What’s Your Fitness Personality?
Picking the Best Class For You
Long before I worked in fitness as a personal trainer and group exercise instructor, I was a group fitness junkie.
I was the one who showed up early to get the step and risers set up so I could claim a great spot in class,
and I’d race home from the studio to practice the choreography at home.
You name the class, and I’ve probably taken it. I’ve taken hip hop dance classes, aerial silks, yoga
(all formats), step, boot camps, and more. And each type of class has its own benefits.
In general, though, you get out what you put in. You can take a really intense boot camp class and only burn a few calories if you don’t follow the instructions.
You can find yourself sweaty and wiped out after a Pilates or dance class because of the intensity of the moves.
So let’s take a quick look at a list of general class formats, and then we’ll dive deeper.
- Cardio: generally, your goal here is to get your heart rate up, either through intervals or a pyramid structure (low intensity, medium intensity, high intensity, and then back down)
- Strength: your goal here is to build muscle mass and/or strength
- Core: your goal is to increase your core strength so that you can have better functional fitness
Most classes have more than one benefit, though –
so a class that includes cardio may also feature a strength component, and, of course,
when we use our full range of motion and move across our planes, we will naturally have some overlap (yay, three for one!).
Some popular formats and certification agencies include Les Mills (BODYPUMP, BODYBALANCE, etc.), BeachBody (PiYo Strength, Turbo Kick, CIZE LIVE, etc.), various barre/ballet programs (Pure Barre, Total Barre, etc.), various spin classes.
In these cases, the class really doesn’t vary much from instructor to instructor or class to class.
Some of them are totally pre-choreographed, meaning that the songs and moves don’t change; others have a basic outline, but each teacher can have some flexibility on how the class is presented.
Again, the key to getting a good workout lies within you.
Nobody can make you turn the dial up on your stationary bike to make the hill climbs more intense or force you to go a little deeper during a squat series.
But this chart may give you incentive to stick with it:
Remember that your weight, fitness level, intensity, and age all make a difference in how effective your workout is.
I absolutely believe that most classes can be modified for every student, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
If you have joint issues or injuries, you may want to avoid higher-impact classes. But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid high intensity!
With a doctor’s or medical provider’s oversight, you can get a great bodyweight workout that raises your heart rate and helps with muscle strength and power,
builds bone density, and helps you lose weight without doing any plyometric or jump training.
If you love to dance but have trouble with advanced choreography, try a class like Zumba or Barre.
You’ll typically follow the same or a similar format from week to week, so it can really help you gain confidence and retain the moves and postures without getting overwhelmed.
Have great muscle strength but really struggle with balance? A yoga class might be the perfect supplement to what you’re already doing.
Let’s break it down a little more so you can try to find the perfect class for your goals:
- You like to move to the beat and follow an instructor’s lead
- You’re comfortable in a high-energy environment
- You want to increase your cardiovascular fitness, lose a little weight, and have a lot of fun
- You don’t necessarily love a lot of choreography or moving around the room, but you do want to increase your cardiovascular fitness while strengthening and toning your muscles (particularly your lower body)
- You prefer a medium-energy class with a mix of postures for the whole body
- You want to focus on strength training
- You don’t like to learn new moves from week to week and prefer having some consistency so your body can acclimate to the workout
- You like loud music and little banter between the instructor and students
- You want an even mix of cardio, strength, and core training
- You thrive when being told what to do (and even being pushed past what you perceive your limits to be)
- You love a very high-energy format, often with partner work
- You prefer a more calm, zen-like experience in the studio
- You want to strengthen and tone but prefer small and intense movements using bodyweight rather than weights or other equipment (although there is equipment such as Pilates Reformer that you may see incorporated in your class)
- You love loud music, high-energy classes, and sweating
- You are motivated to push yourself to get a high-intensity workout
- You want to focus on cardiovascular fitness and lower-body strengthening
- You are focused on building muscle strength and/or power (depending on what format you choose)
- You understand that to progress, you will need to work with your instructor to add additional weights or change your movements once you’ve hit a plateau
- You don’t necessarily want a lot of movement or aerobics and don’t mind staying in one place
- You are looking for a mind-body workout
- You prefer a low-energy and fairly quiet experience (many classes use music, but it’s low and slow)
- Your goal is strength training, toning, and flexibility
- You love to have fun in class
- You like loud, Latin-inspired music
- You’re comfortable moving around to fairly advanced choreography (Note: you don’t have to be a great dancer, but you do have to keep moving!)
If you aren’t sure which type of class is best for you, try as many as you can before making a decision! Boot camps just aren’t for me.
They work well, and others love them – it just stresses me out to have that level of intensity and rapid-fire circuit training.
But my beloved kickboxing and dance classes feel wrong to others.
And one last tip: you’ll need to dress the part! For example, for yoga and Pilates classes,
you’ll want to wear fairly fitted items so that as you work through postures,
often holding them for an extended period of time, you aren’t hindered or distracted by baggy shirts or shorts that, ahem, let it all hang out.
For aerobics or Zumba, go all out! The more colorful gear you wear, the more you’ll get into character.
If you’re taking a boot camp or strength training class, you’ll likely be spending some time on the floor or a mat and doing a lot of plyometric (jump) training.
So I’d recommend wearing leggings and a shirt or tank top that is breathable (they don’t need to be as fitted as in a yoga class,
but you don’t want something so loose that it gets caught on the equipment).
Ultimately, the best workout is one that you’ll actually do. So get out there and start doing!