You have made the decision to pull the trigger and are ready to begin attending group exercise classes at your trusted fitness facility; however, with so many exercises class formats to choose from, it might seem a little daunting to determine which direction to head.
However, by following these five guidelines, you may eliminate some of the guess work and find yourself enjoying the plethora of health and fitness benefits that group exercise provides. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.
Determine what your specific fitness goals are and then begin to do a little detective work to find a format that will fit your needs. For example, if you are striving toward an enhanced general physical fitness level, you may choose class formats which feature all five physical fitness components (i.e., cardiovascular endurance/muscular strength/muscular endurance/flexibility and body composition). If you are interested in improving one of the physical fitness components such as muscular strength, you may seek out a class format that concentrates on muscular strength training exclusively and then pair this class with another format which focuses upon cardiovascular endurance or HIIT training.
Once you have determined which formats are a good fit for you, then do a little due diligence and ensure that the instructor/trainer/coach possesses the expertise to be conducting these class formats safely and effectively. You should note that there are many instructors, trainers and coaches who specialize in one aspect of group exercise and are not trained to teach other formats. So, avoid making that assumption. A well-trained and experienced group indoor cycling instructor may or may not be a well-trained and experienced weight training, Pilates, yoga, or step interval instructor—therefore, check their credentials with the program director to ensure you are in expert hands.
Most programs will permit you to participate in one or two group exercise classes on a complimentary basis so that you may confirm the format is a good fit. Chat with the program director to set up a time to take a class or two requesting an introduction to the instructor/trainer/coach prior to class to create a smooth transition into the class environment. This will include understanding the format structure of the class and what to expect in terms of intensity.
The size of the class, timing of the class during the day/evening, days of the week, class duration and frequency are also factors to consider when determining the group exercise class program schedule. Choose a schedule that is realistic, addresses your specific fitness goals in terms of frequency, intensity, type, and time (i.e., F.I.T.T. Principle) and the outcomes you are hoping to achieve. For instance, if you are planning to train exclusively within a group exercise class program four-five days/week, choose class formats that will avoid redundancy when possible (i.e., Monday – indoor group cycling; Tuesday – weight training circuit; Wednesday – indoor group cycling; Thursdays – Pilates/yoga; Friday – weight training circuit, etc.).
Also, keep in mind that you want this program to provide you with your desired outcomes, but additionally, the experience should consistently be enjoyable in terms of participant dynamics, an instructor/trainer/coach that motivates and encourages you and an environment which leaves you feeling safe and energized.