The value of group fitness

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I know from personal experience that guys can at times be intimidated by group fitness classes. You go to the gym, the Y, or wherever you go to workout and you walk by one of those rooms and all you tend to see are the ladies. “Are guys not allowed in that class? Will it be awkward if I’m the only one in there with a bunch of women? Maybe that’s more of the ’toning’ class when I’m looking for some of the ‘bulking’ variety.” These are thoughts that have gone through my head at some point in time. However, I am extremely grateful for my lack of caring when it comes to certain awkward situations – many types of group fitness classes have been amazing motivators, calorie burners, and drivers toward my overall fitness. If you’ve taken part then you know what I’m talking about. If not, here are some reasons why I love group fitness.


You no longer have 100% of the responsibility on your shoulders.


Especially when it comes to motivation. When you, and you alone, are working toward a fitness goal, it may start out peachy-keen but at some point it becomes difficult to stir up motivation or to hold yourself accountable. It is the community aspect of group fitness that can keep you in the game. What do I mean? When you skip a workout you may get texts, Facebook messages, or calls from your teammates asking if “All is well?” and, “What happened to you today?” They’re generally concerned about your well being perhaps, but they’re also indirectly holding you accountable to you. Guilt trip, anyone?


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You are no longer solely responsible for designing your workout plan. Unless you’ve paid some cash for one of the popular programs, the solo plan is, by definition, all on you. The exercise, number of sets, and number of repetitions… Every day… Some people get paid a lot of money to make those decisions and to come up with intricate plans. If you have to work or go to school it can be extremely hard to keep it variable so that you’re excited and so the muscles don’t know what’s coming. “I’ll take a set of bench here, some squats there, and top it off with a pinch of crunches. Yea, sounds good.”


Friend – “Hey man, we should probably mix it up a bit. We did bench last week, how about some burpees?”


Although that statement may sound generally terrible there could be some truth to it. Also, you’re bouncing ideas off each other and dividing up the mental labor of figuring out what to do next. Two heads are better than one, right?


If you’re working out with a fitness group, there is most likely someone that leads that group.


Whether they are a personal trainer or just a workout fanatic, most of the time those people are a little like me – when it comes to working out they’re a bit off, toe the line of sane and crazy, and they have a high level of energy. These things are all phenomenal for you. Why is that? Fair question:


Maybe you didn’t get a full night’s sleep last night, maybe it’s Monday, maybe it’s Friday, is it too cold or hot outside…? Whatever the excuse, this team leader will be there with a new workout and a high level of energy. They live for this stuff. You can feed off of their energy to A) get to the workout, and B) hopefully improve your performance and effort level once you are there. Exercise can be just as much a mental game as it is physical, and if mood is improved by an energetic instructor, that will lead to a better workout and to better results.


Also, if you enjoy the experience this could push you for a return to the group for the next workout. Variety and a desire to exercise? That all sounds tremendous to me!


There is huge variety with types of group fitness.


Crossfit, BodyPump, Zumba, Cardio Hip-Hop, kickboxing, boxing, obstacle races, yoga, running groups, martial arts, bootcamp style workouts… This list could literally be pages long. Point is – there is something, if not many things, for you to try and maybe love. And no gentlemen, these are not all stereotypically for the ladies.


One of these that I’ve tried and immediately loved is the boot camp classes. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, these are typically groups of people performing circuits of different exercises in succession. I like to use bodyweight moves so that the need for equipment is eliminated. The possibilities are endless. You can try to workout for a certain time period and count your circuits or go for a number of circuits and time how long it takes you to complete this. The moves can vary as can the venue and thus the focus of the workout can change day-to-day. This is the epitome of variety, fun, and community – which is a recipe I thoroughly enjoy.


We’ve had groups from about 2 – 20 and regardless of size you’re feeding off the energy of the group and using props and tools that are available to you either in nature or in your gym. I’ve taken part in and led these classes and it always seems that a sense of camaraderie forms early on. The team starts pushing each other to finish the exercise or to go beyond the planned limits. It truly is a great experience.


If nothing else these classes are a break from the norm. If you’re used to the elliptical or pushing metal around to get a workout in, any of these classes can be a refreshing way to burn calories and work muscles you didn’t know you had. All you have to do is take a tiny step outside of that comfort zone. Give it a try.


You can join a community via signing up for some type of race.


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Many (quarter/half) marathons, obstacle races, and triathlon type races have groups of people form up organically to train together. This can happen online or in person. Everyone pushing each other toward a common goal is a tactic I’ve used and highly recommend. Toward the middle of my weight loss journey I decided to sign up for a half marathon. I hadn’t run distance in school or for ‘fun’ so I figured this would be a great challenge mentally and physically – I had no idea what to expect. Coming from a football/baseball background I had trained to output 100% effort for 4-6 seconds, not constant effort for close to two hours. Definitely a change of pace – this process challenged my body in ways it hadn’t worked before. It helped me to lose weight and increase my fitness, and it was the group aspect that really kept my eye on the prize.


Over the 12 week training program I tried to run with anyone. There was a guy in our apartment complex that signed up for the race – we ran twice. Brother-in-law was in town a few times and we always got a run in. I even ran with a few co-workers who were training for the same half. These mini-group events helped push me to run at different paces and with different people on different routes. I loved any opportunity to mix it up during training.


Said brother-in-law
Said brother-in-law
You know how else this helped? I can’t tell you how many times during the race I thought to myself, “I literally can’t stop now. All these people either know I’m running or are running themselves and they’ll all ask at some point how the race went. I’m not going to look them in the eye and say ‘I didn’t finish.’ Not this guy… Not today.” That would get me through the next tenth of a mile then I’d have to come up with a new con for my mind… Mental battle.


I’m not saying you need to abandon traditional solo workouts.


Running, lifting, and using the elliptical all have tremendous value and should occupy some portion of your fitness arsenal. Sometimes you may not be able to find a group or adhere to someone else’s schedule. That’s no problem – anything is better than nothing. I’m just trying to illustrate the fact that incorporating group fitness into your weekly routine (if only once a week) can be a valuable tool to help motivate and push you to achieve goals you’ve only imagined. If you use the same process with the same effort, you’ll get the same results. Sometimes just a little step outside of your comfort zone is all you need to change your workout routine – which could change your life! Find a group, you just may love it.


Thanks for reading! If you’ve enjoyed this post please subscribe to the blog so that every new post comes straight to your inbox. You can also check out the YouTube channel (MikedUp Blog) or follow Mike on Twitter (@RealMikedUp). Have a question or comment? Let us know by commenting on the post or emailing Mike at [email protected]. We’re glad you’re here. Thanks again and talk soon!


– Mike
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