Why I Love Group Exercise

I’m a fan of Group Exercise, it was how I first ‘got into’ the gym and I now teach 8+ classes myself a week.  I think Group Exercise actually works really well, and I don’t just mean classes – team sports, running clubs – I believe all the ways that people can train with others can have a beneficial effect on people.

  1. It can help you get started – Going into the gym alone at first can be daunting when you have no idea where to start.  A class or a running programme like Couch to 5k provides structure and allows you to get moving in a way you can be confident is safe and effective.
  2. It keeps you committed –  Signing up to a class or joining a team or club where there are set days and times to attend means you are less likely to decide you’d rather go home and veg in front of the TV at the end of a long day.
  3. It can make you work harder – A team sport encourages you to perform you best for your team mates, running as part of a club can encourage you to keep to a set pace, the music, instructor and people around you in a class can make you try as hard as you can for the whole length of the class.  For many there is something about a group that makes you try harder than when you are left to your own devices in the gym.
  4. You have a ready made exercise support network – Especially relevant when you are starting to create new habits.  Your family and friends might not get your commitment to picking a spin class over a Netflix binge at first, the other people in that class will, making all the difference in you not feeling like some kind of freak!  And if you ever aren’t sure about something there’s a whole group of people who might be able to help, in particular, you will also have an instructor or coach who has the knowledge to help you improve at whatever you have chosen to do.
  5. It’s social – You will make friends at a club or in a class.  You get to meet people from different backgrounds and get to know people outside of your normal work / social circle.  This in itself will make sticking to your exercise plans easier.
  6. It can increase your confidence – The group environment and having an instructor or coach to hand can give you the confidence to try new tings, maybe adding a new type of class to your week or running a longer distance.  All the things above can help create an environment where your confidence can grow.

I do like training in the gym by myself too but for pure enjoyment I would always pick a group exercise class as my training of choice that day.

Do you prefer to train alone or as part of a group?

Twenty Things You’ll Know if your a Les Mills Instructor

 

  1. You can make reference to Dan, Rachel, Glen, Lisa and Diana to any fellow instructor confident they will know exactly who you are talking about- we have no need for surnames here.
  2. Except for Kylie Gates- for some reason, you will always full name Kylie Gates.
  3. You have at least one friend on Facebook you know only through the LM Facebook page.
  4. You probably like spamming Facebook posts with pictures of cats…
  5. You can actually hold a debate about the use of dumbbells for at least an hour, even though you don’t really care because essentially a 5kg dumbbell weighs the same as a 5kg plate and is just easier to hold than most plates.
  6. Reading the comments section is often more entertaining than [insert programme you find entertaining here]
  7. People who put an F in the comment section haven’t yet realised that you can follow a post by turning on notifications.
  8. You are keeping an eye out for a No Time For Average vest on the Vintage Emporium page.
  9. You probably have an opinion on the best trainers to wear for Body Attack.
  10. Body Jammers have to sign a secret agreement that they will wear a checked shirt around their waist at all times on Initial Module Training.
  11. All Combaters secretly wish they’d bring gloves back because gloves make you feel badass.
  12. You will either download the little recommended launch schedule at the start of the year or you will ask for it on Facebook every quarter – even though it’s saved in the File Section.
  13. At some point you will have mimed out choreography in a bar. And your non Les Mills friends thought it was H.I.L.A.R.I.O.U.S. … Honest…
  14. This is where fellow instructor friends come into their own – because they WILL think it’s hilarious – and join in.
  15. Turning up to events in the same outfit as others is less of a fashion faux pas in Les Mills land compared to the rest of the world – in fact it’s expected.
  16. You will always find us in Nandos pre or post events.
  17. You can practice an entire release of Pump choreography with your little finger.
  18. You must be able to whoop and clap in tandem in order to pass Body Attack.
  19. Body Combat instructors would be great to have around in the event of a fight as long as that fight was carried out to a eight-count beat with modified martial arts moves.
  20. Can someone cover my Body Step class. TIA? I’m not going to say when or where the class is because that would be too easy…

What (I Think) You Should Know Before Your Group Ex Training (Re- Blog)

I don’t mean how the course is structured, what it will cover or what you need to do to pass.

This isn’t what you need to know.

I mean the important things – the things no one tells you – the things I wish I’d have known the first time I went on each of these!

ETM

  • You will spend approx 6 weeks grapevining. Constantly.
  • To bad music.
  • And by bad music – I mean the type of music I love- I loved the sound track for my ETM. I believe I am in a minority of one on this.
  • You will get DOMS – specifically in your calf’s (blame the above grapevining).
  • On day one you will realise that moving to the beat is one thing. Talking at the same time? Different matter.
  • It’s ok though because on day 2 you’ll start to get the hang of this.
  • You will start putting together your assessment class and decide a knee repeater is the best move ever and design your whole routine around it. It’s going to b the most creative ETM routine EVER. A masterpiece.
  • Then you’ll realise how hard it is to find five progressions for a repeater knee and pick another move. Any move.  Probably the box step.
  • In fact you will have a grapevine and box step in your routine – I’m willing to put money on it.
  • The practical days are long.
  • On day one you will take a packed lunch of spinach and carrot juice. Because fitness instructors are healthy.  And role models.
  • On day two you will take bread and Haribo. Because bread and Haribos will ensure your survival.
  • You will start to consider injecting coffee into your eyeballs as the weeks progress.
  • You will bribe friends into letting you practice on them.
  • They will tell you how amazing you are doing. Even though you’re still shit at this stage.
  • You will cry. At least once.
  • And by once I mean probably at least once a day.
  • On the assessment day you will do your assessment plus take part in several others. Everyone there will be slightly shell shocked with how hard 3 hours of old school aerobics actually is.  I return to your calf’s.  You will probably cry.

IMT (Les Mills)

  • You will spend more time learning your allocated track than you ever spend learning entire releases going forward.
  • You will write a script that Shakespeare would be in awe of ahead of your first presentation.
  • During the first morning you will realise you need to say completely different things to what you’ve scripted and have to start again.
  • You are going to have to introduce yourself and your mind will go completely blank when you try to recall an interesting fact about yourself. Everyone else will do the same and you will think you are the most boring group of people in existence.
  • You will remember the magic powers of Haribo (pic n mix also works well as do Jelly Babies) from ETM and will have come prepared this time.
  • Remember coffee? Yep still vital.
  • You probably signed up to do this course because you thought you were OK at the class right? Wrong – the technique session will convince you otherwise.
  • You will second guess any answer you go to give to any question – What is a layer 1 coaching cue for a squat? What would you say in a class introduction for Body Combat? What is your name? No idea mate.
  • You will feel like you are about to fall asleep around about 3 pm both days – hello Haribos.
  • You want to be perfect. You will panic because you aren’t – you will probably not pass because you definitely don’t move like Lisa O or Rachel.  You do not need to panic about this.  I mean you don’t move like them but you don’t need to.
  • There is an exam on Les Mills on day 2 (kind of)!
  • You are going to have to get used to group selfies. Because these are part of instructor life and if you don’t have a selfie at the end of a course they don’t update your result on the portal so

DVD Submission (Les Mills)

  • Passing the IMT will definitely be the hardest part right? Erm sorry mate but no.
  • Nobody likes filming for certification – but there’s no way round it, not even bribery, I’ve tried!
  • You will practice and script this release to the point you will be able to teach it off the cuff for the rest of your natural life- and probably for several years after you die.
  • Then as soon as the camera is on you will mess up the first rep of the warm up. Even though you can teach this in your sleep.
  • You will film on average 276 times before you are happy with it to submit for your first programme. This number reduces dramatically as the number of programmes you teach grows.
  • Someone will walk in half way through the warm up. They will probably position themselves in front of the camera.
  • It is the law to wear full on Reebok for these filmings. If you wear Combat gear for a Pump DVD or vice versa you will be put on a special watch list and may not pass.
  • The camera will probably stop recording half way through the class- this will be the class that is perfect and you would have definitely submitted on.
  • It may take you several weeks to get a filming you are happy with. It will then take you six months to upload it onto the portal.
  • During this time you will come across Jon from the office. We like Jon.
  • When you pass if you don’t post your certificate on Facebook with an Oscar Style thank you speech they withdraw certification (perhaps).

*Please note some of this “may”be a bit tounge in cheek

First Day Back Pain

Today was my first time teaching a group exercise class for over 3 weeks.

Group Cycle.

I have trained over those thee weeks of course, but with much less intensity and frequency than normal.

Everyone in the class was in pretty much the same boat.  Everyone trains several times a week and did some exercise over Christmas but took their foot off the gas for a bit and had a well deserved rest.

We all hurt during hat class today!

Physically and mentally it felt tough great to be back but definitely a shock to the system.

To be honest by next week we will all probably be back to normal and whilst classes always feel hard we won’t feel like we did today (basically we all were pretty much ready to stop by the half way point!), because you don’t loose your fitness with a three week recovery.

My point.

If you are a regular class / gym goer heading back after the Christmas break don’t stress.  A break (whether it was total or a reduction to your normal routine) is good for you every now and then.  It can reignite your enjoyment and let your body recover and whilst the first couple of sessions back might feel hard ultimately performance can improve when you allow yourself adequate recovery time.  We all had a laugh today about how knackered e felt and adjusted our intensity to alow us to get the session done.

If you are new.  Hopefully what I’ve just said above will help you relax.  Those people you see in classes or the gym who know what they are doing – I can almost guarantee they will be struggling to get back to it after Christmas – so if you are exhausted 10 minutes into a class that’s ok – at this time of year you are honestly not on your own with that – even the instructors are feeling the same as you!

The other good bit of news is that just as getting back into the swing of things happens quicker than you think it will, so can starting to feel results when you first start.  Of course I am not suggesting that you’ll reach your goal within weeks – it does not work like that but will the things that at first make you feel impossible start to feel a bit more manageable within a few weeks? With a consistent approach yes.

To everyone coming back to classes / gym sessions / their normal routine this week do not beat yourself up about taking that break or feeling more knackered than normal in the first few sessions.

“SMART START” What the new person needs to know – Group Exercise

  1. Nobody will be looking at you. You will find that everyone in classes will be focusing on themselves so you don’t need to be self conscious about what you are doing.
  2. It doesn’t matter if you have two left feet. If you are moving you will burn calories even if you go in the wrong direction or use the wrong foot first.
  3. You don’t have to do the whole class first time. If you aren’t sure you can do the whole class straight away speak to the instructor – we will be happy for you to give it a try and leave after a few tracks if that feels right for you – you can keep building up how you long you stay for over a few weeks.  Some exercise programmes have specific plans in place for this (for instance Les Mills have SMART START where you can build up how much of a class you do over a few weeks / classes)
  4. Classes tend to look more intimidating than they really are. If you look in on a class it will look like everyone is super fit and coordinated which can put some people off giving them a go.  In reality everyone works to their own fitness levels, limitations and for their own reasons so there is no set standard of fitness or ability required.
  5. There are always options. You don’t have to jump or run or do any particular exercise that you are not comfortable doing – the instructor will always give you alternatives and they will not make the class any less effective or less of a workout if you take them.
  6. Try to arrive early. Just five or ten minutes will do. That gives you time to get set up and speak to the instructor without rushing or getting stressed – this is especially important if it’s a Group Cycle class or Body Pump class (or any other class which requires equipment) as having the equipment set up right here can make the class a lot more enjoyable.
  7. Tell the instructor you are new. We try and look out for new faces but we don’t always manage to pick out everyone new in a busy class. When we know you are new to the class we can make sure you are set up, know what to expect, check for anything we might need to know to make sure we offer particular options that might help you.
  8. Class goers tend to be friendly. Everyone remembers the first class they went to and you’ll find people will be happy to help you set up or give you a hand during class if you need one and the instructor isn’t close by (still go introduce yourself to us though!). If your nervous just give someone a smile or a hello and they will more than likely start chatting.
  9. Take water. You will need it!
  10. Have fun. My favourite thing about group exercise is that an hour moving to music goes so much quicker than an hour in the gym.  Don’t worry about how good you are at what you are doing, have fun a do what you can and hopefully you’ll find that you soon see results without feeling like exercise is a chore.

What Should I Wear To The Gym?

Simple answer.

Whatever you feel comfortable in.

And that answer is fine if you spend a lot of time training and know what does and doesn’t work for you.  This blog isn’t for you though.

Because that answer isn’t very helpful if you are thinking about starting some form of exercise in the New Year and really don’t know what to wear.  Then it’s just another obstacle to getting started.  I know because years ago when I was overweight and knew that I probably needed to do something not knowing what I should wear (and not feeling comfortable in a ton of lycra) was a good enough excuse to keep putting getting started off.

So here’s some tips to get started:

  • You don’t need to spend lots of new kit. If you want to and can afford it and it will make you feel more confident by all means go splurge in Victoria Secrets.  If you’re starting to dip your toe into the water you don’t need to though – go to Sports Direct or Primark and buy a couple of pairs of bottoms, a couple of tops and a couple of pairs of socks (and if youre female a couple of sports bras).  They don’t need to be any fancy materials to start, as long as you feel comfortable and can move about in them they will work to get you started.  As you get more into training and get to decide what you enjoy doing you can then invest in kit that works for that particular sport in time – right now those expensive compression running tops could be a waste of money if you find out that really you much prefer Zumba.
  • You don’t need super expensive trainers. Same as with clothes. Once you settle on a sport or area of training you may wish to invest in certain shoes (lifting shoes, dance shoes, running shoes, cycle shoes) but to start just buy a pair of trainers that are comfortable.  Think about what you are planning on doing.  If you are going to try classes out a trainer with a spin spot on the sole (a circle type mark on the sole will indicate this) can be useful as it allows you to turn on the spot (which you will do in most dance based classes but is also useful in classes such as Body Combat) – most trainers in the ‘studio’ section on a sports store website will have this.  These shoes will also work well if you plan on venturing into the gym.  If you are going to go running look for a trainer in the running section of the store / website- it doesn’t need to be expensive right now.  For cycling classes you may eventually want to be a cycle shoe you can use cleats with but until you know it’s the exercise for you just pick a trainer with a decent sole (very thin soles will make the class a little painful).
  • You don’t need to wear very fitted clothes. Of course you can if that’s what makes you feel good but don’t feel the pressure to go super skimpy lycra clad if that will make you feel self conscious. People wear all sorts of things to the gym from baggy tops to brightly coloured comic strip style leggings so whatever style will make you feel good is the style to pick and if that means covering up or wearing something loose go for it (just try and make sure it’s not so baggy it impedes safe movement / is something you risk tripping up on!)
  • You don’t need to expose lots of flesh. As above, wear what makes you feel good. Some people like wearing shorts or a crop top to train in, others people prefer to wear leggings and vest tops or long sleeve tops – it has nothing to do with how ‘fit’ people are or what their abs look like – it’s just personal preference as to what makes people feel comfortable whilst training so go as covered or uncovered as you wish.
  • Your basic kit shopping list might look something like this:

 

  • Gym bag (big enough to fit everything in)
  • A sports bra (females) and a comfortable pair of knickers / Boxers
  • Leggings or shorts
  • A comfortable, breathable top (t shirt, vest, crop top) – not something like a jumper because you’ll just be too hot
  • Socks
  • Trainers
  • Hair bobble if you have long hair
  • Water bottle
  • Small towel

My Guide to Body Pump – Re-Blog!

I wrote this back in April but it’s all still relevant so if you are looking to start Body Pump have a read!

If you have ever looked into taking a class at your local gym chances are you will have seen Les Mills Body Pump on the timetable.

It is probably the most successful group exercise programme in existence. I love teaching it and still take it as a participant once a week.

Done regularly with challenging weights it will give you results.

Most people who want to lose weight / tone up do lots and lots of cardio. Cardio is good for you BUT you also need to do some resistance work to shape your body. Body Pump is great because it works the whole body in 30-60 minutes using a low to medium weight and a LOT OF REPS – all whilst moving in time with some good music. If you have never used a barbell before it is also a safe introduction into some basic lifts / moves.

However if you have never used weights before it can also feel a bit intimidating. I remember my first class and the confusion at everyone collecting lots of different sized plates and changing them quickly in between tracks and my bemusement at how everyone seemed to know what move was coming next!

So this is my ‘what you need to know’ guide to taking your first Body Pump class:

  • Arrive at least 10 minutes early and introduce yourself to the instructor so they can help you set up and so they know that you are new. This can help them tailor their teaching, ensuring you have a good first class.
  • Stick with light weights for your first couple of classes and concentrate on getting the hang of the tempos and the moves. Body Pump works because you are doing large numbers of reps, so whilst you want to use a challenging weight eventually, it’s ok to start off light – 3.75kg each side might be a good starting point for most.
  • The instructor will give you a guide of what to put on the bar at the start of each track (e.g. double the weight, take 1/3 off etc.). Listen carefully to this – they will normally give two options – one for regulars, one for new people but do not be afraid to stick with the same weight all the way through on your first class.
  • The structure of every class will always be the same:

60 minutes

  1. Warm up
  2. Squats
  3. Chest
  4. Back
  5. Triceps
  6. Biceps
  7. Lunges
  8. Shoulders
  9. Core
  10. Cool down

45 minutes

  1. Warm up
  2. Squats
  3. Chest
  4. Back
  5. Lunges
  6. Shoulders
  7. Core
  8. Cool down

30 minutes

  • Warm up
  • Squats
  • Chest
  • Back
  • Core

So when the whole class looks like they know what is coming they do for a reason-

and after a couple of classes you will too!

  • Talking of continuity – we get a ‘new release’ every 3 months. So at that point, every instructor will teach this new set of tracks for 4-6 weeks. That is why when you do your first class some people will look like they know what is coming – they have probably done the track lots of times before! After about 6 weeks, the instructor will probably start to ‘mix’. This means they will bring back some older tracks to keep things interesting and keep your body reacting well to the class.
  • As a new member, you can take advantage of something called Smart Start. This means that if you want to try a few tracks (we suggest up to the back track) and then leave you can do. Leave your stuff out and the instructor will put it away at the end of class. Then next week you can stay for a couple of extra tracks, and a few more the week after until you can do a whole class. This is optional and you can stay for the whole class if you want, but it does provide an option to try the class out and build up week by week if you are new to exercise.
  • With Body Pump technique is more important than weight so don’t worry too much at first about what you are lifting – instead work on getting the moves. Doing them well will bring better results than just picking up a heavier bar!
  • The tempo is also really important in Body Pump. You will hear the instructor ask you to move at different tempos (3/1, 2/2, bottom half pulses). These aren’t just to make it more interesting. The different tempos help to work different muscle fibres and maximise your results so try to work with the instructors pace.
  • You aren’t moving or jumping (well occasionally you might be jumping but rarely!) but you will sweat and you will get out of breathe. Body Pump will burn calories as well as shaping your body.
  • Don’t be worried if you wake up the next day and climbing the stairs or tying your hair back hurts! This is your body reacting to new training and will pass in a few days. After a few classes your body will take less time to recover!
  • If you have done weights in the gym before you may be confused by a couple of the moves we do in Body Pump! Be aware that some moves (Deadlifts for instance) are modified for the studio environment. This is for safety reasons as a) we move at a fast tempo and b) the instructor needs to make sure a large group of people are all moving safely.

I hope that the above tips have made the idea of trying a class less daunting! If you do decide to give the class a go, I would love to hear your thoughts!