Group fitness classes can give you a fantastic workout and be ridiculously motivating and fun, too. And group fitness instructors are often their own breed of superhero, teaching and encouraging students of all fitness levels with seemingly endless energy.
A good group fitness instructor can make or break a class, much as a good professor can in college. If you’ve hated every yoga class you’ve ever been to, but then you go to one with an instructor you love, you might no longer be able to say you hate yoga. If you are an avid runner, but you go to a spinning class with a great teacher, you might just be convinced to switch up your cardio on occasion.
So, to preface everything else, group fitness instructors are freaking awesome – and I don’t just say that because I am one.
But as great as they are, and as much as they know what they’re talking about, sometimes it is better if you don’t listen to them.
Huh? Let me explain.
After a cycling class a few weeks ago, another somewhat discouraged student and I were talking to the instructor. See, one of the premises of these classes is who “wins” based on “points” that are calculated by some combination of calories burned, resistance used, and speed.
The other student was another young woman, about my size. That is, we are both pretty lean and on the low side of average height. When we were talking to the instructor about how we were frustrated that we couldn’t “win” class, she sympathized, because she is in the same situation in any class she takes. Simply, a smaller person burns fewer calories in general, so small female me expecting to out-ride a 6’3″ guy according to these points is not going to happen.
So, since the instructor knew this feeling, she also had some solid advice for combatting it. She told us to set our own goals for classes and (respectfully) ignore anything an instructor says that gets in the way of those goals.
How freaking simple, right?
No matter what setting you are in, whether you’re being led by a group exercise instructor or a personal trainer or an online workout program, you are the one in control of your workouts.
If you go into a spinning class and just want to let your legs fly and rack up the miles, you can choose to skip the heavy hills and just go faster. If you head into a fast-paced vinyasa yoga class and realize that what you need is an extended savasana, you can lie on your mat and chill out instead of going through ten sun salutations and a host of inversions. And if you want to go to a lifting class and you know that adding weight to your bar is going to make you feel worse instead of better today, you can choose to lift a lighter, even if your instructor invites you to really test your limits.
Instructor’s note: If you want to do your own thing, please do take a spot in the back of the room so newcomers aren’t distracted by you in the front row doing something completely different than what I’m saying.
You don’t have to test your limits every day. Your group fitness instructor’s goals won’t always match your own, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you can’t take group fitness classes; it just means you need to get comfortable with doing your own thing and taking responsibility for your fitness.
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