Picture taken from Endurance Magazine

By: Brian Diaz

Published in Endurance Magazine, July 2012 Issue.

Revamped and repackaged much differently than the old step routines popular in the 90’s and early 2000’s, group training classes are back. While you still might see an occasional leotard or leg warmer out there, there is a great variety of choices at your disposal. With all of these choices, though, comes a sea of potential confusion for the consumer who is looking to drop a few pounds and become a stronger endurance athlete.

First comes consistency. When I see a facility trying to launch a new class, or the newest “fad” routine, the most important thing that they do is try to get a long-term commitment out of the prospective client. When they require someone to attend an hour-long exercise session at least two to three times a week for eight weeks they can almost guarantee results (in fact, some do). The owners of these facilities know that if you were to do ANY type of exercise you will start to make headway in reaching your goals. So consistency is definitely important!

Second comes change. Most people do not embrace change very well and when they find something that works they tend to stick with it and not try anything else. The body loves change and when put under various stresses and different challenges, weight loss and body fat depreciation occurs at a much greater rate. There are several studies that compare different types of workouts and their respective effectiveness on strength gains and weight loss. The studies that allow different types of training mediums, for example, interval running and weight lifting together, have the greatest percentage of overall fat loss when compared with just one type of exercise. When looking for a gym or personal trainer, make sure they have variety in their classes or change up your training sessions on a regular basis. And if you are going solo, remember change is critical for achieving optimal health and weight-loss goals.

There are places sprouting up all over the country offering a focused exercise routine. Unfortunately, many of them specialize in only one area (boot camp, barre moves, kettlebells, spinning, pilates, yoga, TRX). While this is good for that one area, your body needs several different avenues to train and cross with to get the best benefits and optimal conditioning. If you’re sticking with the group class route you may need to extend beyond the Groupon deal that you got and give other places and classes a try.

Another popular trend in fitness is what I call “fusion” classes, which offer a blend of different disciplines. One of my favorite is TRX and spin. Often these classes may be 90 minutes in length but will be a great combination of resistance and cardio, such as lead-in with the TRX moves and then tough high-intensity intervals on the bike.

Do your homework. Call ahead to the studio or gym that you will be taking the class at and find out if the teacher or trainer is qualified. If you are looking for a class in the endurance field, make sure you are getting someone who is familiar with endurance sports. Better yet, find an instructor who runs, cycles, or swims and may be a certified USA Track & Field coach or a certified USA Triathlon coach. There is quite a big difference between a “fitness” spin class and one that is designed with cyclists in mind (I, personally, do not want to be doing push-ups, crunches, and “jumps” on the bike in my spin class and would rather just spin intervals). Classes are usually for the time-crunched exerciser and you wouldn’t want to waste your time in an ineffective or poorly designed workout.

Group classes also offer other people who hold you accountable. You tend to bond with the instructor and those in the class and form relationships that may extend into your personal and private lives. This is a good thing. Having others who are trying to accomplish similar things to what you are trying to achieve makes for a more rewarding journey.

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