No matter what kind of exercise facility you walk into, you’re going to be inundated with dozens, if not hundreds, of different fitness classes. Whether it’s a commercial fitness club, a community center or even your workplace’s own fitness center, you’ll have the chance to try your hand at everything from strength and sculpting class to yoga, pilates, this or that kind of aerobics dance class and even specialized martial arts classes.
So how do you choose? How do you decide if you need high-impact or low-impact? Aerobics versus strength? Endurance classes or intervals? Do you go for something that is more mind-body oriented or something that will help you just forget your entire day?
Here are some things to take into consideration when choosing fitness classes that are right for you.
1. What is your current fitness level? Are you a beginner, intermediate, advanced or are you even training for a specific athletic event?
Why does this matter?
This is crucial to think about when you are just starting a fitness routine. Some classes cater to the beginner or infrequent exerciser. If you fall into that category, then try those first. The worst thing that can happen is that you either need to do less or modify the movements. Most instructors will recognize this and help you accordingly.
The best thing that can happen is that you find a class that moves at your pace and skill level or that you’ll need to move onto a harder and more intensive class.
Most facilities will have beginner friendly classes listed on their schedules. If it’s not easy to decipher, ask a membership representative or one of the instructors for help.
Likewise, most facilities will offer advanced classes. These classes will most often list or encourage a specific level of practice or experience. This will depend on the type and the speed of the class and just as you would with beginner classes, you can ask a membership representative or the instructors for more information.
2. What are your specific fitness goals?
When choosing a fitness class, it helps to know what you’re looking to accomplish.
Looking for more muscle tone? Try a strength or sculpting class.
Looking to get your heart rate up and break a sweat quickly? Try any aerobics class.
Looking for more flexibility? Maybe a yoga class is what you need.
Looking for more core strength but without the mind-body stuff of yoga? Maybe pilates is more your speed or a more specific abdominal or core building class.
The beauty of a gym environment is that classes are offered for specific purposes, such as strength, yoga or core work. What is even better about that same environment is that many classes are also catering to people who want more than just one thing- who have several goals but not unlimited time.
Just as you would choose a class based on where you are now, you can also choose what you’d like to see in the future.
3. Do you have any injuries or special considerations that need to be addressed?
Are you nursing torn ligaments, meniscus tears or worn cartilage? Are you coming back from a surgery and are past physical therapy but not willing to go it alone?
Are you pregnant or postpartum? Do you have back issues or are under a doctor’s care with a exercise prescription?
Do you have arthritis issues but refuse to sit home and not do a thing?
If you are a “special case” and are healthy enough to exercise on your own but need specific help, then don’t ignore the class offerings are your gym or fitness center. Most facilities are embracing the special exerciser and are offering specific classes for the active older adult, for pre- and post-natal women and for specific medical issues.
One caveat, most facilities will ask for a form signed by your doctor to make sure that you are indeed healthy enough to participate. It is for your protection as well as for theirs.
Make sure to ask questions from both your doctor as well as the fitness facility if you need to. Choose a class based on what you need and on what you can do.
4. What kind of setting are you looking for? What kind of mood or environment?
Do you work better in a loud, club music pumping environment or is quiet and zen more up your alley?
By knowing what kind of stimulation you’ll respond the best to, you’ll be able to choose classes that fit your needs.
Your most popular aerobics classes will pump out the music and along with it, dozens and dozens of sweaty bodies. Some are out in the open and well-lit, like a high impact step or dance aerobics class. While others are darker and a little more intense, like a cycling or spinning class.
On the other end of the spectrum are your quieter classes with little or no music. These classes tend to be just as intense although that is accomplished through a totally different environment.
5. What do you need from your instructor? What kind of personality? What kind of interaction?
Fitness instructors vary just as much as classes do and sometimes those same instructors are as different as night and day between classes that they teach.
Do you need a drill sergeant yelling and screaming at you, pushing your past any boundaries? Do you need a kinder, gentler approach that still gets the job done? Do you need someone hands on? Or someone hands off?
Do you want someone who has a sense of humor as they teach or who is strictly business?
Do you need them to look a certain way?
Sometimes you’ll need to try an instructor on for size. Do you like how they teach, what they teach and the results they help you achieve?
Or is it time to try someone else on for size?
6. What is your attention span like? Do you need constant variety or do you like the known and predictable?
You will find out as you take classes that some will be the same thing, over and over again. You may enjoy the predictable nature of those classes or you will be bored to tears.
You may also find out that in one class that you’ll never do the same thing, in the same way, twice. Ever.