It’s no secret that I’m an “unconventional” gym rat. I’m not as consistent as I once was, and I’m still carrying most of the “baby” weight from my five-year-old, but one thing I will always know and love is this:
Group fitness changed my life.
I joined my first gym while I was pregnant with my third baby, but I never worked up the courage to go, not even once, while I was pregnant. I thought I would look silly with my big ol’ belly walking slowly on a treadmill. After I had the baby and he started sleeping better at night, I started going to the gym early — as in after his 4am feeding — because no one was at the gym that early to see how ridiculous I thought I looked. It took about a year of weight loss before I swallowed my pride and entered a group fitness class.
And I have never looked back.
After my first class, I remember looking at my friend who invited me and panting, “You’re trying to kill me, aren’t you?!” I was BEAT. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that I felt amazing! A whole year of working out on my own, and I had never pushed myself like that. I had never reached that level of exertion or accomplishment. I had never felt as great as I did that morning. That Thursday strength training class became the highlight of my week, and eventually I added yoga on Tuesdays, cycle on Wednesdays, weightlifting on Fridays, and…well okay, I tried Zumba a few times on Mondays, but it’s okay that they’re not ALL for me.
What I learned through those group classes was this:
- No one cares if you suck. I started to write “no one is looking at you,” but that’s not always true; no one is looking at you if you’re doing it wrong, which is usually what intimidates us. The only time someone may be looking at you is to see how to do it right. We look at the instructor most of the time, but sometimes it’s hard to see or we might want to try a variation, and then we scan the room to see who to model. If you’re doing it wrong, we don’t laugh at what an idiot you are, we just look past you to find what we need. Because in group fitness, we’re all here to make ourselves better, not to make you feel worse.
- The instructor is here for you. When I first started attending group classes, I thought the people who went up to talk to the instructor afterwards were friends who were going to grab smoothies after class or whatever it is that healthy people do after they work out (I had no idea). But one day, I took a deep breath and approached my instructor to ask about alterations I could make to the workout due to a knee injury. Not only was she thrilled to help me, but for months afterward she would come to me during class to adjust my form or check my pain. She offered suggestions from the stage or sometimes she would just yell, “That’s it, Mary Beth!” because she knew I was trying something difficult for me. Group fitness instructors want to see you reach your goals, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- You’re not going to do this on your own. Okay, well, maybe you are extraordinarily self-motivated and can blow through your personal glass ceiling whenever you feel like it just by willing it to happen, but let’s be honest, very few of us can say that. The truth is, group fitness has all the boxes you need to check for a challenging workout that pushes you to be your best: a room full of like-minded companions who can encourage and inspire you; accountability with a set time for each class, like setting an appointment for your health; and curated workouts to address specific fitness goals with modifications for any level of fitness. It’s a recipe for success!