for skills training is that it’s inflexible. The instructor is there to teach, demonstrate, and/or supervise a specific class structure, which means less opportunity to make adjustments to your skills training on a particular day. And when you’re working toward a skill, you need that flexibility, since every day is different.
3. No Individualised Instruction
This is quite obvious, especially when compared to 1-on-1 training. But it does also depend on the class size and the quality of the trainer. Speaking of trainers, Eternally Fit doesn’t have trainers, we have coaches! What are the differences? Well, you will have to come to some of our classes to see .
What to Look for in a Group Fitness Class
Like most things in life, not all fitness classes are created equal. If the group setting is the right approach for you and your goals, then you should absolutely do that for your training. But there are some things you’ll want to look out for, to make sure you’re getting the most from the experience.
Smaller Group Size
Within group classes there is a wide spectrum of size and atmosphere.
Some spin classes are gigantic, loud, and fast, where you might train for months and the instructor will never even hear your name, much less learn it. But tucked away one room over might be a quieter, more consistent class of 5-10 people doing some funky moves on the floor.
Whatever specific type of class you’re interested in, look for those with a smaller group of people, and you’ll get a more personalised experience.
Once you find the class that appeals to you, have a closer look at the instructor.
Look up their credentials. Have they studied and practiced the kinds of training in which you are interested? Or, on the other end of the spectrum, are they just collecting certifications? When you attend the class, pay close attention to the instruction. Is it focused on technique and quality of movement? Or is the instructor just yelling at you and pushing you mindlessly?
It’s important to be mindful and pay attention to how you feel during and after class. Are you experiencing pain or discomfort? Do you feel consistently discouraged or pushed beyond your reasonable limits? While it’s good to challenge yourself, there’s a fine line between a healthy challenge, and pushing yourself to the point of injury or burnout.
Whatever you’re doing, make sure you’re training in a way that feels safe, and with people that encourage that. That’s why it’s worth shopping around for the style that fits you.
If you find an instructor with whom you connect, with a good class size, training in a format you enjoy, and you feel safe in the environment, you’re off to a fantastic start. You stand to gain a lot just with those characteristics alone. But the next thing to really examine is continuity.
Does the class allow you to increase the challenge and variation as you improve in a movement. A class that takes this into account and is built around a central theme, goal, or plan will bring faster progress.
Find the Right Approach for You
As you can see, there are a lot of good reasons to train in a class setting, and they may be the right option for you. Just don’t let convenience be the only factor in your training choices. You want to make sure you’re putting your time, energy, and money into things that will help you toward your bigger picture goals.
If you want to give the classes at Eternally Fit a go, you can attend as many classes as you like in a week for 2 weeks (we have 9 classes per week) for $20. What a bargain! If that appeals to you, click here.
If you want to see what classes we offer in our ICE Program, click here instead.