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How to find the best fitness classes

Group Reformer Class
Group Reformer Class

I recently joined a gym, and I’ve been exploring my class options lately. Last week, I tried Zumba, boot camp, and ballet conditioning, with mixed results. Some classes fit my goals better than others. And some classes were objectively good and others bad. I can say definitively that I’m going back to ballet next week.

It’s been fun experimenting. The process got me thinking about when it’s better to seek personal training versus group instruction. And what kind of class is best.

I get this question all the time as a Pilates instructor “What should I do – privates or classes?” And the answer is… it depends. The best type of instruction is the one that suits your situation and helps improve your wellness, which is different for each individual.

That being said, one-on-one personal training is more effective than group exercise. Period. The end. Drop the mic. You learn faster since the movements are customized to your body and your goals. Your trainer can give you instant and specific feedback that will help you move better.

But there’s still benefit to be found in group classes. When should you add group classes to your overall fitness plan?

  • For some people, classes allow them to practice more often. You may not be able to afford twice weekly private training, but you know that a twice a week workout would make a difference. Adding a less expensive group class could get you to that frequency.
  • Your schedule is crazy! I fall into this category sometimes. I’ll randomly find an extra hour in my day and just drop into a class. I wouldn’t have been able to schedule a private training in advance, but that class is available whether I planned for it or not.
  • It’s fun to be in a group environment, especially with people you enjoy.
  • Even in a small group class, not every exercise is going to be perfect for every person. But as long as you can modify the exercises to fit your body, it’s a good class. If you find that the content or the pace of the class keeps you from maintaining good form, it’s time to explore another option.
  • A class is great when you’re generally healthy OR you know your body’s tweaks well enough to manage them. If you’re in acute pain because of an injury, skip the group environment and seek more attention.
  • Class size makes a difference. A smaller group should increase the quality of instruction.
  • You’ve found an instructor that works for you. It’s also a bonus if this person has trained you individually so they really know how you tick.
  • A class gives you a peek at the WHOLE movement style, not just what you’re currently working on. Regardless of whether you’re a novice or an advanced student, a class will often show you a wide range of movements so you can judge how far you’ve progressed and what’s left to learn.

So this is the take-away – You are responsible for your experience when you join a class. You get to choose the class and how much to participate. The instructor is leading the group so you have to be your body’s advocate. You have the reins. Enjoy yourself in that class, but know that you’ll have to break from the herd sometimes to do what’s best for you.

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