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The Poor Man’s Personal Trainer: Group Exercise Classes

July 8, 2011

So, I’m currently traveling (and working on a post about exercising and eating right while traveling) but since I’m coming down from the high this morning of hitting a local gym as a visitor, I thought I’d share something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time.

I played lots of team sports growing up: soccer, softball, field hockey, volleyball, even a year of club lacrosse at Texas A&M for fun, and running was pretty important for several of those sports. Later, I started doing more running, solo, and even completed a half marathon.

But when I fell off the healthy wagon, I always turned back to running to get back on. The problem is, my mind remembered how I used to run, how fast, how it felt, and what I should be capable of. The truth was, the body wasn’t capable. At least not then. So I grew frustrated and often gave up.

Then I remembered group exercise classes. I had been avoiding them in Italy for a while because of the language barrier, but I decided to bite the bullet by telling myself: you have one responsibility: get dressed, and show up in time for X class. The teacher will do the rest, and you just need to keep up. No pressure in deciding how fast or how far to run, if I had to do weights or not, or plan my workout path. Just show up, and get to work.

And it worked!

Photo by Ed Yourdon

Luckily I found a type of class that I really enjoy (cardio + free weights) and a few other classes I could go to if I was busy. And then I started putting those classes on my calendar at least a week in advance. If there was a conflict, I found another class and scheduled that one instead. I keep my gym’s class schedule next to my computer so I can check it when I need to, and it’s a reminder that I can always get a workout in if I put in the minimal effort: get up, get dressed, and show up on time.

It was a great way to get started, and even though at the beginning it was hard, and I couldn’t do everything, I didn’t give up. I told myself, sit out that rep/movement for a few beats, and then jump back in. Don’t give up completely, and don’t walk out. Watch yourself in the mirror, and make sure you’re not putting in only the minimum.

Things became easier, and I had my workouts planned for the next few weeks!

So if you can’t afford a trainer, but are desperately looking for inspiration, don’t try to do everything yourself. Try several different types of classes – cardio, weights, pilates, yoga, dance, etc. to see if a certain kind of class is more your speed than another. Ask the gym staff who are the best teachers and/or who have the busiest classes (I did this and it saved me a ton of time trying out teachers).

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Do you like group exercise classes? Why or why not?

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