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?

DOMs

For some reason over the last two days I’ve had really bad DOMs.

I almost never gets DOMs normally. Context: I teach most days and then train 4 times a week plus run sometimes so it’s rare I go more than a day without training in some form so my body is pretty used to what it has to do.

Last week I was in Edinburgh for two days and Wolverhampton over the weekend.  This plus work and an exam meant that I only taught 4 classes (I’d normally do 8+) and got one chance to train.

Result of this was when I taught a spin and a Body Pump on Saturday morning my body apparently felt it!

On Saturday night I went to a Paranormal evening at Wolverhampton Airport (I’ll come back to that in my next blog) and woke up on Sunday with quads that cried every time I got in and out of a chair! My spin class this morning was interesting – largely because I’m just not used to training with sore muscles!

So if you’re new to exercise and experiencing DOMS for the first time here’s what I think you need to know:

  1. DOMS are temporary — depending on how intense you will feel OK again in about two to four days without having to do anything (if you don’t feel better by then it might be an injury).
  2. Make sure you warm-up and cool-down.  Making sure your muscles are prepared for exercise and safely recover from physical stress can help reduce the likelihood of DOMs (they won’t guarantee you won’t get them though).
  3. Build up the intensity of your training slowly. If you’re brand new to any type of training and don’t build up your weights / distance etc. your body will react more dramatically to the stress (plus you increase the risk of injury).
  4. If you’re suffering from DOMs try gently massaging the area affected (tip getting a deep tissue massage will not make you feel less sore!).  Likewise using a foam roller to gently roll out your sore muscles may help.
  5. Keep moving whilst you have DOMs.  Not really intense exercise allow your muscles to recover – but getting the blood flowing and muscles moving (walking, easy biking, swimming) can help you feel better.
  6. Drink lots of water – drinking water makes everything feel better!

 

Possibly the most girly post I will even write – Re blog

A re-post of an old blog. Still one of the most common barriers I hear about so…

Most days I train three times a day: before work, lunchtime and after work. This means twice a day I shower and get ready for work in a gym changing room. I normally have 10- 20 minutes do do this so I’m pretty used to getting dressed fast (and I’m probably at the low maintenance end of low maintenance to be honest – if you’ve met me you have probably seen me without make up on and almost definitely on a day when I haven’t brushed my hair).

So when someone said they couldn’t train at lunchtime because they wouldn’t have time to shower etc. afterwards it got me thinking who else is put off by this and I decided to list my tips for a quick no frills routine which might help anyone who wants to train around work but is put off by the post sweat grooming issue!

  • Pack your bag the night before so you know you won’t forget anything. When I forget my bra or one shoe it’s always because I’ve packed in a rush that morning.
  • Buy a camping towel- a) they are lightweight and fold up small b) They dry quickly and don’t retain water so don’t make your gym bag wet and heavy after use
  • Pack a wash bag with all the things you will need and it leave in your gym bag at all times – this is less than you think: shower gel (or not – some gyms have those little shower gel dispensers in the showers), shampoo, moisturiser, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste – anything else just adds unnecessary time
  • Minimise your routine as much as you can – quick shower, 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner – if you have to wash your hair (I’m not so much of a tomboy that I’d go as far as suggesting combined body and hair wash but to be fair it is an option)
  • Baby oil is great as moisturiser – makes your skin super soft but much quicker than a lotion as you can put it on whilst your skin is still wet
  • Baby wipes and dry shower gel (it exists- try Boots) are great cheats if you didn’t do too much cardio – you will know if you can get away with this or not on any given day (more often than not the answer is no but they are useful for emergencies none the less)
  • Dry shampoo is also your friend. As are high pony tails/ the scraped back / Croydon Facelift pony tail.
  • You actually need to wash your hair less often than you think even after training. Give it twenty minutes and it will dry out and won’t actually smell – I wash my hair maybe 2/3 times a week max.
  • Don’t waste time doing the towel dance. All women know what the towel dance is and quite frankly it’s a waste of time. A) Nobody is looking at you and b) you normally end up being naked and more exposed for longer whilst trying to put your knickers on balancing on one leg and holding a towel round you than if you just got dressed.
  • Whilst I’m at it – do not be one of those people who gets dressed in the shower- you will get your clothes wet and you are holding up the people waiting.
  • Pack clothes which don’t crease – I’m fond of lycra.
  • If you can get away with not wearing tights you will save at least five minutes- putting on tights when you’ve just exercised is almost as much exercise as taking your sports bra off after a session.
  • You don’t need to put on lots of makeup after a workout- keep it minimal and take advantage of the natural glow your skin will now have to speed up the process of putting on your make up
  • Get your eyebrows and eyelashes tinted if having a bare face isn’t an option – this will save valuable drawing on yourself time!
  • Work out what your gym has in the way of hairdryers – if they have them don’t pack one! I personally don’t blow dry my hair as it dries by itself in about 15 minutes but I’m led to believe that’s not usual.
  • Do you actually need to straighten your hair?

Getting ready for work is dull and should take as little time as possible anyway – don’t let it stop you from getting a workout in – life is too short.

Note: This is a bit of a blog for the girls really- I’m going to assume most men are pretty much wash and go anyway but if not please re-read the above!

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.

What to Expect from a Spin Class – Reblog

A blog from back in April last year but hopefully still useful for anyone thinking of starting these classes in 2019.

Group Cycle, often known as spin. There are other variations such as Les Millls RPM too.

One of the most inclusive classes in a gym.

Also the one that in my experience people are most scared to try.

I can see why- it looks tough (for good reason – it is) and everyone looks like they know what they’re doing (they don’t, honest) and it looks technical (you have to set up a bike – this was my biggest fear at first).

So if you’ve ever wondered about trying a class but aren’t sure if it’s for you here’s the low down (from my perspective) for first timers on how to get the most out of the class.

  • Everyone is welcome- all fitness levels. Yes it will be hard but you really can go at your own pace
  • Every instructor’s class is different. So if you don’t like mine try someone elses – there will be a style you like / format you enjoy / class with music you love out there- shop around! I sometimes teach rides where we work along to the music other times I teach HIIT style tabatta, some people do races and competitions. I won’t be offended if you try my class then I see you at someone elses next week!
  • One thing to note, trade marked classes such as Les Mills RPM will be similar in every gym / with every instructor. They are pre- choreographed and so you will always get the same format – even if you go to a class in a different country. This really suits some people, especially if you like routine.
  • Get there 10 minutes early and say hi to the instructor. Tell them you are new, tell them you are nervous. They will be nice, they will look out for you and they will show you how to set up your bike.
  • There will normally be modifications or different levels you can work at and the instructor will always offer these different options throughout the class- take the ones that suit you. Never tell yourself you are doing the easy option. They are just different and people take different options for all sorts of different reasons.
  • Put some resistance on the bike – going too light sounds like a good idea (especially when you feel like you are going to die half way through!) but it will mean you bounce – this will hurt your bottom, believe me. After my first class I walked like a cowboy for a week.
  • Always make sure your feet are strapped in – loose straps are dangerous. Dangerous is bad.
  • There is normally a brake on the resistance button. Normally by pressing down on it you can stop the feet dead. It’s useful to remember just in case! The instructor will tell you about the bike if you introduce yourself at the start.
  • Don’t be afraid to add resistance when asked to. If you add too much you can always take it off. You’re there to get fitter – challenging yourself is the way to do this. Noone will laugh if you get stuck!
  • Take water – you will sweat, you will get thirsty.
  • Maybe take a towel- I refer you back to the sweat!
  • Taking recoveries is fine. You are meant to work hard- if you push so hard you need to take a moment then well done. The instructor won’t shout at you – just sit on the bike, keep the legs spinning and come back in when you are ready.
  • When you are new it can seem like everyone else is faster and fitter than you. Remember they may have been doing this a long time and have conditioned themselves to last the full class. They will not have been like that in their first class so don’t beat yourself up. Try your best, try and enjoy it and just focus on giving your best effort. Nobody is there to compete with anyone else so just work at a level right for you. Nobody is going to judge you.
  • Cycle classes are meant to be hard- the great thing is as you get fitter you can go faster and heavier so it stays effective and never gets to the point it feels ‘easy’
  • Above all Group exercise is meant to be fun so relax and smile – the music and other people make it more interesting than just sitting on a bike in the gym!

“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

How to Guess the Season by your Group Exercise Class

I have two jobs so quite often do not see much day light / weather as I go from gym to office to gym day by day.  If like me you lose track of the seasons worry not – your classes can provide handy hints as to where you are in the year, rendering the need for a calendar unnecessary.

January – Every class will be fully booked with a waiting list of one million. You will spend 50% of the class taking the register and persuading people to share the kit around fairly.  You will not recognise half the room and everyone will be wearing brand new kit bought half price in the sales.  The air con will break but it won’t bother anyone too much because it feels like it might snow,

February – Class numbers start to settle and will be busy apart from one particular day when you will see a dramatic drop in numbers as lots of people go out for hideously overpriced set menu meals instead of coming to the gym.  The day after this happens make sure you pop to Tesco as there will be lots of half priced heart shaped chocolate available for purchase.

March – There will probably be about two inches of snow and your classes will be cancelled as the country grinds to a halt.

April – It starts to get lighter outside so numbers creep up a little, especially around Easter when everyone wants to burn off the 400 easter eggs and 500 units of alcohol they consumed over a 4 day period.

May – The start of the summer months.  You will know when it’s sunny because class numbers will drop dramatically and the air con will break.  If your gym is near a university people will start heading home for the summer.

June – The number of attendees will continue to indicate the quality of the British weather without you ever needing to step outside.

July – Is the air con working? Yes = It’s probably chilly today.  No = We are definitely in the middle of a heat wave.

August – You will still know whether it is raining or sunny outside by how busy your classes are.

September – The summer is over and familiar faces will start to return after months of spending evenings having BBQs and other outdoor activities.  If you are near a university a flurry of fresh faced people will start to arrive – and you will swear they look even younger than last years intake of students (they are not – you are just getting older) .  Every class will be full with a waiting list of one million.  You will spend 50% of the class taking the register and persuading people to share the kit around fairly.  You may be a bit confused at this point that January has come around so quickly then will notice that the air con is broken and it’s far to warm to be January.

October –It’s getting dark now and some people will start to hibernate. Numbers will start to settle.  It’s getting colder so the air con will definietly definietly work.

November – Numbers will continue to remain stable.If you have windows in your studio there will be no natural light – at any point of the day.

December – The ‘Sod it, it’s Christmas’ phenonomen means class sizes will start to half the day you open the first door on your advent calender.  Everyone who does attend classes will mutter things about needing to burn off all the mince pies as they enter and leave the studio.  You will start to see novelty gym kit as the big day gets closer.

World Cup – During the group stages you will know when England are playing because there will be a 50% reduction in attendance.  If England progress the number of people in attendance during any England game will drop dramatically until finally when the semi finals come around you can be relatively confident you will be spending an hour in a studio alone.  We will not even tempt fate by mentioning the possibility of England reaching the final!

15 things they should tell you on your first Group Ex training course:

15 things they should tell you on your first Group Ex training course:

  1. Someone will always think the music is too loud. The person next to them will probably think it’s too quiet.
  2. Regulars will have their spot – everyone who does classes has a spot – and if they change spot one day it will probably throw you off kilter so much so you forget how to teach.
  3. Your hair washing standards will drop dramatically. Before teaching “I wash my hair every time I exercise.” Now, “I washed my hair 15 classes ago and it is now held together by dry shampoo – and I’ll still get another 2 classes out of it yet .”
  4. You will never have an empty washing basket. Ever again. Never. It’s not possible
  5. Every song you ever hear from here on in, you will either have choreography in your head you want to do to it, or you will try to fit your own choreography to it.
  6. The air conditioning will nearly always be broken- get used to it.
  7. If the air con is working the mic will probably not work.
  8. If the mic is working you probably won’t have enough weight plates… or clips… or steps.
  9. Gyms don’t like it if your classes are under subscribed. But they also get annoyed if you let too many people in!
  10. You will now need to carry every size battery and type of aux lead known to man with you at all times and will be that weird person that when someone say I don’t suppose anyone has a AAA battery you can produce 20 from the bottom of your handbag – even though your actually in the pub at the time.
  11. Music systems are confusing.
  12. You will never again be able to provide directions as left and right become meaningless due to the fact you’re not quite sure if you are referring to instructor left of real life left anymore in any given situation.
  13. The person who teaches the class before you can make or break your spirit – don’t be the person who runs over by 20 minutes every week and leaves a pool of sweat on the instructor spot for the next instructor to find… or the one that adjusts every knob on the stereo and hides the mic!
  14. You will end up being in 100 different local cover groups and everytime someone posts you will see the same request 89 times across these various groups.
  15. And you probably won’t be able to cover – mainly because the person has forgotten to mention where the cover is need… or at what time.

Gym Pet Peeves…

In no particular order…

  1. People who hog EVERY SINGLE DUMBBELL for their workout and almost faint with panic if you ask to share.
  2. People who make dramatic noises whilst lifting. I get the impulsive random noises as you struggle to reach the end of the set. It’s the grunting like Monica Seles everytime they do a rep I don’t get.
  3. People who come to the gym in normal clothes. Does anyone realy think it’s ok to exercise in jeans, shirts and loafers? Apparently so.
  4. People who get dressed in the shower- yes there is a queue so, no, spending 20 minutes moisterising and putting on your tights when you could do that in the changing room itself is not good etiquite.
  5. When people try to come into the studio during a class to do their own workout – why would you think this is ok, I’ve never understood?
  6. People who make fun of or act superior to others in the gym. I don’t get why people do this- we all started somewhere and it takes literally no effort to just be nice (or say nothing at all). Women should feel welcome in the weights area, everyone should feel comfortable in the dance studio – there should be no off limit areas for anyone (ok maybe men shouldn’t go into the ladies changing rooms…).
  7. Gym’s which do not know about the products they offer and the benefits. In an ideal world all staff would have a basic idea of what classes are on and what they are about so they can accurately inform members. We do not live in an ideal world.
  8. Fitness professionals who present other classes or methods of training in a negative light. You may well think that yoga is pointless and that’s your opinion – but as a member of staff (freelance or not) don’t tell the members that. It’s just basic professionalism. You can give your opinion but position it so it doesn’t trash another professional.
  9. There are never enough free weights.
  10. Not enough gyms have running tracks.
  11. Ladies only areas in gyms. 1. If there were men only areas we would cry sexism. 2. They are always crap, with random bits of equipment they class as ‘girly’.
  12. Gym cafes which only sell junk food.