I had a nice (normal) title for this post. But, I made this mistake of discussing it with MY trainer. His title won out, obviously. Why? Because when I explained to him that I had zero interest in taking his class, and that I liked training on my own, and that classes weren’t for me, that’s exactly what he said in a mocking tone.
Now for the record, I’d already lost 80ish pounds. I was already a trainer. But I LIKED training on my own– where my still wobbly butt, lack of coordination and even bigger lack of cardiovascular endurance was not on display for everyone. I didn’t want to see what other women were capable of doing, because I’m *kind of* competitive. And I was sure that despite having already achieved so much, I just wouldn’t stack up. I’d feel like I didn’t belong and couldn’t hang, and then you know, the inevitable pity party.
My trainer has this thing about people staying in their comfort zones– and I lost that battle. I was plateaued in my weight loss journey, and I was whining a lot about it. His “classes aren’t for me and I really like my fat” thing got under my skin, because I knew that this was something I had not tried. And if it were enough to help me break the very long plateau, then that was reason enough to set down my excuses.
I showed up to the first class grouchy about having to be there and completely sure I was going to embarrass myself. But here’s the thing. It wasn’t that bad. By the second class, I might have liked it a little. By the third class, I couldn’t at all remember why I liked working out on my own so much. For the record, classes were where I really started to see progress in the fitness department! (And I did break my plateau, going on to lose over 100 pounds.)
No doubt, I had to learn it the hard way (because, hellllooooo… that’s the way I roll!) but I think classes are a great and important part of a fitness program.
Here’s why I’m eating crow and completely reversing my (somewhat ridiculous, I realize now) stance on classes:
- It’s a great way to learn: There isn’t a nice way to say this. Most people on any gym floor don’t know what they’re doing. Their form is no where close (and sometimes dangerous), or they are doing partial range of motion because they don’t know any better. Classes very often teach you the proper way to do exercises, and with that information, you could replicate the correct form outside of the class. Any of my girls, including the ones that have been with me just a few weeks, could tell you how to hold your hands, how to stand, what line you wanted to follow, and how deep to take the weight on a dumbbell shoulder press or any number of other exercises. Some of them train with me, but most of them learned in class. And when they look around the gym, they know exactly what most of the people are not doing correctly.
- It’s kinda like having a personal trainer, but waaaay cheaper: If the instructor is good, he or she is constantly watching, correcting and challenging you. You don’t see that you have a rowed back (which can lead to injury) but the trainer sees it. You think the 15’s are sufficient, but the trainer realizes you aren’t challenging yourself. At all. In the process of doing the class, you’re learning more about your body. And classes often cost only a fraction of what you would pay to have the trainer’s undivided attention.
- It (can) be a great place to learn other healthy habits and tips: Most of the people that do my clients don’t train with me regularly. Some of them have gotten me to do meal plans for them, but what they’ve really learned about nutrition has often happened when they’re resting or before and after class. Some one falls out because they didn’t eat enough sugar? That’s a great chance for the trainer (if this is an area of knowledge for them) to talk about how to eat prior to a workout. Or when someone wonders why the scale is stuck no matter how hard they are training, it’s a chance to hear how calories really function or about the stress and body connection. By doing classes over and over with the same person, you begin to develop a relationship with them. I’m not saying go in hopes of scoring free advice, but most trainers love what they do, and sometimes their knowledge comes out in the conversations that happen around classes.
- It’s a treat place to try new things: This one’s pretty self explanatory. But, at least for me, I’d have to own the fact that a lot of what I know about exercises and types of training came from taking my trainer’s classes, not from training sessions. I learned that I actually love spin bikes and how effective they can be in interval training. I also learned that whatever inclination I’d once had to want to do martial arts was pretty much gone. And I learned how truly vile, but also amazing, battle ropes could be in a workout.
- You don’t have to come up with your workout: I keep saying it and keep promising I’ll write about it, but the treadmill is the worst piece of equipment in the gym. Yet loads of people head straight there. And part of the problem is that most people genuinely don’t know what they should be doing, so they do that because that’s what other people are doing. But in a class, a good trainer can help you work appropriately toward your goals. Sometimes, even for people who do know how to structure a workout, it’s nice just to have a great workout there waiting for you.
- You’re constantly adapting your routine: Face it, your body is very smart. And it gets used to doing the same thing over and over. The equally ugly truth is that people like doing the same things over and over. But the problem comes from the fact that success doesn’t happen when you’re stuck in a rut. One of the great things about a class is that it’s rarely the same workout.
- There’s (probably) someone better/fitter/stronger than you are: I swear I come by this competitive thing honestly. My dad is a 67 year old cyclist– and simply cannot tolerate anyone passing him–even if the other guy is 25. When I started doing classes, everyone had been training a lot longer and harder than I had. I’d be gasping on the floor pretty sure I was getting ready to break my “no puking, passing out, or dying” rule. They’d still be looking at the trainer like “That’s all you got?” But what was awesome is that it brought out a sheer stubborness in me– and I wouldn’t let myself quit. More than anything else, those women made me better. They made me work for my place in the class– not because they were mean or judgemental (They weren’t. They were actually very encouraging), but because I wanted what they had. One of them had great, muscular legs that could have been on a magazine cover. When I wanted to quit or cut my squats short, I’d remember how much I’d always wanted great legs. (Uhem… still working on it!) If I were training on my own at that stage in my journey, I’m pretty sure I never would have gone as hard as I did in those classes.
- It’s brings you into a tribe: I’ll own it. I’m an introvert. The idea of socializing is not even remotely my thing, and being in a group of people I don’t know is my vision of hell. And I’m not going to go out and just make friends. But a group class can provide an opportunity to get to know people– and also people who wouldn’t normally be in your circle. It’s great to have other people who have goals similar to yours, and to talk about successes and struggles. Other conversations happen too. We’ve talked about everything from jobs and relationships and kids to cancer and boobs and why sometimes, you just can’t zip and button your pants.
I’m not saying people should only do classes– in fact, I think that’s a huge mistake. I do, however, think lots of people might see great benefit from them.
I could’ve named a thousand reasons excuses why I didn’t want to do classes. But I’m really, really glad someone convinced me to at least give them a try. I started doing classes, broke a plateau, pushed my self to new places, learned more than I could ever describe, and made huge progress in my strength and fitness.
What is it you want?
What’s that saying? Oh yeah. Change nothing and nothing changes. Just sayin’!