There was a spin class where I couldn’t take the shouting.
Another time, the music was too loud (my hearing isn’t great but I am sensitive to loud noise).
Then a yoga class where the instructor didn’t want to believe my answers to his health questions. He basically accused me of lying to him. Then he proceeded to poke the participants with a wooden stick if he didn’t like their posture.
I walked out of all these classes within the first ten minutes.
Maybe I was unlucky. Perhaps I am a bit antisocial. Or I don’t like being told what to do!
Most of the time, I am happy exercising alone. I do like to have other people around – I feed off the energy of others in the gym but want to be doing things at my own pace. However, I know that if I exercise with someone or in a group I often end up pushing myself harder and achieving more.
If you are trying to keep mobile and stay active for longer, you know it’s hard to do by yourself. If you have done a class in the past, you will know that the social aspect and the encouragement to work just that bit harder keep you coming back.
You may be concerned about joining a class. Perhaps you are worried it won’t be at the right level for you or that the exercises will be too strenuous.
Read on to understand why a class can be so helpful, and, most importantly, how to choose the right class for you.
“The merry atmosphere created by our instructor is what brings me each week”
We’ve all been there – you plan to go to the pool, gym or for a walk today. Definitely today (you didn’t manage it yesterday). Just a few things to get done first…. If you don’t get up and go first thing in the morning (a great idea, by the way, which I will cover in another article), you can end up getting sidelined by one thing after another. Before you know it, it’s too late or you have other commitments and can’t fit it in after all. Having a group class booked in your diary gets around all of that. Especially if you have booked AND paid in advance.
It’s hard to know how much you can push yourself (especially if you haven’t exercised for a while). You might not know if an exercise is suitable for your new hip or will benefit your arthritic knee. Often it feels safer not to do something than to risk further damage. A knowledgeable and experienced instructor will make sure that the exercises are effective, without being too strenuous. A caring, supportive instructor will give you the confidence to challenge yourself and work hard, whilst making sure you don’t overdo it. A great instructor will also create an atmosphere which keeps you coming back every week.
A group class is also much less expensive than a one-to-one session with the same instructor. So, you can get their expert attention on a regular basis without breaking the bank.
It can be hard to keep your energy and motivation up when you have aches and pains. When everyone around you is trying their best despite their varied health challenges, it can help to keep you going through another set of lunges or arm curls. The camaraderie and encouragement of the group is one of the main reasons why our Strong Foundations members come back term after term.
There is an excellent, happy atmosphere – everyone trying their best. I enjoy the classes enormously. Your enthusiasm is contagious!
(Jane, Strong Foundations member)
The added bonus? The benefits of being in a group go beyond the resulting improved strength or better balance. Social interaction, in and of itself, helps us to be healthier and live longer. It’s also vital for keeping your brain healthy – if we don’t spend enough time in the company of others, our cognitive abilities, memory and social skills all suffer. Research has found that people with less social interaction don’t recover as quickly from illness, don’t sleep as well, have higher blood pressure and faster heartbeats. Look out for a future article with the full story on how social interaction keeps us healthy and engaged in life.
A perfect solution, then? Yes, if you benefit from the group environment (some people just prefer being alone and that’s OK too) and it’s the right group for you.
Sure-fire signs that a class is not a good fit for you
You want to find the most suitable class for you at this point in your life. Stop and think twice if any of these apply to your class:
- A group can be too social. Whilst the support and friendly atmosphere can keep your spirits up, they can also be a big distraction. If there’s more chit-chat than cardio then it might not be the best use of your time and money. Plus, there’s more risk of injury if you are busy hearing about Joan’s granddaughter’s friends’ wedding and not concentrating on good posture and technique.
- Gentle competition is great but anything more can put you at risk of injury. Watch out if the group (or your competitive nature – you know who you are!) mean the session becomes too competitive and you push yourself beyond what’s right for you.
- Class size is important – too small and you may not have enough atmosphere, too large and the instructor (however good they are) simply won’t be able to get to know you and help you on an individual basis.
- A group exercise instructor needs to have a plan, stay flexible and support all members of the class. I would be concerned if your instructor can’t adapt an exercise, or they never walk around the group and give you individual tips and advice.
A handy checklist for finding the best class for you
What does this mean for you? Here are some tips to help find the most appropriate class for you:
The class should be:
- On a day/ time which you can commit to on a weekly basis (the effects of exercise are cumulative – you just have to keep going!)
- In a pleasant space, with good lighting and a comfortable temperature
- A group of people who you feel comfortable with (they don’t need to be or become your best friends but you should feel relaxed in their company)
Look for an instructor who:
- Is qualified and experienced in delivering this sort of class
- Promotes a positive and welcoming atmosphere
- Takes the time to ask how you are before a class and to adapt the exercises based on any new information
- Moves around the group during the class and gives you individual advice and encouragement
- Asks for and is happy to hear your feedback
As you exercise more, you will start to learn what it feels like when you are working at the right level for you (no pain, no gain is not our mantra). You should always leave the session feeling better than when you went in.
You will build up the confidence to trust yourself to know when you should push your body and when you should take a rest. (More on that in another article…)
And finally, remember – however you decide to stay active, make it a date in your diary and stick to it!
I would love to know what keeps you coming back to your exercise class week after week? If you don’t attend a class, please let me know why and what might entice you to give one a go. Leave a comment below or send a message on our contact page– I look forward to hearing from you!