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A Guy’s Guide to Surviving a Group Fitness Class

men in a barre class

The off-season is here, and you’ll probably be spending less time out in the great outdoors… and more time alone in the basement.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can get out and try something new – like one of the many group fitness classes available. We’re talking anything from Pilates and Zumba to Spinning and SoulCycle. There are plenty of good reasons to go, including getting away from your indoor trainer in the basement! You can get your workout in, sweat a lot, see friends, hang out, and gossip.

Oh wait, those are all reasons for women to go, right?! What about men? Is there any reason other than being forced into it? đŸ˜‰

I might be kidding, but that’s indeed what it seems like when I see other guys there! Fortunately, there are a number of good reasons for men to go! And that’s what we’re going to find out now!

The biggest reason is to try something new. “Men especially are guilty of doing the same things at the gym day after day,” says Kelly Elliott, a Group Fitness Director for a health club in the DC suburbs (who also teaches indoor cycling, yoga, pilates, boot camp, total body conditioning, and core classes). “Classes are a great way to offer variety to your workout – great to avoid plateaus and help you reach different goals.”

As long as you’re not there looking for a date, the social aspect is great for everyone. “Classes are fun, have great music, and offer a new sense of camaraderie,” says Kelly.

Let’s look at each class and see why you might want to partake…

Vinyasa Flow Yoga

If you don’t already know by now, yoga is so much more than sitting and meditating. If you go to a Vinyasa Flow yoga class (sometimes Vinyasa yoga, Flow yoga, or Power yoga,) you’re to be working your heart and lungs, your muscles, and your mental toughness. It’s sort of like doing calisthenics for 90 minutes, but instead of resting, you gracefully flow into the next pose.

Required gear: You’ll need a yoga mat, towel, and water bottle. (Most studios rent mats for about $2 if you don’t have one.)

Wardrobe: Pants or shorts and a tank top or sleeveless shirt. Actual yoga clothes are nice because they don’t restrict your movement.

Male:Female Ratio: 2:20

What to look for in the instructor: Every teacher will have a different style, and everyone has different preferences. But you definitely want an instructor who gives clear instructions and guides you throughout the class.

How to blend in: If you have time, try to learn the names of the most popular poses before you go to class. Otherwise, get a spot in the middle of the room, and watch what everyone else does.

Etiquette tips for men: Most importantly, don’t hit or kick your neighbors! You’ll be in close quarters, so whenever you extend your arms or legs, don’t extend them into someone. Also, try not to smell too bad, and definitely don’t be late!

Pilates

Pilates might have a bad rap now because of the surge in popularity, but this is a method of training developed in the early 1900s by a man who was a body builder, wrestler, gymnast, and a boxer. As such, the class consists of highly difficult movements (mostly bodyweight exercises,) complex machines, and no racks of 45 lb plates. You’ll work muscles you didn’t know you had and increase your potential in any sports you do.

Required gear: Bring a towel and water bottle. The studio typically has mats and equipment.

Wardrobe: Gym clothes, like a t-shirt and sweatpants.

Male:Female Ratio: 2:10

What to look for in the instructor: Someone who doesn’t mind explaining how everything works.

How to blend in: Everyone is hurting. It’s fine.

Etiquette tips for men: Don’t act like you’re better than other people just because you lift heavy weights.

Men, these women know what they are doing. Check the ego at the door. This is going to be painful for you the first few times. When the instructor tells you that you are going to be doing five minutes of weighted squats it isn’t a good idea to put twice as much weight on the bar as she does. She might be 5’6″, 45 years old, drives a minivan and weighs half what you do but she can finish the squats. You can’t. Don’t get discouraged though, it gets better. It was painful for all of us the first time. But you will get better at it.

-Kelly Elliott

Zumba

Zumba is inspired by dance, so you better be ready to dance! It’s not strength training nor core conditioning. It’s actually music and dance moves! You’ll be burning calories galore!

Required gear: Water bottle.

Wardrobe: Gym clothes and sneakers. Something simple like martial arts shoes would work.

Male:Female Ratio: 2:10

What to look for in the instructor: Someone who doesn’t mind an uncoordinated endurance athlete flailing around.

How to blend in: Make sure your cardio fitness is still intact.

Etiquette tips for men: Make an attempt to follow along, but don’t be uptight.

You’ll probably need to lower your expectations. “No one gets it right the first time,” says Kelly. “In Zumba, I’m not sure anyone ever gets it right!”

Indoor Cycling (Spinning)

Indoor cycling involves a large group of cyclists on stationary bikes, in the same room. There’s no drafting, but hey, it’s nice to have some sort of group ride feel once in a while. Whether it’s Spinning, Soul Cycle, Flywheel, etc., you’re going to be riding hard, listening to loud music, and following along with an instructor who makes things exciting.

Required gear: A water bottle is absolutely necessary, and a small towel is nice, too. The bikes will be there waiting for you.

Wardrobe: You’re going to be on a bike, so cycling shorts and cycling shoes are a good choice.

Male:Female Ratio: 5:10

What to look for in the instructor: You want someone motivating and exciting, but also someone who understands the dynamics of cycling. Some people are a little too crazy.

How to blend in: Get on one of the bikes in the back, pedal hard, and don’t stop pedaling.

Etiquette tips for men: Don’t take any “natural breaks” right there in the classroom.

PiYo

PiYo is a combination of Pilates and Yoga. It’s a lot like a tough, fast-paced Vinyasa Flow yoga class, except you don’t take the time to hold poses. You’re constantly moving so you get more of an aerobic workout, at the expense of stretching, relaxing, and flowing gracefully.

Required gear: Yoga or Pilates mat, water bottle, and towel.

Wardrobe: Workout clothes you’d wear for yoga or Pilates.

Male:Female Ratio: 2:10

What to look for in the instructor: Someone who has lots of experience in fitness/coaching; not someone who just became a Beachbody coach last year to make extra money.

How to blend in: Keep moving.

Etiquette tips for men: The usual – arrive on time, try your best, don’t be a jerk.

Pure Barre

A ballet barre is sort of like a hand rail used when training for ballet. Keep the barre and the workout, lose the tutu and dancing, and you have a pure barre class. It’s going to look really easy and unimpressive, then you’re going to be hurting something awful!

Required gear: A water bottle is a good idea. Otherwise, the studio provides the equipment.

Wardrobe: T-shirt, sweatpants, and socks (sticky socks are best).

Male:Female Ratio: 1:10

What to look for in the instructor: Someone who clearly articulates what you need to be doing.

How to blend in: Pay really close attention to what the instructor is saying. It’s tricky stuff.

Etiquette tips for men: Seriously, wear socks.

The best advice I can offer for any group fitness class…

What you really want to do, according to Kelly, is arrive a few minutes early to talk to the instructor. “They will be able to tell you what to expect in the class and what equipment you will need to set up.”

“And most importantly, do NOT hide out in the back corner. You won’t be able to see or hear.” Kelly generally advises newbies to stand near the front, left or right of center.

Last but not least, don’t worry about people looking at you. Because they probably aren’t! According to Kelly, there are two types of people in group fitness – those that only are looking at themselves and those that don’t want to look at anyone. “Which ever of those you are, rest assured the only person who might be looking at you is yourself and the instructor. When she does, make sure you smile!”

Samira Shuruk, who has taught just about all the different kinds of studio classes, echos the same type of sentiment. “The men who come into class do a GREAT job. After years of hearing worries, I honestly think what holds most guys back is either a concern that the class will be too challenging for them in some way (such as flexibility), or not challenging enough in the ways that they want (such as strength gains).”

So give it a shot!

 

Do you take any group fitness classes? If you have any good, bad, or hilarious “EPIC FAIL” stories, I’d love for you to share them in the comments!

Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski

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2 Comments
  1. Breaking out of a routine is essential for any training program. And group fitness classes are a great way to break out of that rut. We are used to riding in groups anyway, so a group class is a natural extension.

    The one I keep meaning to try is a spinning class. I attended them in the mid nineties and I can see much has changed.

    Lot’s of my friends participate in yoga and swear by it.

    Recently I have gotten back into the gym. And it feels really good. But it does not have the group aspect of a ride or a class.

    Great advice for those of us who love the community aspect of our fitness routine.

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coach levi
Hi, I'm Coach Levi. I'm a USA Cycling Certified Level 3 Coach as well as Level 1 Certified with Precision Nutrition. Want to feel better, ride faster, and look great? Let's work together!

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