As we come out of the COVID fog and start reintegrating back with our family, friends, and workplaces, the idea of returning to live fitness can seem extra. Now that we know there could be people spying on you in your house from your fitness devices, however, it could be a good time to consider man (or woman) over machine.
Even more so, group fitness can be a great way to reintegrate with our communities. It’s intentional to go to a yoga or bootcamp class, but the spontaneous relationships we can form present an opportunity to expand our networks. The new stimulus of trying something new or returning to a favorite workout is an automatic dopamine hit.You have an opportunity to get out of the house, away from your kids, the office pings and the phone. Finally, the personal attention you get from a live instructor is incomparable to an app giving you or a generic virtual audience a shout out…
Why group fitness ?
Private training experience for less money
Small group classes are akin to private training but much cheaper . You can get some pretty specialized training from a “coach” in an intimate setting without having to pay the big bucks – or even if you do have a trainer these can be a good supplement. Most people rarely work with a private trainer 5 days a week. This provides a benefit of having a fixed place and time to show up and then switch off your brain because someone else is giving you tailored instructions .
Training wheels for post-COVID reintegration
Fitness classes can be a step towards relearning post – Covid lore. We are slowly relearning things that used to be second nature. Like for me, packing for a trip used to be an efficient science and now a simple weekend trip takes me hours to prepare. But we will travel more and relearn. And just like traveling , we will be learning to reintegrate socially again. My first major foray into going to a wedding was very socially awkward, but having gone back to group fitness for a few weeks, I’d had some practice in making eye contact, negotiating personal space and sharing a common objective to work toward with a team.
You will also see that people are eager to interact and make contact. I have made some of my best friends through group fitness classes, and continue to meet new, interesting people. You may think you have enough friends or are too old to make new ones, but this mentality will make you miss an opportunity to grow and enrich your life.
Let’s face it, we all managed to self- motivate by working from home a bit that can dry out pretty quickly. You can only stare at yourself in a mirror or at a computer screen for so long. Trust me, life is meant to be lived in 3D, and for me that means working out in a gym I go to and being around other people . I find it motivating when I am dying from doing burpees to look around and see my classmates struggling but holding on for dear life. Going to get a smoothie with a friend afterwards can make it so much more satisfying than just getting off a machine and getting back to your desk.
Also, group fitness can give you the motivation to work on areas you may not normally focus on solo.For me, it was really hard to motivate doing yoga on an app. On the other hand, if I have a yoga class I’m signed up for I’ll be forced to sit in the room for an hour. Once I am in that dedicated space, I realized how good it feels to open up my muscles that I have exhausted in the training that I am motivated to do on my own. It’s a lot easier to shut down an app than get up and leave a room.
Especially with resistance training , it is important to introduce new movements into the routine and mix things up. When I go to a group strength training or conditioning class, I learn new movements, which is especially valuable for parts of training where I tend to gravitate toward more plain vanilla, like abs and arms. For example I learned the value of incorporating a slider into ab movements and for very cheap you can order some that work on carpets like Amazon. Slider tucks and pikes do wonders for the lower abs.
Options for traveling
As we start to travel more, having an option to book a nearby group fitness workout is both convenient and makes the experience more local. You can usually find options via one of the apps I mentioned above. Most of the studios I review below are franchises and have stores all across the country. This way you don’t have to worry about an unreliable hotel gym situation or just get an air bn’b which is usually a more economically friendly choice.
Tips to get the most of group fitness
1. Jump on the deal – most studios will have amazing intro offers like free week of classes or for very cheap, or 2/1. You can usually get these even if you went a long time ago and are returning. Or you can see if your employer has Gym Pass , and consider getting Class Pass for a month, which is basically a one stop class booking app that doesn’t require a separate studio membership. Of course once you go studio staff will usually push class packs or memberships, but an app or number of intro options can help you take a test drive without buying the car
2. Consider a big box gym membership that has group fitness . The best of all worlds for me is the option to train in the gym on my own, with a trainer, or In a group fitness setting and that’s available at big box gyms like the one I belong to, Equinox, which also has first in class equipment and amenities. I’ve also belonged to the Y, gold’s gym,lifetime and other gyms and they all offer the same benefits – one place to have a lot of options to work out. This is definitely the most cost efficient way to have access to gym equipment and a lot of studio workouts at once.
3. Choosing a class – joyful movement and workouts you think you will like. You don’t have to do a workout just because it’s a fad. If you don’t like spinning or aren’t into yoga- period- then figure out what you do like, which is why dabbling in an all access option like Class Pass or Gym Pass is useful. You can also read some of my workout reviews, below
Workout boutique class reviews
Now a list of the boutique workout studios that I have tried and recommend below:
CorePower Yoga – is now OPEN and available in most coastal cities. This is a hot yoga studio that offers both power vinyasa yoga, hatha yoga, and a class called “yoga sculpt” which involves a combination of light weightlifting and high-impact interval training. Each class is approximately 30 dollars, but class packages are available, as are “Black Tag” monthly memberships. Each class is approximately 60 minutes and no advanced sign up is needed – you just show up. I received my certification in yoga sculpt, and having had an understanding of the building blocks, I can say this is good for you if you enjoy flowing to music and challenging your practice in a heated environment – it is good for newbies too. There is a C1 class you can take that is the vinyasa flow class minus the heat. Find out more at https://www.corepoweryoga.com/
Barry’s Bootcamp – I have done this workout in several cities and can say it is the closest thing to the availability of a full body workout by area. You have the structure of a treadmill plus circuit training on the floor – each person gets assigned a treadmill and a floor space, and there is decent distance between each station. The treadmill section of the class is about half of it, spaced out in 10-15-minute intervals, and usually starts at speeds varying from 4, 6, or 8 MPH. The instructor directs both the floor and “treads” simultaneously, and the treads adjust both speed and ramp incline until you basically max out on your leg power. But in effect, it is your workout. The floor exercises depend on what day of the week it is. For example, one day of the week is legs, another is chest and abs, and another is glutes. There is also the option of “double flooring” which entails staying in circuit mode the entire class. There is a forthcoming app, and you can sign up at https://www.barrysbootcamp.com/. Oh, and they have this awesome smoothie and juice bar where you are able to place an order before class starts and all you need to do is supply your name and your drink will be ready right after class!
Orange theory – very similar to Barry’s with a different type of challenge – you actually wear a heart rate monitor and strive to reach your orange “fat burning zone” – the class consists of treadmill, rowing, circuit training including TRX work. Find out more at https://www.orangetheoryfitness.com/ and read my review of the expereince here.
Pure Barre: I have a special place in my heart for Pure Barre having witnessed the openings of both studios in Virginia Beach and Washington DC. Since then I have taken classes in San Francisco, LA, Orange County, Seattle, Philadelphia, Orlando, New York, Chicago, North Carolina, even Toronto!!! Before you check out and think, ugh, barre, not interested it is more of a full body workout than a barre workout which is why I like it. You start each class doing core work, pushup series, and weights (high rep low weights) then move onto a thigh and “seat” sequence, followed by even more abs and a cooldown. When I first started doing it, I noticed changes immediately – tiny muscles I never knew existed were now popping out and I had a stronger core and better balance. And if you get that instructor who knows how to bring the pain, you will absolutely be dying until they get to the “Final 10” countdown for a sequence. There is a pure barre app, or you can sign up on Mindbody. See http://purebarre.com/ f
[solidcore] – similar but not exactly to a “mega former” workout, it’s a class designed to make you burn all over, especially, of course, in your core. You definitely will hurt for several days and it’s not recommended to do two classes back to back. There are different settings you can put on the pulley system and you can always take breaks and go to your knees if it gets too intense. I mostly feel the biggest difference in my obliques and lower abdominal wall, and inner thighs after a Solid core workout. The classes are usually very small, especially in off-peak hours, so it is almost like having a personal training session. You can read my review of [solidcore] here.
SoulCycle – Almost half owned by Equinox, It’s not just a workout but designed to be an experience – from the surround-sound music to the motivational speakers masquerading as instructors. Every instructor has a different style – so once you learn it, you will know if you are more of a heavy climber type or like fast choreography. Do you want drill sergeant tough love, or do you want peppy encouragement? Either way you are guaranteed to sweat and feel reborn after each very pricey class – and there are generally no memberships available, although there are class packages. You can find out more about SoulCycle and what studios are open at https://www.soul-cycle.com/. Right now, they are offering a starter deal of 3 classes for 60 dollars, which is a steal. They also have a leg up on FlyWheel, which unfortunately didn’t make it through the pandemic.
If you are still using apps and working from home, you can always consult my fitness app decision tree.