Updated: Feb 21, 2019
The New Year usually brings new resolutions, particularly where health and fitness is concerned.
However, 80% of people who join a gym in January tend to quit up to five months later, and I think the main reason that people do this is because they invest their hopes for a fitter future in their willpower in setting off on this journey.
In my view, if you are not good at what you are doing in the gym, then you are going to quit. It might take weeks, or possibly months to reach this point, but ultimately you will find that you cannot carry on with a gym programme that brings little reward or satisfaction.
The gym floor can be an intimated place to be. If you are not sure where to go, which machine to use, or how heavy you should lift you are not likely to enjoy the process of being in the environment.
So there is no hope then in setting out on such a resolution in the first place, you would think.
Well, not so, because there is a place within the gym where you can go and find someone that is going to help you move forward, and that place is the fitness class.
Body pump, circuit training, spin, pilates, yoga; the good thing with a gym fitness class is that you have the opportunity after joining to see the same faces each week and of meeting up with the same people. Coupled with this reassuring social element is the fact that the same training schedule each week is a great way to learn the training discipline you need to succeed in the gym.
Or, to put it another way, as the instructor and the other class members are there, why shouldn't you also be?
I used to regularly go to a spin class years ago, as well as to a body pump class. Coming from the world of rugby, I took up these classes believing in the ethos that a squad is something you can rely upon, and which you can enjoy being a part of. It motives and gives drive.
Then of course there is the class instructor and the helpful role which that person can play.
My advice would be when starting out with a fitness class to make sure you go to the right class for your needs and also with regard to your level of fitness (and bear in mind that your fitness level is based on two criteria - your strength and cardiovascular ability, i.e. how fast your pulse comes down after physical exertion).
So spin, for example, is a great way to work your legs, while the dark of the spin room amplifies the focus of the class members. You learn, in this environment, how to follow a rhythm and the pace of the class.
Circuit training classes, on the other hand, are a great to get to know a few key exercises that target the whole body. You learn, in a circuit training class, a structure for effective whole body training and start testing and measuring your strength in the process.
Then there are the body pump classes, which are more geared towards resistance training, which will help to build a strong mental self, as body pump is a demanding type of training (due to the long series of repetitions you have to undertake as part of the class).
Pilates meanwhile teaches you how to use your whole body with a compound set of exercises (which essentially means that you use more than one muscle at once during the session), which will also raise your awareness of your body as it develops.
Or how about yoga, which will give you an indication of how flexible you are (or can be) and how you can improve your flexibility moving forward. Yoga also offers a different approach to training in a calming atmosphere, with a meditation-like vibe.
All these types of exercise classes can give their members different approaches to working and improving the body (and indeed the mind).
I personally decided to train myself on my own once I had found my footing in the gym, as the classes I was participating in at the time gave me the confidence to continue in this way.
So what is the best approach to take; individual or class training?
Well, as touched upon above, if you are a novice to fitness then group classes could indeed work for you. It may also be the case that you are not a novice, but that you get bored of training yourself by yourself, in which case group classes will have a positive effect on your workout and training.
I tend to advise individual training to those people who enjoy to be by themselves when training. This is because if you are good at training yourself and this works for you in terms of your personal satisfaction on the gym floor, then you will prefer to be on your own following your own pace and choosing your exercise when you workout.
So why change that formula?
I enjoy training myself most of the time and it does leave me feeling good and accomplished in my training. However, I can also enjoy occasionally getting together with a group class and to be driven by the atmosphere of the class.
So, choose your style, enjoy it, feel the effects and then return again to what works best for you!