Birds Flock Together, Fish Swim in Schools and Why I like Group Fitness:
We all start somewhere. I was no exception. I was in my early 20’s. I had always been active, before and during college, but I never explored the vast and daunting world of the “Globo-Gym”. The closest I got was in high school. My friend Leah began teaching aerobics at the local YMCA. After school, my other friend Lindsey and I would go to her class and so would a hand full of middle aged ladies. I didn’t think much about health and fitness at that time. I also didn’t think much about, in retrospect, how embarrassing my 90’s workout gear actually was. We are talking splattered print biker shorts, with an electric blue leotard over them! I even had the scrunchy socks that would have made Jane Fonda proud. I was still in my teens, and thankfully going to class wasn’t about getting in shape. It was just something fun we all did together when Swim Team season was over.
After I graduated from college, I didn’t have cheerleading or dance classes to keep me moving. I knew I needed an outlet. I wanted to join a gym, but my experience was limited. Not having a familiar face to go with made it much more intimidating. Despite this nagging hesitation, and motivated by curiosity, I walked into a Lifetime Fitness in Minneapolis, MN. Maybe I looked like I knew what I was doing. I did, after all, leave my scrunchy socks in the 90’s where they belonged. They didn’t offer an official tour of the facility and just waved me through with my free 1 day trial. Now what? I wandered blindly through the rooms of machines and contraptions that were completely foreign to me. I spotted the dumbbells. That I knew, but there were so many other people curling and pressing and flexing in front of the mirrors…I didn’t even try. Then there was the treadmill. I jumped on and pressed a few buttons. I managed to jog for about 5 minutes before my face was red, I was out of breath, bored to tears, and I realized how completely miserable this was. I thought I was in decent shape. Wrong. I jumped ship. Strike 2.
After more aimless wandering, disguised as a trip to the locker room, I saw a bunch of people lining up outside the group fitness room. Not knowing what class it was, or what to expect, this was my last attempt so my free pass wouldn’t be a complete loss. I figured I could hide in the back and fake my way through it. So, I did. It was some type of body pump class. Everyone else seemed to know the drill and gathered up their benches, bands and dumbbells and assembled them in the middle of the floor. I did the same. The music was loud, the lights were dim, and it was actually fun! No one noticed that there was a stranger in the room. Even if I did have no idea what I was doing, what did it matter? I had nothing to lose but an hour of my life. I certainly wouldn’t get less fit if I didn’t go. I went outside my comfort zone and tried something new. We, as humans, are wired to seek out familiarity and security. That is why we hesitate to take risks. I know you have heard it before, but it is in the risk that you see the most reward. When you go outside your comfort zone, everything shifts. You have a different perspective, and you are now aware of new possibilities. You don’t know what you don’t know!
I encourage my clients to find a group fitness class to go to on the days we don’t train together. Especially if you are new to fitness, I strongly believe that taking classes is another great place to start. I’m not suggesting that you have to spend a lot of money on boutique fitness, or hike up your compression socks and head on down to the nearest CrossFit Box. Start off at your local gym, community center or even try Class Pass which is relatively reasonable. Find a class that peaks your interest. It could be an outdoor boot-camp, cardio kickboxing, power flow yoga, pole dancing, or heck, even Zumba. Anything is better if what you are doing right now is nothing.
Why I like group fitness:
- There is a clear beginning, middle and end of class. Once you are through the doors, you are much less likely to leave. If you are on a treadmill or another cardio machine, it is way easier to hop off and not finish what you started. Especially if you don’t go in with a plan.
- The class has a definite start time. Knowing that you have to be at the gym by 8:30, keeps you accountable and less likely to delay your gym time or even decide to skip your workout entirely. After all, your cat box was dirty, and you lost track of time alphabetizing your spice rack…
- Safety. There is an instructor there to guide you and correct your form. Even though approaching an instructor can be intimidating, I promise you that we LOVE it when you do! If you have questions or concerns, that is what we are there for!
- Scared that you will be the only one who has no idea what they are doing? In a group fitness class, chances are good that there will be someone else feeling as lost as you are!
- Group Fitness takes the pressure off you to create a workout plan. Your job is just to show up, work hard and have as much fun as you can.
- Variety. With so many different class types and formats, you can expose yourself to constant challenge and change. This will alleviate boredom and plateaus from just repeating the same routine day in and day out. Your body is a proficient machine. It can and will adapt quickly. With variation, you are keeping your body and brain sharp. It is difficult to fly on autopilot in class. This will keep you focused. The added mindfulness will make for a more efficient and effective workout. Plus, you burn more calories when you use your brain!
- Sense of community. This is probably one of my favorite parts of group fitness. There is a certain energy and dynamic that appears like magic when you are in a room with like-minded people. You are sharing a visceral experience, and quite possibly sharing their pain. You are supported, encouraged and may even thrive on a little friendly competition. For that hour, you are a team. You will most likely find that you push yourself harder as a part of a team than you would on your own. You may find someone who inspires you and motivates you. If they can do it, surely you can too! You may not leave class giving high fives, booty slaps or fist bumps, but you are bonded by the shared experience, and congratulations are in order!
- Personal relationships: After some time, you will see the same faces in class. You get to know each other and share more than just puddles of sweat on the floor. You feed off their energy and notice when they aren’t there. You look forward to seeing your friends, and this will give you a sense of accountability. You don’t want to let your teammates down by skipping class. They need your energy just as much as you need theirs!
So, what do Fish and Birds have to do with group fitness? They thrive on community. Not only does this “safety in numbers” improve their chance of survival against predators, but traveling in a group is actually easier and more efficient. When a bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift and less resistance for the birds behind them. Fish draft in the wake of the fish in front of them. They physically use the energy of others to move and live better. And so we must do as humans. You don’t have to embark on your fitness journey alone. Find your community. The one that lifts you up. Together you will travel farther and fly higher.