Your Go-To Guide For Fitness Classes
If you are starting to get bored with your regular gym routine and want to add some variation to your cardio workouts, fitness classes are a great way to switch things up! Fitness classes can help you incorporate new challenges into your workouts, which can prevent your body from adapting to the same routine and limiting your progress.
A fitness class is a great place to meet new people, socialize with others, and develop a strong support network- all while burning calories!
When selecting a new fitness class, keep in mind that a good instructor will:
- Introduce themselves and explain their qualifications.
- Ask about any injuries or health conditions and try to provide alternative movements for those who need them.
- Begin classes with a warm-up and end with a cool-down and stretching component.
- Be energetic and motivate you to participate.
When participating in any form of cardio activity, you want to ensure that you’re working within the target heart rate for your age. One way you can do this is by wearing a heart-rate monitor during your cardio sessions. Additionally, you can subtract your age from 220 and multiply the remainder by 0.5 for the lower end of your target zone and 0.7 for the high end to calculate 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate, a range ideal for optimal fat burning.
Choosing A Class
Before you decide which class you want to participate in, you’ll need to determine your goals at the gym. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, some classes may be more beneficial for you than others.
This class is performed on exercise bikes that are usually arranged in a circle. The instructor will push you through the workout, often simulating a rugged terrain, taking you on a ride through an imaginary course. This imagery is used to help motivate you through your ride, climbing hills and sprinting to the finish line.
Pros: Spinning can be very intense and challenging. The classes are fun and energetic, and because they incorporate larger muscle groups (e.g. legs), they’re a great addition to your fitness plan. Ultimately, you determine the intensity of the class by how much effort and resistance you choose to put into it. These classes are conducted in group sessions, which can be a huge motivational factor for someone who is accustomed to a solo cardio routine.
Cons: Spinning classes are generally not for beginners. At first, you may find that your legs and glutes are really sore the day after a class. This is a great sign that you trained your muscles differently than usual, which is a perfect way to break through your plateau. Stick with it, work at your own pace, and build up your endurance to see huge improvements!
Get started: Join a class and see what you’ve got! During your first time, don’t be afraid to experiment with the speed and resistance to find what works best for you.
Participants in step classes use low platforms to perform various routines lead by an instructor. They’re low-impact, high-intensity classes, and they provide variety for those used to the typical aerobics class. You can increase intensity by adding higher steps, using hand weights, or by taking more advanced classes that add more variation and complex steps to the routine.
Pros: Step classes have been proven to help increase cardiovascular fitness. They’re also fun classes that allow participants to enjoy cardio exercise while promoting a community feeling among members.
Cons: For those who are not dance-inclined, some of the routines may be too complicated to follow, which may compromise the amount of aerobic benefit derived from the class. There are also some safety concerns associated with step classes, such as increased potential for foot problems and a larger chance of injury with faster tempo music.
Get started: Sign up for a beginner class and let the instructor know that you are new. Learning the different steps can be difficult, but don’t get discouraged- just keep on moving!
Water aerobics involve performing typical aerobic movements and running or jogging in water.
Pros: These classes involve a low risk of injury and are ideal for all ages and fitness levels. Water supports the joints, allowing you to jump and run without the jarring impact that you would experience on dry land. Most classes are performed in the shallow end of a pool, so you don’t have to be an experienced swimmer to participate. You’ll also work at an intensity that is most suitable to your fitness level.
Cons: Water aerobics classes aren’t offered at every gym. If you don’t put in enough effort, or don’t have a motivating instructor, you won’t get much out of the workout. If you’re an advanced exerciser who is trying to build muscle or increase your cardio, you may want to choose another class. Lastly, although these classes offer natural resistance, they don’t significantly help increase bone strength.
Get started: Your gym doesn’t offer classes? Many community centres and local pools do. Search online to find one near you!
Body Sculpting or Body Blast
In these cardio classes, participants use light hand-held weights or barbells with their desired resistance to perform a choreographed combination of exercises set to music.
Pros: These classes are a good way to learn some new exercises and proper technique (when taught by a qualified instructor), and they provide a full-body workout that can improve muscular endurance.
Cons: Although these classes can add variety to the cardio component of your program, they should not be a substitute for weight training. Because the focus is on performing higher repetitions with lighter weights, this type of exercise does not overload the muscles enough for strength gains.
Get started:In your first class, be mindful of the weight you choose. While you may be able to curl a higher weight for 15 reps, you may not be able to curl that heavy for an entire song.
Yoga/Pilates/Mind and Body
Yoga or Pilates-style classes take you through a series of movements that incorporate specific breathing, balance, stretching, and body-strengthening exercises. There are a variety of classes offered, so be sure to do your research before choosing one to ensure it matches your abilities and goals.
Pros: These types of classes are an excellent way to help you relax, get in touch with your body, and reduce stress. They can also help improve flexibility, which is especially beneficial if you’ve been doing a lot of weight training.
Cons: Although there has been some debate that these classes can help you lose weight, they will not bring about significant weight loss on their own. Most classes don’t burn enough calories or increase lean muscle mass significantly enough to impact weight loss. If you have any back or knee problems, these types of classes may worsen your injuries. Be sure to speak to the instructor beforehand for modifications of each exercise so you don’t risk aggravating your injury.
Get started: Look into all the different types of yoga and find one that best fits your style. And, if you don’t like one, be sure to try another!
Dance (Salsa, Hip-Hop, Zumba, Country Line Dancing, Pole Dancing)
Dance classes, no matter what type you choose, are a fun and exciting way to increase your overall cardiovascular fitness.
Pros: If you’re used to the bike, stair climber, or treadmill for cardio, these classes are a great alternative; they’re anything but boring! Dance classes use invigorating music to keep you moving and motivated throughout the sweat session.
Cons: If you don’t get the routine right away, these classes can prove to be quite challenging. Beginners may derive little cardio benefits as they’ll spend more time watching the instructor than participating in the class. Over time, your body may start to adapt to these classes, so you will benefit by adding some variety to continue your progress.
Get started: Make it a ladies night and try out a class with a friend. It’ll feel like a Saturday night (minus the booze and high heels).
Boxercise or Cardio Kickboxing
These classes were incredibly popular a few years ago. They provide a high-impact cardiovascular workout that blends elements of boxing, martial arts, and traditional aerobics into an exercise routine.
Pros: Kickboxing classes are a great stress reliever. They’re a fun way to improve or maintain your cardio fitness. They can also help to improve your coordination and balance.
Cons: With incorrect form, kickboxing can lead to injuries. Some classes might not give you enough of a cardio workout, as you may spend some time listening to the instructor or figuring out movements.
Get started: Jump on in and keep moving! Even if you can’t master the movement, keep your body moving to keep your heart rate up.
See You In The Studio!
Add some fun and variety to your workout program by trying out a class. Maximize your chances of reaching your fitness goals by including a weight-training component in addition to your weekly cardio classes. Most gyms have a schedule of their fitness classes at the front desk or posted on boards around the gym. Be sure to ask a staff member if you need further clarification on any of the classes offered. Many gyms offer a free trial class – take advantage of this (if you’re not already a member of a gym) by trying out different gyms until you find the class you enjoy the most. In the end, do what you enjoy, sweat, smile, and burn some serious calories!