10 Tips for Finding a Great Group Workout Class

What makes a group fitness class great? Is it the one that’s the newest? Promises to give you a dancer’s body or six pack abs? Guarantees that you’ll burn 700 calories in a class? It is an import from a trendy city? Or the one that a celebrity was photographed leaving in the latest issue of US Magazine? A great group fitness classes is a lot of things. Most of all, it should be something you enjoy. But here are 10 tips for things that make a fitness class great (or far from it.)

First, a few things to avoid. Ask yourself these questions when checking out a new studio. Buyer beware!

  • Does it promise to deliver a certain body type?
A ballerina’s body is not something that is going to happen for you if you don’t have the genetics for it (or aren’t willing to put in the years of grueling training that dancers do to get a dancer’s body). If you have a slim build and narrow hips and long limbs, sure, you can approximate a dancer’s look to some degree. But a body type = genetics + diet + exercise. And exercise is probably the least important of the three.

Can you achieve a dancer's body? Maybe, maybe not.

  • Does it guarantee that you will burn a specific number of calories? 
That is a blanket statement that cannot scientifically be made. Taking it back to exercise science again, your calorie burn = your genetics + your weight + the amount of effort you put in to the class. That’s going to be different for everyone.

Don't believe the hype, check the science.

  • Do you feel welcome?
Are people smiling, saying hello to you, chatting with each other in the lobby? Or does it feel cliquish? Do you feel like you need to be wearing a certain outfit to “belong”? It’s probably not a good sign if you do.

  • Are you sweating because you’re working out or are you sweating because the studio is poorly ventilated or the temperature is artificially raised?
Yes, there are classes where the temperature is purposely hot (Bikram yoga, for instance), but there are also studios that pump up the heat to make you think you’re getting a better workout (when all you’re getting is dehydrated and pit stains).
  • Is it boring?
Do you feel like you’re doing the exact same thing every time? Granted, some people like a level of consistency, which enables you to practice and master moves. But if you like variety, your class should provide it (or your studio should offer enough types of classes so you don’t get bored). Plus, variety helps you progress. The benefits of an exercise program will decrease as your body adjusts to the routine. Long-term health is a lifestyle, so you need to choose a class that will keep you both challenged and engaged for more than a few sessions.  

On the other hand, here are 5 things to look for:

  • Cleanliness
If you’re sharing mats or equipment, the studio should be concerned with the fact that someone else’s sweat isn’t still on the goods after they leave. If you can’t imagine wearing shoes for a class that someone else also wore, spinning might not be for you (or bowling, for that matter).

Use a prop? Wipe it down when you're done. Nobody likes sweaty secondhand balls.

  • A focus on safety
The instructor should ask about injuries and be knowledgeable about how to help you modify. If it’s a multi-level class, good instructors should give options to make an exercise easier or more challenging.

Even pulling a muscle in class can sideline you from exercise for weeks. Make sure your instructor pays close attention to form.

  • Well-trained instructors
If someone was trained to teach a fitness class in a weekend (and you’d be shocked – or should be – at how many were), they might be able to lead you through a class, but they won’t know why an exercise works or exactly how it should. They should have training in their particular discipline, on top of a lot of time as a student in the same class.
  • A class flow that includes a warm-up and cool down
Is there a warm up and a cool down? Both are essential parts of a hard core workout. You shouldn’t be starting your session with a plank, and if you’re not stretching at some point (especially at the end), you’re leaving the workout unfinished.

Take a cue from Kermit and cool down with a stretch after class.

  • A full body workout
A great exercise class hits all body parts (big and small). Even if there’s a focus on a couple (like in a Fuse class), you should work abs and back and arms and glutes and legs in every single class. That goes for each side of the body, too. If your teacher isn’t good, you might spend a majority of class working one area, or do a disproportionate number of reps on one side as compared to the other.

Think quality, not quantity.

  The list could keep going. Just remember, your time is valuable, so the class you’re giving it to should be worth it as well. Fuse Pilates offers group classes that deliver a hard core, full body workout on the mat, Pilates machines, and Fuse Ladder. Give it a try using one of our new students specials.

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