Parenting is tough. There’s no doubt about that. As parents we juggle the titles of caretaker, nurse, advisor, chef, transporter, cheerleader, consoler, and many, many more. So often we put our family first, then perhaps our jobs, then put ourselves at the bottom of the priority list. One important facet of our lives that is quick to be dropped in the name of all else is exercise. It takes time. It takes energy. For busy parents, time and energy are two commodities that are often lacking.
How unfortunate, right? One of the very tools we can use to have the energy to do all that we need to do is the one tool we often neglect to use.
For those who know my story, you know that I used to be a couch potato. At one point by choice, and then for more medical reasons. Through a series of events, the proverbial light bulb went off and I recognized the need to get healthy. This required major changes – the kind of changes most people say they want to make, but don’t really want to put the work in for.
I had two little sets of my brown eyes staring back at me that gave me everything I needed to get started and stay motivated.
I ran out of excuses. Often that’s the point at which people get motivated, said Rachael Newsham, a New Zealand-based fitness expert and program director with Les Mills International.
Les Mills creates a variety of world-class group fitness programming that is used in gyms around the world. Rachael happens to be the co-program director for the program that I personally attribute to helping me to save my life – BODYCOMBAT™, a high-intensity mixed martial arts program. It provided the movement and stress relief that my body, mind and soul needed.
Rachael has been in the group fitness world for quite a while. Although group fitness classes are among the major reasons that people join a gym, often they are not the way many people spend their time there. Instead, people turn to the treadmill because it is safe and self-explanatory, said Rachael, whereas group fitness classes may be “unknown” or out of a person’s comfort zone.
“I guess people always want to put their best foot forward, and the unknown is always scary.”
Scary? Yes. But that shouldn’t be a reason to not give it a try. Life is scary.
“Embrace the unknown and be prepared to get it wrong,” Rachael said. (It’s really OK, as long as you don’t hurt yourself.)
“Initially, you don’t know what you’re doing, but you can’t let it stop you. If you don’t know how to scuba dive, you wouldn’t jump in the water with your equipment on and no instruction, then say ‘I can’t do this because I’m uncoordinated.’ Give it a chance.”
True, some people thrive more exercising on their own. However, group fitness is a great way to move, meet other people, and feel like a part of something bigger. For me, in a BODYCOMBAT™ class, I do feel like part of “one tribe,” as Les Mills describes it. It’s the feeling of “we’re in this together.”
I went in feeling like the least coordinated person on the planet, but over time developed the necessary coordination to take – and eventually teach – the class. Sometimes it takes time, and sometimes it takes trying different classes to find what works best for each individual. Put me in a step class, and you can count on me to fall off the step. Put me in a yoga class, and I’m sure to feel like the least graceful person ever. Tell me to punch and kick? Game on. It’s about finding what works. Group fitness classes work because of the combination of the atmosphere, the music, and the teacher.
“Humans are social creatures naturally,” Rachael said. “The teacher can, however, make or break the atmosphere.”
When people don’t connect with the instructor, they have less excitement about the class.
Is group fitness the be all and end all of a fitness regimen? Maybe, maybe not. That can only be answered by each individual. If a person is getting everything they need out of group fitness, that’s fantastic! It may not be for everyone. “Fitness works when you fall in love with it,” said Rachael. “We all love different things, so let it be what rocks your boat.”
Whether you go with the group or go on your own, just go. Every day we get older, and “it sucks when you lose what you had, and take it for granted. Use it, don’t lose it,” Rachael said.
For parents, this is especially true. We have people who depend on it. If you have no other reason to make fitness a priority, Rachael offers a great one: Shelf life. We want to be around for our kids, and making fitness a priority is an essential part of that.
For more information on Les Mills programming, visit www.lesmills.com.