Finding The Perfect-Fit Exercise Class
Have you recently had a friend go on and on about a great new group exercise class that she took? Have you seen advertisements for some classes that look like fun, but you hesitate because you’re not sure if they are right for you? Don’t be afraid to try something new; just do some research to make sure the class in meant for you.
Many gyms will create a group exercise calendar complete with descriptions of the classes and some will even have a rating scale, stating whether a class is for a beginner, intermediate or advanced exerciser. That will give you a good idea of what type of clientele they had in mind when they created the class.
You should be able to observe any class that a club offers. Some classes may be able to accommodate you in the back or side of the room and for others you may need to observe from outside of the room. You can also speak to the instructor before the class to ask whatever questions you might have or explain your fitness level or limitations to the instructor and ask if they think the class is for you.
Find out what the instructor’s credentials are. A group exercise instructor should be certified or have some official training in the class they are leading as well as a CPR and First Aid certification. Two well-known and respected certifications are ACE (American Council on Exercise) and AFAA (Aerobics and
Fitness Association of America). If the class is Zumba or spinning, there are specific trainings that those instructors must complete before instructing a class. A certification ensures that the instructor knows and explains variations to different moves or exercises that are done in the class. A high impact move, such as jumping, can be dangerous to someone who’s out of shape or has joint problems. Low impact moves are safer and less stressful to your body and are better for people who are new to the class.
If you would like to ease into a class, ask if it is an option to stay for the first half of the class. It might be a class that you need to work up to being able to complete the whole thing. If the class is usually an hour, ask if it would be OK to do the first 30 minutes of the class. If you do leave a class before it is over, make sure you cool down properly. Walk around for 2-3 minutes, take some deep breathes and do a few stretches before you hit the shower.
There is a proper starting point for every person who wants to exercise. If you haven’t done too much activity recently, a good way to begin is to start walking 3-5 times a week for 20, then 25, then 30 minutes at a time. This will create an aerobic base for you so your body will be ready to try something new. Classes are not usually geared to a certain age group so don’t assume you are ever too old! They are targeted to fitness levels, and your current level can be increased with a little hard work.
Gyms are always trying to get new members to try their classes, so don’t be afraid to check out the schedule. The most consistent exercisers are the people who are enjoying what they are doing; so find something you like and stick with it!
Sheila Clancy, MS, CHES, is a 20-year veteran of the corporate fitness industry and currently works for Health Fitness Corporation as a Fitness Center Director and Wellness Coordinator. Sheila was the 2006 Health Fitness President's Award recipient and the 2007 Health Fitness Site of the Year recipient. She has written articles for “Muscle and Fitness”, “HERS” and “Personal Fitness Professional."