Why I love Group Fitness
I want to start by saying this - I truly believe that everyone needs to find an exercise that they love and can stick to for years to come. That is the only way you can truly make exercise a part of your life and a change you can stick to.
It took a long time for me to find that.
As a kid, I tried my fair share of sports. Before middle school, I played tennis, soccer, basketball and swimming. I also tried gymnastics, dance lessons, and skiing. But none of them really pulled me in. I remember being picked on a lot by my soccer team in elementary school. The only person I really bonded with was the coach - he used to bring breadsticks to practice, and once he taught me how to make pasta sauce while my father was taking piano classes with his landlord.
My point: sports was never my calling.
Even in high-school, I had a hard time finding something that I enjoyed. I went to a pretty fancy high-school, and we had gym classes like yoga, badminton, Zumba, and even fencing. Yeah, I know.
But it wasn’t until college that I discovered group fitness classes. And it wasn’t until years later that I really fell in love with them.
I took a few classes at my college gym with some friends, but I was more interested in the food we made (or ordered) afterwards than the workouts themselves. When I moved to Virginia and started my weight loss journey, I joined a gym with two close friends and coworkers.
It was that camaraderie that kept me going to the gym, and especially the classes. I owe a lot of my success to my friend, Brenna, who pushed me to try new classes like Boot Camp and Zumba and Body Pump. When you go with a friend, it’s a lot less scary.
But over time, I started enjoying the classes themselves. I started to get to know the instructors, the other participants, and I started finding a sense of community - which was extra important since I was 500 miles from my family.
One moment in particular sticks out vividly in my mind. In the middle of a Cardio Dance Fit class, about 4 months into my weight loss, the instructor paused between songs and turned around to the class. Even though I was hiding in the back, she called me out and asked “how much weight have you lost?”
I was a little embarrassed and surprised, but I also felt so proud, I had lost 25lbs. And people were noticing! Everyone in the room clapped for me and then we got back to our workout. But it was a moment that’s lasted in my memory ever since then.
When we moved back to Massachusetts, I looked for gyms with classes to join, but there weren’t a lot nearby. I did a trial membership at a place called Ilovekickboxing.com, and I had so much fun at the classes. But the membership was WAY out of my price range.
So I took to the internet and looked up how to become an instructor.
Side note: I was always into the performing arts. I’ve been performing in plays and musicals since I was a toddler, and I’ve since realized I love the limelight. So becoming an instructor wasn’t a huge leap for me.
I found TurboKick Live and signed up, and started teaching just a few months later.
Honestly, if it wasn’t for becoming an instructor, I think I would have gained all my weight back by now.
Because I finally found something I loved.
There are so many reasons I enjoy group fitness classes - even now that we’re virtual (although it’s not quite the same).
Of course, there are the workouts themselves. All group classes are different, but most have loud upbeat music, and challenge me to push harder and go further. A class set-up allows you to secretly compete with the person next to you. Or, perhaps, the instructor. I try to push myself harder so that my participants push themselves too. There’s something to be said for seeing someone else working their A$$ off in the mirror (or on the zoom chat) - it pushes you to want to work harder.
But, if you need to modify - for whatever reason, group classes are great for that too. There’s an individualization you can’t get when you’re doing a pre-recorded virtual class. I love the opportunity to go to the instructor and say “hey I hurt my shoulder, I don’t think I can do that move, what should I try instead?” And then they work with you to figure out a move you can do that will build strength in a similar way.
I’ve noticed that when I do a pre-recorded workout video, and I can’t do a move, I just stop. Even as a relatively fit person that knows a lot of modifications and exercises! It’s hard to make up modifications for yourself. It’s much easier to talk it out with someone who can work with you and your individual body! (But, without the price-tag of a personal trainer).
One reason I love group classes is the accountability factor. As the instructor, if I don’t show up… there’s no class. So that’s a big help to me. I kinda have to show up.
But there’s also a lot of accountability because of the community that we’ve created. I make it my mission to know the names of every person that takes my class. And because I know their names, they know they are seen and acknowledged as a member. My participants know that I will notice if they’re not there. Many of them text me if they aren’t going to be there, just because they know that I will notice and wonder (or worry) where they are. This wasn’t an intentional factor, it’s just something that came about as we created this community together.
But the most important is the camaraderie.
The people I call my Fit-Family. I am so lucky to have a core group of people that keep me - and each other - going strong. As I mentioned earlier, as an instructor, I try to learn the name of every single person in my class. They, in turn, learn each other’s names, and they start to feel less like a bunch of strangers getting sweaty in a room together, and more like friends.
I also give breaks so people can talk to each other, get advice, learn new things, and make connections (in addition to catching their breath and getting some water).
Before Covid, I would go around and give everyone a high five after the “turbo” section. And at the end, we’d do a high-five train. And of course, I do my best to celebrate the milestones - hoping to give someone the same feeling of pride and accomplishment (and maybe embarrassment) that I felt so many years ago.
Classes might not be for everyone, but I am so glad I was able to find an exercise I love. And I plan on teaching - or participating in - group classes for a long time to come.