April 13, 2024 | Samantha Henman

Group Fitness Classes Even Beginners Will Love


Group Fitness Is Back

After many long months during the pandemic exercising along to Zoom classes or watching yoga videos on YouTube, fitness studios slowly started reopening—and just like movie theaters and restaurants, there was a difficult adjustment period where everything felt foreign and new. 

From reformer to hot yoga to boxing and spin, there are more options than ever—so if you’re thinking of dipping your toe in the group fitness pool, here’s how to start.

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What Counts As Group Fitness?

Though you could certainly count going to the gym as a form of group fitness—after all, there’s other people there—we’re talking about structured fitness classes with instructors and classmates here.

Women in Black Sports Bra and LeggingsMART PRODUCTION, Pexels

Who Can Try Group Fitness?

Anyone, at any age, at any fitness level, should give group fitness a try—either with friends or solo. There are so many different classes and studios out there that there’s something for everyone.

Elderly People Doing StretchingsYan Krukau, Pexels

Who Should Try Group Fitness?

If you’ve been working out at home or are trying to start working out for the first time but find the motivation lacking, you should try a group fitness class. The structure, social aspect, and the variety of classes can really shake things up and get you going.

Person Doing Stretching Beside a WomanKampus Production, Pexels

Why Group Fitness?

Beyond the social aspect, if you’ve had trouble with injuries but are also working with a budget, group fitness classes provide an opportunity to work with a professional instructor without paying for a personal trainer. Having a qualified instructor guiding you can help prevent injury and improve form.

People Practicing Yoga Inside the StudioPavel Danilyuk, Pexels

But What About My Classmates?

If you’re even a little bit competitive, you might feel the drive to work harder when you’re moving side by side with others. But if you’re self-conscious, there’s no need to worry—during a class, the majority of people become so focused on their own movement and form that you can be sure they’re not paying attention to you.

Woman Helping Another Woman Stretch Her BodyPavel Danilyuk, Pexels

When To Start Group Fitness?

Though things at gyms and studios can get a little hairy around the “New Years Resolution” period, there’s no better time than the present. Classes can fill up quick, so even if you can’t see yourself getting started in the next few days, there’s no better time to book a class next week or the week after than right now. 

Photo Of Woman Using Earphones at gym.Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels

Where Do I Go?

Finding the right place with the right activity can be daunting, and we’ll run down some of the most popular classes to take. While services like Classpass give you the opportunity to try a variety of places in your area, there are two factors that everyone should consider when signing up for a group fitness class.

Man in White Tank Top and Black Shorts looking at phone.cottonbro studio, Pexels

Ask A Friend

When it comes to finding a class or studio to try, you can trust internet reviews—but the people you should trust the most are the ones you already know, and who know you. Ask friends and neighbors if they’ve taken any local classes that they enjoyed. They’ll give you a far more honest review than anyone online.

Photo Of Women Talking To Each OtherKATRIN BOLOVTSOVA, Pexels

Consider Proximity

If you’re really looking to make a commitment to group fitness and not just attend the occasional class, you’ll be more likely to stick with it if you don’t have to go through an annoying commute to get there. Ultimately, that could be the factor that holds you back, even if you like everything else about it.

Photo of Man Walking on the street.Min An, Pexels

How Do I Sign Up For Classes?

Many fitness studios use online services like MindBody or FitGrid for booking. Sign up for an account at each before exploring local studios to make purchasing a class or pack more seamless. As mentioned, Classpass is also a great option for those looking to explore different formats—but offers vary by city and state.

Photo Of Woman Laying On Sofa with her laptop.KATRIN BOLOVTSOVA, Pexels

Cardio Vs Strength Vs Mobility

No matter what kind of exercise you’re doing, each will involve a different combination of cardio, strength, training, and mobility—yes, even yoga classes. Consider what your strengths, weaknesses, and goals are when it comes to each, and read the descriptions for classes that interest you to see how they integrate each type of exercise.

Man working at gym.Andrea Piacquadio

Cut Through The Lingo

Many group fitness studios might have created their own formats and vernacular for their classes that don’t exactly explain what you’re getting into. It can be hard to understand exactly what they mean—and though we have some tips on frequently-used language, it can also be easier to just call them up and ask for a less flowery description of the class.

Group of People at a Yoga StudioYan Krukau, Pexels

Lingo 101: Cardio

If a class description mentions terms like high-impact, mobilize, energize, energetic, high-energy (sense a theme here?), endorphins, stamina, coordination, drills, or the phrase “heart-pumping”? You’re looking at a class with a lot of cardio. That’s full-body movement often found in formats like dance, spin, HIIT (high-intensity interval training), and barre.

People at Jazz Dance Studio.teo_ladodicivideo, Flickr

Lingo 101: Strength

If you see words like functional movement, challenging, stability, feeling supported, full-body strength, alignment, conditioning, toning, heat, low-impact, or building, you might be in for some strength training. This can mean work with weights or simply with your own body weight—in formats like strength training (duh), circuit training, and Pilates.

Woman in Blue Active Wear Lifting DumbbellsAndrea Piacquadio, Pexels

Lingo 101: Mobility

Most often associated with yoga—which, of course, can also build strength and get your heart rate going—classes that focus on mobility may use phrases like flow, breath, fluid, stabilize, balance, recovery, flexibility, mindfulness, presence, posture, breathwork, meditation, and connecting mind & body.

Barre, Pilates, and strength training studios may also offer mobility-focused courses to help their students recover.

People Doing Stretching TogetherPavel Danilyuk, Pexels

Community Classes

Many fitness studios will offer community classes with more accessible pricing. Sometimes, this is simply to drive new students to sign up—but these may also be taught by new instructors as part of their training. Though they may be fantastic teachers, it might not give you a well-rounded glimpse into what the studio actually has to offer.

Focused black woman exercising with battling ropes near coach.Julia Larson, Pexels

“Signature” Classes

A studio may offer its most basic (though not necessarily introductory) and well-rounded class as a “signature” class. It’s likely these will be taught by an experienced instructor and feature full-body movement. Signature classes can be a great way of getting to know if you like a studio in just one class.

People Doing Yoga on class.Aatm Yogashala, Pexels

Prepare Yourself

Different classes may have different expectations for what to bring. For example, some studios provide towels or yoga mats, while others expect you to bring your own. Wear what you’re comfortable in and don’t spend money on “gear” until you’ve really committed to an activity. Bring a water bottle.

But the very best way to prepare? Check the website FAQ for the facility you’re interested in attending.

An Elderly Man Sipping Water from bottleVlada Karpovich, Pexels

The Benefits Of Being A First Timer

Many studios offer introductory packages with extremely competitive pricing—better than even what Classpass can offer. Try and break down what you get out of the intro package and figure out how many classes you’d need to take to make it worth it. A common package can cost the price of 2-4 classes, but offer unlimited access for 2 weeks—a bargain, when you break it down.

Instructor Teaching Women Proper Hand PositionYusuf Çelik, Pexels

Know Your Limits

Of course, if you can’t walk for five days after your first spin class, you might not be able to reap the benefits of that two-week unlimited access. When you take your first class, don’t push yourself to keep up with the other students. Keep your own pace where necessary to avoid injury.

Woman Lying On A Mat Beside An Exercise BallMikhail Nilov, Pexels

Explore The Whole Facility

Trying out a group fitness class isn’t just about what happens in the 45 minutes or 1 hour that the door is closed and you’re working out. Some studios are bare-bone, one-room operations, while others can be huge complexes with showers, saunas, and other amenities. This will be reflected in the price—and might end up being a huge draw, depending on your lifestyle.

Man With a Towel at a Locker RoomIvan Samkov, Pexels

Be Aware Of Policies

Every studio has different policies surrounding timeliness and cancellations, including for specifics for first timers, which should be listed on their website. For example, you may want to show up early enough to get a tour or have to show up early to sign safety and consent forms before your first class.

Woman with glasses reading on laptop.Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels

Finding The Right Fit

There’s truly something for everyone out here, so if you try something and you don’t like it, it could be the instructor, the studio, or the type of class itself. Try and give it a second chance, either by taking a different class at the same place or by switching up the studio. Talk to staff—they may be able to recommend a different class more suited to your needs.

Or, if it’s just not working for you—try something completely different!

Strong man training with instructor in gymJustin L U C K, Pexels

What Kind Of Fitness Class Is Best For Me?

There are as many types of fitness classes as there are people—which is to say, a whole bunch. Here, we’ll run down some of the most popular types of fitness classes and what to expect from each type.

A Woman in Pink Tank Top looking at camera.RDNE Stock project, Pexels

Pilates

Right now, Pilates is one of the most popular group class formats out there—and it’s no wonder. Pilates blends strength and mobility exercises in a low-impact format. It may be working out small muscle groups you didn’t even know you had, but you’ll see and feel the results all over. Pilates is great for core strengthening.

Though reformer Pilates is all the rage right now, mat Pilates is also a great option.

Photo of a Woman Doing Yoga on a Colorful Yoga MatKoolShooters, Pexels

Reformer Pilates

Reformer Pilates take place on a large machine called, you guessed it, a reformer—and while it can seem intimidating, it can actually give you a more full range of motion than you might get on a mat. Thanks to the size of the machines, there may be less students in the class than a mat class, which can allow for more one-on-one time with the instructor.

The Interior of a Pilates StudioKarl Solano, Pexels

What To Expect From Reformer Pilates

During a class, you’ll spend most of your time on the carriage of the machine in various positions, using a combination of a bar, straps, and/or a jumpboard to move your body in repetitive motions, pulses, or holds. Though it can feel precarious, trust the machine—it can hold your weight easily.

If it’s your first time taking a reformer class, arrive early and ask your instructor for a quick rundown of the names of the parts and how the springs, which control resistance, work.

Woman Doing Pilates ExerciseMaria Charizani, Pexels

Mat Pilates

Though they may appear very different, both reformer and mat Pilates use a lot of the same movements and postures. With mat Pilates, you may also use props, like light weights, blocks, or squish balls. The difference is you won’t have resistance like you do on the reformer. Mat Pilates especially works the core muscles, even during exercises that work the arms or legs.

Woman unfolding sport mat on wooden floorKarolina Grabowska, Pexels

Barre Class

If you’ve taken Pilates before, it’s likely that you’ve done a lot of the same movement you might experience in a barre class. Barre combines small, precise Pilates-like movements with ballet-inspired moves—think plies with a weight in one hand and the other hand on the proverbial barre. But there’s not usually too much dancing here.

Girls at Pilates class.teammarche, Flickr

What To Expect From Barre

Though most moves are full-body, many barre instructors follow a similar format—a sequence of moves at the barre for legs, a sequence standing for arms, and a sequence on the mat for core. There may also be a cardio component involving some very basic aerobic dance-inspired moves to get the heart rate up.

Pilates ClassHerald Post, Flickr

Spin Classes

Before everyone had a Peloton in their basement or garage, there were spin classes, which have that rare combo of relatively low-impact movement (AKA no jumping up and down on the floor) and heart-racing cardio, all along to a sometimes-deafening playlist. A sweat towel is a must, and ask for earplugs if you think you might need them. You may also have small weights for upper-body sequences.

Spinning class at fitness center.Aberdeen Proving Ground, Flickr

What To Expect In A Spin Class

You’ll be biking with different levels of resistance and an instructor at the front guiding you through the paces. If you’re unfamiliar with the equipment, get a primer from the instructor beforehand, including how to adjust the height of the seat, and how to click in and out of the pedals with your shoes.

You’ll be spending most of the class pedalling with your rear lifted off the seat, so it’s best to get everything just right beforehand.

Spin Fitness Classes.Nottingham Trent University, Flickr

Yoga

There are so many different types of yoga classes out there—there’s truly something for everyone and every fitness level. These can range from vinyasa yoga, where you move through poses at a much faster pace, to hot yoga, which takes place in a heated room, all the way to restorative yoga, where you hold deeper poses for longer intervals—sometimes affectionately called “adult naptime”.

Photo Of Women Stretching TogetherCliff Booth, Pexels

What To Expect In A Yoga Class

Different yoga classes will have different paces, poses, and props. Check your studio’s instructions for each. If you’ve never taken a yoga class before, look for classes marked “foundations” to get an idea of how to properly execute common poses before moving up to try different formats. Some teachers may simply call out poses instead of demonstrating them, which can make classes hard to follow.

Group of People Practicing Yoga.Yoga Samaadhi, Pexels

HIIT Classes

High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, alternates short periods of intense, sometimes grueling movements with active recovery periods where you’re still moving and exercising. Essentially, you’re trying to hit a high heart rate for an extended period of time to work up a sweat and burn fat more easily.

Man Holding Brown RopeCesar Galeão, Pexels

What To Expect In A HIIT Class

Much like yoga, there are many types of HIIT classes—and many have specific branding, which can make it confusing. A boxing fitness class can be a HIIT class, a CrossFit class can be a HIIT class (with more focus on functional movement), and bootcamp classes like Barry’s can be HIIT. Ultimately, what you expect will depend on the format—but you’ll definitely need a towel and a full water bottle.

Man in Blue Tank Top Pushing a TireKetut Subiyanto, Pexels

Zumba

Zumba is a great option for anyone who finds themselves in the middle of a regular workout class wondering, “When will this be over?” The combination of high-energy, aerobic Latin-inspired dance moves with rhythmic music will make an hour pass in the blink of an eye.

Zumba dance workout.Esther Max, Flickr

What To Expect In A Zumba Class

Zumba is a whole lot of dancing—so, like any cardio-focused class, be sure to bring water. Most importantly, especially if you’re not used to cardio, pace yourself so that you’re not having to duck out of the room 15 minutes in. It might be hard to pick up on the moves at first—but don’t worry, everyone has been there before, and everyone gets it eventually.

Keep your effort consistent and most importantly, have fun.

Woman dancing at Zumba class.crmgucd, Flickr

Other Classes

If none of the above options appeal to you, there are so many other types of fitness classes, from kickboxing to water aerobics to aerial and pole fitness to martial arts. There is really something for everyone, so keep trying different things until you find your niche.

Fit young male and female athletes training on punching bag in gymAnnushka Ahuja, Pexels

Prioritize Recovery

Most group fitness classes will end with a short period of stretching—but don’t stop there. Continue stretching problem areas later on at home, or muscle groups that got a lot of work. Remember to hydrate more than you normally would and take a few days rest after a new type of exercise to see how it hits your muscles.

A Woman Smiling while Stretching Her ArmsKampus Production, Pexels


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