Sunday, August 4, 2013

Group training classes

On Monday I bit the bullet and signed up for a gym membership.

Every 6-12 months I get an urge to go to a gym for some reason or another. So lets hope this time it sticks. 
I have heaps of equipment at home, but I'm currently really interested in group fitness Classes. So I thought I'd give a  perspective of the more popular group fitness classes from a beginner's point of view.

During this last week I went to 4 different group fitness classes. 

Day 1: Cross fit/Boxing: 

This class started very overwhelming, everyone there knew the warm up routine, so the instructor just yelled out what to do while he set up the room.  Me? Well I had no idea what some of the moves were, so I tried my best to follow on. 
He assigned us pairs of similar ability, and we started by doing 5 sets of 2 mins of two activities.  One was push ups (the more advanced people did handstand push ups) and the other was lying down with a kettle Bell staying high in the air, and the standing up again, not letting your arm drop with the kettlebell (no idea what this actual move is called). The good thing about this activity is, you go hard for 2 mins, but then your turn is over and your partner would go for 2 mins and you could rest (and encourage them).
The next was a list of activities. Luckily there was a beginner and an advanced option. Between the two of us we needed to complete X reps of each activity. So the first person goes until they are tired and the next one goes until they are tired, and the two of you keep going until you have done your reps. Each activity (for the beginner was 80-100 reps, depending on the activity). The Activities were : Kettle Bell Swings, 400m row, push ups, sit ups & squats. It was good, because even if you could only do 10 of an activity your partner was there to help you through it. My partner did over half of our allocation, except the rowing, where I smashed it (I could have done the full 400m, but I thought I'd let him have a go). We were really proud of ourselves when we finished, and it made you feel really great about yourself - and its a great way to actually interact with other people in classes (especially when you don't know anyone).
Finally, we did 15mins of boxing. The boxing included cross over punches, upper cuts and hooks. Then shuttle running in between reps. By the time I got to boxing (which I love!) I was totally buggered!

Verdict: I really enjoyed this class. Even though it started out overwhelming, I think it is great for a range of fitness levels. The team exercises allows you to feel a sense of accomplishment, without feeling overwhelmed. A must for those starting out at a new gym (at least a few times to see if it is your thing).

My Calories Burnt this session

Day 3: Sh'Bam

This is a LesMills designed workout
 Now, one of the reasons why I wanted to join up to a gym was to do Zumba. I used to do it at my old gym, I've done it at The Biggest Loser Retreat and I even have the Wii Game. I really enjoy Zumba. However, when looking for a new gym I noticed that all the gyms near me don't do Zumba anymore, which was really disappointing. I was told that Sh'Bam had replaced Zumba and if you like Zumba you will LOVE Sh'bam.
Now going into the class, I was pleasantly surprised by the range of ability in the room. There were teenagers, there was a 70 year old lady (she told us she was 70), there were larger people (like myself) and there were the 30 year old slim fit girls up the front (no boys today, but we were told that there are usually a couple), and pretty much everything in between. 
The class used very simple dance moves like the grapevine, step forward, step back, combined with a range of arm movements (some people did them, others focused just on their feet).
I felt that this class was very simple, and it was up to the individual to increase the intensity they worked at (putting more effort into each move VS just walking through the steps)

Verdict: This class is much more accessible to beginners than Zumba, but my personal opinion is that I like Zumba more - I really enjoyed the style of dance Zumba was. I can see myself going again - maybe it will grow on me. But in my eyes, Zumba burns more calories and forces the 'lazy' individual to burn more, whereas Sh'Bam appears to allow you to breeze your way through it if you don't have the drive. But for beginners -- Sh'Bam is WAY more accessible for all ages, fitness levels and injuries. 
(sounds like I am a bit on the fence)
I guess what I'm saying is they both have their strengths, it is purely up to the style of dance you like and your overall level of fitness.

Day 3: Body Balance 

Now, I've done Body Balance before around 12 months ago at another gym, and when I did it there I loved it! I felt that it was great to stretch out your muscles when they are sore from workouts that week. I used to go every week at my old gym. There was a range of movements you could do depending on your flexibility. But this class was different...

Now, everyone else in the class would have been no bigger than a size 12, most would have been a size 8-10. Other than me...

Most of the moves that we were asked to do required you to not have a stomach - Like I would try to do the moves and physically can't. Now I've been told that I'm very flexible, and I've done Body Balance before - but during this class I was holding back the tears not to cry... The moves he was asking us to do were impossible, and it was very frustrating that there wasn't an alternate option for me to do. I closed my eyes and held back the tears, and tried to find my own version of the workout.

Verdict: As I said before, I've done Body Balance before and I have loved it! But, I can't see myself going back to a class until I know the routine has changed. If you are a larger person, I honestly believe you will be better doing your own stretches. I was very disappointed :-(

My Calories burnt after the two sessions

Day 4: Body Pump

This is also a Les Mills designed workout :
Now after my bad experience I didn't really want to do another class that was far beyond my ability. I went to the gym to go over my beginner program (the one they give you when you start at a new gym), and I spoke to some of the ladies about my experience with Body Balance. I told them I didn't want another experience like that, but wanted to know what classes would be good for a lower ability. They suggested I went to Body Pump that night. Before I went home, I spent a bit of time talking to one of the instructors (for another class) and she eased my mind a bit about Body Pump.

I got to the class and the instructor I was talking to earlier, introduced me to the instructor for the class, I told him that I was a beginner and he found the bar and the weights that I needed for the class. He told me to keep it light for my first session, and always go up to more weight next time.

The class was basically moving a weight bar in different positions, from standing to laying on a bench. It worked a range of muscles and wasn't a very difficult class to feel confident in (the weight of your bar was the only thing that could hold you back).

Verdict: I LOVED this class. When I left I told the instructor that it was the best class I had done this week. I left feeling confident that I could come and do this every week and easily see results. Now, at the end of the class my muscles were shaking cause I'd worked them so much, but I felt amazing! This type of class (low intensity) is GREAT for beginners because you feel like you have achieved something, you don't feel like your weight is limiting you and you know you will get results since your muscles will burn your fat long after the class has finished. It also is really obvious to see yourself improve, when you go to a higher weight.

I didn't take a photo of my watch, but I think it was only 300cal for the hour session


My overall opinion of the classes that I've done this week. In order of how much I liked them.
1. Body Pump is a MUST for beginners - it allows you to do the exercises, without the issue of rising your heart rate up and feeling out of breath. It builds your muscles so you can burn fat for longer and see results.
2. CrossFit/Boxing - Can feel overwhelming at the start, but great when you get started. You are able to share the load with another group member and it allows you to actually interact with another person, where most classes have you facing the front and keeping to yourself.
3. If you are new to exercise Sh'Bam is really accessible for all ages and fitness levels. But if you are at a slightly higher fitness level, you need to push yourself to get the same results as you would in other dance style classes.
4. Body Balance can be a good class - but is really difficult for a larger person. If you are unfit but slim, this class could be really useful, but if you are a larger person I would go to the class very aware that you may not be able to do the activities they ask.

I'm going to try a few more classes over the next few weeks. I'll let you know what I think of them as a first timer.
-- Jackie

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