Whether you’re home for the summer and have more time on your hands or just vowing to make a renowned effort to hit the gym, being sure to make time for exercise can be tough. However, those free group fitness classes that your gym offers can help beat the monotony of hitting the weight rack and the treadmill, over and over again. Plus, working out in a group can help foster community, create and maintain friendships, and enjoy the gym that much more. But with so many class options, where do you start? With this list of five common group exercise classes, find your perfect fit and learn what to bring when starting out, what to expect, and the works!
The staple of all exercise classes, cycle (and its variants of SoulCycle, spinning, and the like) all involve the use of a stationary bike to burn calories. These sessions generally last anywhere from half an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes and include varying speeds, intensities, and positions on the bike to burn as many calories as possible.
When arriving for your very first cycle class, be sure to get there around fifteen minutes early. For specific, branded classes, like SoulCycle and Spinning, the instructors may require you to wear specific shoes. Don’t fret– many studios have some to borrow or purchase. When heading to a regular, non-branded cycling class, be sure to bring a sweat towel and water bottle, and wear tennis shoes and tight-fitting shorts to avoid catching any loose ends in the gears of the bike.
If your gym or YMCA has a pool, the chances are that the management will offer a water aerobics class at some point. Water aerobics isn’t just for old ladies with their floral swim caps in the YMCA pool, though–water aerobics can be extremely challenging! These classes are usually an hour in length and involve resistance training in the water.
When heading to your first water aerobics class, you’ll need a swimsuit and a towel. Outside of that, the choices are all yours! Swim caps, water bottles, and goggles are all great additions to your suit and towel. The specialized equipment that you use in the water, like foam ‘dumbbells’ and paddles, are all available to borrow from the aquatics facility.
This exercise combines both mental, mindfulness-centered routines with physical poses to become both mentally and physically healthy. There are many different variations on yoga, with the most common being yoga, gentle yoga (which focuses on flexibility more than strength) and prenatal yoga, or yoga aimed to help newly pregnant mothers find some physical relief from pregnancy.
Before hitting the studio, consider what to bring. For many yogis or practitioners of yoga, a simple pair of tight-fitting pants and well-fitting shirt are ideal, to prevent anything from falling or slipping up mid-tree pose. In many cases, studios, especially those at gyms, will allow you to borrow mats. If you love your yoga mat or are just a bit weirded out by the germs, consider bringing your mat! Water bottles and sweat towels are also two yoga essentials you won’t want to miss.
Pop Fitness, Zumba, or just plain old cardio dance– whatever you call it, it boils down to the same vital concepts: upbeat music, easy-to-follow dance routines, and cardio! Cardio dance classes strengthen your lower body while also providing a great cardio workout. Generally, they run longer than your average group exercise class, lasting anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half. Breathable clothing and a water bottle are what experts recommend for this class. A water bottle, tennis shoes and sweat towel are also a few great options to help keep you and your classmates happy.
Another commonly offered exercise class, Pilates is a blend between yoga and aerobics– flexibility, breathing, and core strength are all core tenements to this exercise plan. This exercise, which saw its development in Germany, has two schools of teaching– classical, which is rarer, and modern, which is what you will more than likely receive. This exercise routine differs from all of the others on this list because of its emphasis on proper posture and breathing. Only yoga comes close to Pilates in its focus on breath and staying ‘centered.’
To succeed in the traditionally hour-long sessions of Pilates, try wearing the garb for yoga! Tight pants and a well-fitting shirt are sure to stay in place during any stretches or vigorous movement. And a sweat towel and water bottle, complete with an optional yoga mat, are sure to keep you on your A-game.