There are so many gym classes on offer, but which ones are the best? Mark Laws investigates…
Fitness classes have evolved a lot since the days of Mr Motivator and Mad Lizzie gracing our morning TV screens with their multi-coloured leotards and head bands… thankfully.
Nowadays you can choose from more different types of gym class than Jane Fonda has had hot dinners, so you would be forgiven for not knowing whether they’re worth attending or not.
Firstly, the biggest benefit that group exercise has over other types of gym-based work is the sense of community that it builds! The participants tend to arrive and leave in small packs and you could be forgiven for thinking that some of them must be attached at the hip. Human beings are always more likely to achieve better results when they are part of a team as opposed to going alone, so this is certainly not a bad thing.
However, the biggest drawback facing group exercise is that it is impossible for the class content to be appropriate for every single attendee. We are all so wonderfully unique in terms of our abilities, experience, injuries, mechanics and goals… yet we all have to do the same thing, at the same time in the vast majority of classes. To make matters worse, the instructor is often participating in the class themselves, which reduces what little chance they did have of being able to correct individual technique issues to practically zero.
So here are my top tips regarding fitness classes…
1 – HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is extremely fashionable at the moment but that doesn’t mean you have to do it. Giving an inexperienced gym user a high-speed movement to perform in a short amount of time is like giving a 12 year old the keys to a Ferrari… it’s all going to end in tears. The thought of a roomful of slightly overweight adults who don’t have much gym experience being asked to jump around as much as they can scares me senseless, but has reminded me to buy shares in all local physios and osteopaths! Be really careful when it comes to this type of exercise, and at the first sign of any pain/discomfort – stop!
2 – If you participate in a combat/circuit/indoor cycling/dance/holistic/aqua-based exercise class because it makes you feel happy, you meet new friends and you feel good about going then please continue fill your boots. In fact, pass your boots here and I will fill them for you! It is great that you enjoy these sessions.
But if you are expecting to get better at a sport/hobby/activity as a result of all the classes you’re attending then I am afraid you are going to be bitterly disappointed.
One of the most basic principles of fitness is ‘specificity’. If you are NOT doing things that are SPECIFIC to you, your history, your current ability level and your goals then the chance of your body improving at any specific task is virtually zero.
3 – I would urge you to be really fussy with the instructors you allow to administer exercises upon your body. If they constantly walk around the class looking at each participant from every possible angle, and give some insightful coaching cues whilst gently encouraging you all at the same time then I would say that instructor deserves more chances to work with you in the future.
But, if they are screaming profanities at the top of their voice as if auditioning for the Drill Sergeant role in an upcoming west end version of Full Metal Jacket then I would urge you never to let this person oversee your training ever again. You might think that you like being ‘pushed’ in that way, but this is a guaranteed way to accelerate your injuries.
Do you want to know the perfect solution?
Small Group Training (SGT)
I have mastered this in the last six months and it has transformed my business, my results, my retention and my lead generation.
Quite simply, I run 60/90-minute strength groups at set times on set days – no different to having classes on a gym timetable. There is a maximum of eight people per session, each of them must be screened/assessed individually by me and then I set them their own bespoke training programme which they perform during the set session. All eight people work on their own programme at the same time, leaving me to coach them individually and educate them as a group. They have all the banter and camaraderie of a group exercise class, but the specificity and quality coaching of a personal training session.
Their results are better. Their attendance is better. Their perception of ‘fitness’ is better. Everyone is a winner.
So if you love attending classes just for the sake of it that is absolutely fine. But if you want to change the way you look, move and feel then find yourself a quality coach who provides SGT sessions that you can join.
If you can’t find one email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will put you in touch with someone very good in your area.