3 tips: picking the perfect group exercise class

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After closing Alive Shanghai, I keep getting questions what people should look out for when looking for a new group exercise class. Here are my thoughts on this topic...

Working out by yourself can often be monotone, dull, and uncreative. Attending a group exercise class can give you a motivation boost as well as some new input for your exercise repertoire. And with new fitness trends emerging every day, we are spoiled for choice from Bootcamps to Crossfit, ballet inspired Barre or any kind of yoga you can dream of. However, not every fitness trend that is fun is also a safe way to exercise. When you have knee problems, joining a marathon running group is probably not the best idea. Hot yoga it too strenuous for your circulation when you are pregnant, and lifting heavy weights at Crossfit when you are recovering from back problems is counter productive.

Of course doctors and physios can give you input what is a safe way for you to exercise, but here are three tips for you to know yourself if a class is good for you.

When I am saying good for you, I don't mean the traditional way of thinking about fitness like raising your heart rate or burning massive amounts of calories. Instead, think about if it is possible for you to do this kind of exercise for a long period of time. Will it help to enhance your life span and help you to stay strong and agile for many years to come? If you are burning your body out, find something new!

1. Modifications and personal attention

Unless you are attending big group classes at gyms, go and explore some of the smaller boutique studios in your area. The classes in these studios are usually smaller, making sure that you get some personal attention throughout class to modify for specific injuries or problems you might have or simply adjusting you for the right form.

When I used to teach bigger classes with over 40 people in the room, walking around to adjust each one personally is often not possible for an instructor. Nevertheless, with precise cues and instructions you should be able to avoid the most common pitfalls when it comes to "common" exercises like squats, lunges or push ups. Make sure the instructor pays attention to this during class. If you never get any details on how to actually perform an exercise, I would suggest not to go back to this class. You will likely do more harm to your body longterm than getting health and fitness benefits from it.

2. Listen to your body

As instructors we can help to push you to new limits by making sure you hold positions longer, get in more reps or add a bit of extra resistance. And just when you thought your arms were giving out, you can power through two more push ups. With the right guidance and motivation, we can tickle this out of you. However, we don't know what you are feeling inside your body, and when something just feels wrong, then listen to your body rather than pushing yourself too far and injuring yourself along the way. If it doesn't feel good, don't do it. I have been to many classes where I just knew I would hurt my knees more, so instead I take an easier option or go and do my own thing. Most instructors won't mind, as we want to make sure you stay healthy and fit.

3. Become a groupie

The instructor can make you fall in love or make you hate a fitness trend just after your first class. You have found the perfect class for you with an instructor you absolutely love? Then you have struck gold! Clicking with an instructor's personality makes a huge difference to you being motivated to go to this class every week. Become a bit of a groupie and start following this instructor's schedule rather than trying many different trainers. This way you know you will get a great workout every time and will never walk away disappointed.

Happy exercising!