How to get better results from group fitness

Mondays are great days to talk about fitness. Before I head out the door to teach my regular weekly Les Mills BODYATTACK class, I wanted to share some tips for those of you who attend group fitness classes regularly or who want to get started.

Even though it may seem like enough just to show up and participate, if you’re really interested in getting the most out of the classes you’re booking and paying for, this is for you. So without further ado …

How to get better results from taking group fitness classes via A Lady Goes West

How to get better results from taking group fitness classes

  1. Show up early to class and introduce yourself to the instructor. If you’re new, tell the instructor that you’re new and let him/her know if you have any limitations and need special modifications. This is nothing to be embarrassed about and the instructor will appreciate the fact that you came forward. That advice will help you perform better throughout class. This will also let the instructor know that they can make eye contact with you and offer suggestions as needed throughout the class. Even if you’ve been going to a class for a while, it’s always good to steal away the instructor’s time before or after class and let them know more about you and your fitness level. It will ultimately help you get more out of the class.
  2. Stand toward the middle of the room, so you have clear view of the instructor. But don’t stand in front facing the mirror and only look at yourself. Although you want to monitor your form every once in a while in the mirror, it’s more important to watch the instructor as they demo the moves. If you go in the back, you may have trouble seeing the instructor’s full body. While you may think it’s easier to follow the person in front, make sure you always look to the instructor first as the model of correct form. And of course, don’t ever worry about comparing yourself to your fellow class participants, because it’s not a competition.
  3. Listen to the instructor’s coaching cues and tips and make adjustments to yourself. While you want to make sure you move with the group, don’t just focus on “looking the part” but also make sure you have all the basics covered for your form, which are the little things that the instructor will be reminding you throughout class. That means you have your heels grounded if told to do so, and are pulling your shoulders back and bracing your core at all times. These small adjustments are sometimes hard to see, but they make a world of difference in the benefits you get from exercise moves. The instructor coaches your set-up and movement patterns for a reason, so be sure to listen and adjust.
  4. It’s okay to stop and take a breather when you need to. If you’ve never done the class before, there’s no shame in taking a break. Breathe, grab water, regroup and go back in. And if the class is particularly hard, feel free to leave halfway through, but make sure you stretch and cool-down properly on your own. The next time you attend class, go for longer than you did the first time until you build up to the whole class.
  5. Give a class at least three tries before you decide if it’s right for you. Honestly, it sometimes takes that long to understand the way a workout class operates, and you may find that the second and third time are much more enjoyable once you get the initial class out of the way.
  6. Don’t worry about anyone else and don’t be self-conscious. One of the number one things I encounter as an instructor and trainer is that people feel very worried they are being judged, and thus avoid classes or try to hide in the back. However, most people are so worried about their own performance in each workout, that they never bother to look around. I can assure you that no one is watching you to see how you do in your first class, other than the instructor if you’ve let them know you’re new (see #1). Just let loose and work hard. It’s okay, it’s just exercise.
  7. Ask questions and ask for help. No matter how long you’ve been going to a class, it’s okay to ask the instructor what you’re doing right and wrong and ask them to look out for you. Oftentimes classes are too full and busy for you to get personal attention, but seek out the advice of the instructor when you can to make sure you’re getting the most out of the moves. You may be making mistakes you don’t even know about, which can be fixed with a simple tweak.
  8. Work out on your own as well and be responsible for your own fitness. One of the biggest things I tell my clients is to be sure their body is prepared and ready for a group fitness class, as well as recovered after a class. That means you may need to stretch, foam roll and warm up more than is offered in the class setting, or you may need to continue stretching or cooling down after class, outside of the group fitness room. You will also want to make sure you have variety in your workout routine, and sometimes that requires solo workouts or sessions with a personal trainer, in addition to the classes you attend.
  9. Have fun with it. Group fitness is designed to be fun. There’s something about the setting of tons of people working in close proximity that helps you push yourself. So enjoy what you do, and if you’re not having fun in a class after a few times, try something else.

Group fitness is a great way to sweat and try new exercises you may not do on your own. While I always recommend that people meet with a personal trainer for at least a few weeks to get a fitness program ramped up, get advice on how to rehab an injury or to reach a goal, group fitness is always an easily accessible way to bridge the gap and get in a few awesome workouts each week. So get out there and sweat, my friends!

Are you getting the most out of the classes you take? Here's how to get BETTER results in group fitness classes ... #GroupFitness Share on X

By the way, this post originally appeared last month on Katie’s blog, Daily Cup of Kate, when I filled in for her as a guest. I didn’t want you to miss out, so it came back again today on A Lady Goes West. 

More group fitness talk

As always, if you have any questions or feedback, please let me know in the comments. And for those of you who are group fitness instructors, check out “Top 10 ways to grow your group fitness classes,” which I shared last week, as well as some group fitness class reviews over on the Fitness page. Have a good one!

Questions of the day

Do you attend group fitness classes?

What are your favorites? 

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  1. Such great tips Ashley! Although I’m totally guilty of hovering around the edges of classes vs. braving the middle. 🙂 It’s hard not to be self-conscious when you’re just starting out, even when you “know” no one is really watching you.

  2. “It’s okay, it’s just exercise.” Haha!

    I love these tips! I’m glad I read through this as I’m navigating the San Francisco fitness scene. You’re right; it takes a few visits before you can decide if a workout is suited to you. I also feel like trying out several places is a good way for someone to better understand each of the individual experiences (for example, I thought I liked one workout but realized after attending other new classes that I actually did not have fun at the first one comparatively). I have been relying on group fitness classes for the past years, and I do think I should start focusing on myself a little more… at least with yoga since I don’t make it to a studio quite as much as I ever plan to, and I tend to feel like I’m not progressing. Food for thought, as always. Thanks for sharing this!

  3. Thanks for sharing these tips! I’ve been going to Body Pump for almost 2 years, but have switched gyms a few times. It’s never a bad idea to get to know the instructor a little bit. =) Body Pump and yoga are my favorites.. and I wish I was able to do more Barre. Have a great day!

    1. Thanks, Emily! Yes, I can speak from experience that as an instructor, I love to learn more about my members. And BODYPUMP and yoga makes for a great combination. Have a lovely day:)

  4. I really am a big believer in the group motivating the members individually. Group Fitness has exploded in the past few years and I am always looking for trying something new in San Francisco.

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