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Pound Away Pounds Together

Group fitness. The two words paired together can either bring a smile to one’s face or a gasp. Like most organized activities, it may not be for everyone … but I would wager it is something the greater majority would enjoy if given a shot.

Admittedly, when I was heavy I was intimidated by group fitness classes of any form–be it classes at the gym, stroller groups or even the organized mall walkers. I couldn’t see past the obvious benefits and went right to the “how would I look doing that?” Effectively, I put my own obstacle in front of me.

Then I realized that I really to like to be a part of something. I’m more of a joiner than a soloist. And I figured that certainly being with others would allow me to commiserate with them.

I started the process slowly. I would try to glance at the class schedule while working out on the elliptical. Then I would plan my workouts around when a class I was interested in was scheduled. Then I would “conveniently” take water breaks near the group fitness room so that I could peek in (being the sly reporter-type that I am) and see what I was in for.

Then, one day I tried it. I eased in with a weightlifting class because it didn’t involve dancey choreography, and fortunately a veteran of the class helped me out with the equipment. The class itself was fine, but I didn’t connect with the teacher. She was good at delivering a good class, but I hate to admit why I couldn’t concentrate. She grunted a lot. And it almost sounded scripted. And to be honest, it sounded like she pulled that “script” from something you may hear on a steamy cable show. I couldn’t go back to one of that gal’s classes.

Naturally I next chose the class that would be the most interesting to me, but the most difficult given my size at the time. Kickboxing. I heard the teacher was a kindergarten teacher, and thought she would take it easy on me. Oh no, she was a warrior, and I didn’t last through the warm up.

Fast forward a year and then to a new gym where I got up the courage to try again. As you may know, I fell in love with Body Combat, a high-energy mixed martial arts class. At this point I felt “go big or go home,” right? I think I spent half of my time doubled over gasping for air, but I did it. I loved being part of a group. It motivated me.

I tried a few more classes, and whether I liked the format or not, I loved being part of a group. Every once in a while you catch a knowing glance from a classmate and you know what each other is thinking, even if you don’t know them personally. I have sent and received more “holy cow, that was tough but we did it” glances than I can count. I also learned that a great teacher can make or break a class.

Being around others, while it can be intimidating, can also be unbelievably motivating. For competitive people, it’s an opportunity to quietly “compete” with someone. Find someone you think does the class great, and try to emulate them–throw a punch harder, work up to adding more weights, perfect your yoga form.

If you’re not competitive, simply being around others on a regular basis may give you a sense that if you aren’t there, people will miss you. I notice when regulars miss class, and there’s nothing like being the person who missed to come back and have that familiar face you see in class say that they noticed you were gone and are glad to have you back. In a way, you become a little team or family because you’re “in it together.”

Not only do group fitness fanatics reap the benefits of the exercise, but they also enjoy the social benefits that go along with it. For me, as a busy mom, taking a class often is my social outlet.

If you’re not already involved in group fitness, consider giving it a shot. Even though you may start in the back row, if you keep at it, you may gain more confidence and find yourself creeping more toward the front of class and being the person the newbie is emulating. And, you’ll have fun with your classmates in the process.

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[author_info]About the Author

 Lori Rypka is the Prime Parents Club Fitness Contributor, a mom of two wonderful kids first, a writer, wife, friend, personal trainer and marathon runner in training second. She enjoys helping others in their personal journeys toward living healthier lives. The biggest tool in her tool box: humor. Who says dieting can’t be fun? You can find Lori at, or on Twitter as @LoriRypka.



Image: photostock

Lori Rypka has been certified as a personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise since April 2010, and enjoys helping friends find their healthy selves. Follow Lori on her blog at Fumbled Into Fitness.

1 Comment

  1. Jacqueline Wilson

    August 27, 2011 at 7:54 am

    TOTALLY intimidated to workout in group, so I can relate to the things you listed you did at first. However, I’m kind of a loner anyway, so I usually gravitate toward the “solo” kind of exercise (WHEN I workout).

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