When I initially started taking fitness classes, I was intimidated by the sheer volume of classes offered by my local gym. I wished that there was a comprehensive beginner’s guide to help me choose a class that aligned with my fitness level and goals. If you are looking for a fun and easy way to stay physically active, read on to find out which of my top three favorite fitness classes is right for you.
- If you want more cardio in your life: Spinning is indoor cycling on a stationary bike. On the day of your first spin class, arrive early so that you can set up the handles and the seat of your bike. Consult the instructor to find an appropriate height: you should not lean too far forward nor sit too upright, especially if you have a history of lower back pain or injury. You can adjust the intensity of your spin workout in two ways. First, your instructor will lead you through positions that vary in both intensity and difficulty, including flat seated, seated climb, standing climb, and standing upright. Secondly, you can pedal at various speeds, from a comfortable pace at 60 revolutions per minute (rpms) to a quicker ride at 90 rpms. The instructor may suggest a range for you, but remember that you can tailor your workout to your personal fitness level. Spinning should target your leg muscles and core, not your arms or shoulders, so avoid gripping the handlebars too tightly. To maximize your workout, focus on cycling against resistance rather than cycling quickly. The resistance should be high enough so that you are exerting a substantial amount of force with each leg rotation. Spinning is a great alternative to using the treadmill or elliptical, and the best part of the class is the music: high tempo songs that push you to pedal harder and faster.
- If you want to shape and define your body: BodyPump is a weight-based strength and conditioning class. A typical BodyPump session includes 10 different tracks that each target a unique muscle group. If you are new to weightlifting, learn and master the movements for four to six tracks first. You will gradually build up the endurance to complete all 10 tracks over a few sessions. This class uses a barbell: a bar with weight plates attached on both ends. Varying weight plates are highly recommended to allow for adjustments between each track. Arrive early and let the instructor know it is your first BodyPump class, especially if you have limited or no experience with weightlifting or resistance training. Your instructor can help you select the appropriate weights as well as help you set up your bench and bricks. Improper form when lifting weights can result in serious injuries; if your form is compromised, reduce your weight and slowly work your way up. It may be intimidating, but I recommend setting up your station up front so the instructor can correct your form as needed.
- If you like to dance like no one’s watching: Zumba is a Latin-inspired dance workout that incorporates a variety of dance styles ranging from hip-hop to salsa. Some instructors are more consistent with the dance workouts they teach each week, while others like to incorporate new dance moves. Check to see what you prefer before committing. Of the three classes, Zumba definitely has the sharpest learning curve, especially for beginners without a dance background. My best advice is to go with friends and make it a fun dance party. Even if a dance move looks difficult, give it a shot, keep moving and enjoy yourself!
Lastly, here are some important tips for any workout class. Remember to always stretch before and after each class. Bring a water bottle to stay hydrated during the slower recovery intervals. You will also be sweating a lot, so bring a towel and wear darker colors. I recommend wearing well-fitting clothes rather than loose clothing that can weigh you down. Now go to the gym and have some fun!
Disclaimer: This article is based on my personal experiences and is by no means a definitive workout instruction manual. Consult with an expert before starting any new fitness regimen, and attempt at your own risk.
Note: Adapted with permission from “Fitness Classes 101” by Irene Ching, 2015, The Bonding Agent, Volume 6, Issue 2.
~ Irene Ching, San Francisco ’18