This an updated post from from September 2020
Unintentionally, I have evolved into being a group exerciser. Maybe I always was one. Now I identify as one.
There are many benefits of group exercise that can make the effort required seem less daunting and some added benefits that can only be experienced in a group setting. Now with COVID there has been an online boom in options. You can do it anywhere without leaving the comfort of your home or workplace. Gyms re-opening with the possibility of live classes has once again been halted. The livestream/ virtual options can provide many of the same benefits and will get you moving.
Early development as a (virtual) group exerciser
My initial exposure to group exercise was virtually through some old technology called the television. It was The 20 Minute Workout and I always hoped my favorite back up instructor Bess, would be part of the trio. My primary school friends and I would get together to get a lunchtime workout in.
I was inspired by these aerobic exercisers, their confidence and showmanship. Their integrated and unique combinations of fitness attire were always fun to decipher. I was a little young and a bit conservative for the high cut leotards with the g string backs but I really thought these women were amazing.
Early development as a (live) group exerciser
My first formal in person group exercise experience was at a gym called Lady Fitness when I was about 15. It was an extension of the Superfitness brand. I joined Lady Fitness with expressed intent of using the seated inner thigh (adductor) machine. Group exercise wasn’t my initial focus. The inner thigh machine was the answer to all of my problems at that time. I couldn’t wait to get started.
In between adductor training sessions, I trialed many of the group classes offered. They were generally “aerobic” with varying levels of difficulty. I remember being a little judgemental of one of the instructors huffing and puffing during her own workout. Now I know better that the apparent effort did not necessarily mean lack of fitness. It was just exertion, physically and vocally.
Since that time I had tried multiple other gyms and fitness centers but nothing ever really stuck in terms of group fitness. I remained doing mostly what I was used to which included dance, running and team sport. After high school, I continued on the path of running and weight training.
Middle and later development as a group exerciser
My middle stage of development included going back into formal dance training in my late 20’s(I had my midlife crisis in my 20’s). Dance school is almost all group physical activity in often a highly dynamic atmosphere with live musicians. I studied full time for about 3 and a 1/2 years and then tried to make it as an independent dancer for the remainder of a decade. Supporting myself as a dancer did not become a reality but I was sure glad to have had the experiences that I did.
The final stage of my development included an introduction to Essentrics® at a fitness conference. At that point it had been at least 10 years since I had experienced physical group dynamics. It turned out to be a technique that I enjoyed and it piqued my intellectual curiosity. I left the conference fully engaged and ready to go.
The benefits of group exercise
Feed off the energy of the other participants
When I had returned to the dance studio, I realized that I loved being in class. The energy generated by the musicians and fellow dancers was spectacular and so stimulating! Essentrics® classes have also provided me a similar encompassing experience as a group exerciser. Your focus is heightened by the instructor, music and group dynamic.
I can do that too!
It’s so much easier doing intentional movement when there are others around doing the same thing. This could be a class or even a duo. When I see others exercise, I want to exercise too(or at least think I should be). I think part of the motivation is to match your peers and a little competitive spirit too.
Not enough time? Finances?
Sometimes there is a financial constraint to group work. In the advent of our now not so recent world crisis, there are multiple online options. The cost of online classes may be cheaper than in person.
When it comes to time, the online workout option eliminates more than half of the battle. You are not depending on traffic or the TTC to get you there on time. You can potentially do it at work or home depending on the routine.
Other possibilities may include creating your own group and choosing someone to lead. Use some prerecorded workouts or online applications. If you can get enough people together, you could share the cost of a workout with an instructor you choose.
Watch and follow someone else
I did an online class this morning for $10 with one of my favorite instructors. She has amazing energy, and I can see the other participants (when I choose to). I clear some space, get a mat out, earpods in, runners on, and voila! Instant group fun!
Although there are many recorded options, the benefit of a live stream is that the instructor is actually watching the participants to give modifications and specific cues. You really do feel like a part of a class, and it’s definitely more fun for me than doing my workout solo.
Find your peeps. They are out there. Structure a class into your week and make the commitment. Take advantage of the abundant energy that is already present to get you moving. There is no time like now. Are you ready?