What's the Right Fitness Class for You?

A young woman in a fitness glass using a green resistant band.

When you walk into a fitness club for a tour the sales people do their best to sell you not only the membership, but also to sell you on all the equipment and the fitness class schedule. There is something for everyone, they will say. And they’re right. There is something for everyone, but what they aren’t telling you — and can’t tell you — is which one is for you. Go for your assessment and chances are the fitness consultant won’t tell you either. So what do you do?

There are a few things to look at. First, what’s your goal? Increase your cardiovascular endurance? Get a strength training workout in? What about bootcamp? What kind of class do you like? What about the instructor? 

 

The first thing I’ll suggest is to go to a class that gets your heart rate up and also uses weights. 

The fountain of youth is not in cardio alone. In fact there are a myriad of articles now that support what so many personal trainers (myself included) have said for years. Cardio is great for your heart, but that’s about it. That’s not to say you won’t burn calories or reach some goals with a strictly cardio-based workout. You will. But try interval training first.

 

Why interval training?

If your goal is both weight loss and building up some lean tissue (aka, muscles) then get into a class that has an interval style that utilizes weights. There are a lot of those out there. Total body fitness encompasses cardio, weights and core. Also, try and find a class that incorporates body weight as well as free weights. It becomes a more dynamic and functional workout, which translates better to your movements in everyday life.

 

High Intensity Interval Training: interval training, elevated 

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) training is not a new trend. In fact it’s been around for years and with technology it’s only getting better. Look for studios using heart rate based interval training, such as Orangetheory Fitness or spinning studios. The wearable fitness devices used at these studios are more than just a pedometer to count your steps. How do they help with your workout? By tracking your heart rate, they allow you to control your effort to keep your heart rate up high for brief, intense periods of time followed by recovery periods at a lower heart rate, a cycle that’s incredible for strengthening the heart as well as burning calories the rest of the day. That’s the type of class where 4 hours later you may still be sweating. It’s all good. Two young women in a workout class throw a medicine ball to each other.
(Photo by Justin Warner)

What about spinning? 

Go for it! (But get biking shorts with padding. The seats are terrible and poke in places you may not want to be poked in during a fitness class.) I’m not going to venture into the uber popular world of spin classes with weights. But I have a simple rule of thumb when on a spin bike: if I wouldn’t do it on a real bike, I won’t do it on a spin bike.

 

So what is the right class? 

All of them. But go with these guidelines first: 

 

1. Ease into it

Obviously if you are new to fitness or getting back into it after a lengthy or short period of time, you’re going to want to ease into it. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS communicate with the instructor. They aren’t Jedis and cannot read your mind. Let them know you are fresh to the class. A good instructor will keep an eye out for you and constantly give you (as well as the rest of the class) modifications.

 

2. ALWAYS fit in strength training classes

Do this at least 2-3 times a week. Strength training builds muscles and muscles burn calories. That’s the goal. Cardio is great fun. You’ll definitely get a workout, but remember to get in those weights. 

 

3. Make sure you enjoy the classes you’re taking, too

Your bff may love the boot camp with the instructor that barks at her and is constantly blowing a whistle. You may absolutely hate it. If you don’t like the class, don’t go to it. Look at the club schedule. They will always have an alternative class to that one. 

 

4. Assess the instructors

Are they motivating? Inspiring? Are they walking around talking to members during the class or are they pushing you to reach the goals you’re there for? I have a simple rule: 70/30. An instructor should be instructing, motivating, and correcting form and technique 70 percent of the time. 30 percent is how much of the class they should actually be doing. Are you taking a class where the instructor is getting their workout in at the same time? Time to switch classes. Instructors are getting paid to be at the front of the room to help you, not themselves.

Bottom line: the right class for you is the one that you are going to go to. Find what you love. It may not be the first class you try. In fact, it probably won’t be. But try and keep on trying. Until you find YOUR workout.

 

(Header image by Geert Pieters)