WHeN you sweat, you sweat solo.So you’ve been led to believe. Go to the gym and put on those earphones, and nothing can penetrate your fitness force fields. Personal space? Don’t mess with it. Group classes? Forget it. The people around you exist only to marvel at your prowess.
“Men tend to think that group classes are just for women, especially when there’s dancing,” says Stephanie Pagarigan, C.S.C.S., a personal trainer who teaches numerous group exercise classes at 360 Fitness Club in Quezon City. And because men don’t like doing girly things, “most would [stick] to doing workouts with weights because it makes them look more manly.”
The unmanly notion of group exercise classes was probably conditioned by the popularity of aerobics back in the ’80s. Images of women clad in spandex and sweating out to Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” come to mind. And it doesn’t help that some of these elements still exist today. You don’t see the neon leotards as much, but peek in at any class at your gym, and you’ll likely see people exercising to a supercharged version of Rihanna’s “Right Now.”
Pop remixes aside, group exercise classes aren’t just meant for those who wear sports bras. “A lot of classes now have intensities and movements suited for men,” Pagarigan stresses. If the idea of moving to the beat of Katy Perry songs makes you squeamish, you might be missing out on the benefits. That’s because whether your aim is to get stronger, improve your flexibility, or have better cardio, there’s bound to be a class that can help you achieve your goal.
For the budget-conscious (which is to say, all of us), sweating it out in a non-solo setting offers a distinct advantage: In your group class instructor, you get a personal trainer minus the fee, says Ferdinand Manabat, a personal trainer with A.F.A.A. certification at FTX Gym in Makati, and a Rip:60 master trainer for Gold’s Gym.
As he moves from one student to another, a good teacher will show you the proper form for each exercise, and offer an easier or harder version depending on your capacity. He will also teach you how to breathe regularly (something most people forget while exercising) and pace yourself properly. And if he sees you’re resting more than you’re working, he can hold you accountable and push you to keep going, writes exercise physiologist Shawn Dolan, Ph.D., R.D., C.S.S.D., in the article “Benefits of Group Exercise” for the Fit Society Page e-newsletter of the American College of Sports Medicine. That’s more motivational than any self-administered pep talk.
Being around other people can boost you further, even if you’re the shy type. “The enthusiasm of the people in the class is contagious. Pati yung energy level ng instructor can be motivating,” Manabat notes. The upbeat vibe of group exercise classes stands to improve your social life, too, because “the group concept helps build camaraderie among participants,” adds Sheen Gonzales, a circuit coach and group class instructor at 360 Fitness Club in Pasig. Bonus points: At times, the ratio of women to men in classes is either 3:1 or 2:1. If you’re a single guy, you’d want to be in that kind of situation.
How seemingly cookie-cutter workouts can address your personal goals may be explained by the way each session is structured. Pagarigan says a typical class consists of the three basic elements you need for a good exercise session: the warmup, the workout proper, and the cooldown. In a group class, there’s no excuse to rush the warmup or skip the post-workout stretch. Everybody does it at the same pace.
Such a package can also make it easier for you to squeeze workouts into a jam-packed schedule. Aside from being short (usually 30 minutes from an hour), group classes are less taxing mentally. “[You] do not need to know how to develop a safe and effective workout or which machines to use or for how long, [because] it’s already done for [you],” Dolan explains. You’ll only need the willingness to put in the hard work.
FITNESS WITH A PURPOSE
The wide variety of group exercise classes out there will eliminate monotony from your training if you try a different class each week. You’ll likely find yourself at the gym more often as a result. A study published in the Open Journal of Preventive Medicine found that group exercise classes make it easier for people to stick to a fitness regimen. The research participants—25 sedentary people who were put on a 30-week program of different Les Mills group classes—couldn’t find excuses to be absent, which led to their scoring a 98.8-percent participation rate. They also enjoyed a reduction in body-fat percentage and cholesterol levels, and improved overall cardiovascular fitness.
Choosing which group class to attend, though, has to be strategic. First, list down your fitness goals. “You have to make sure that a class you’re attending is in line with your fitness goal; otherwise it might turn you off group classes altogether,” warns Manabat. It’s better to take a variety of classes as well, adds Gonzales; incorporate classes that will address strength, cardio, and flexibility to get that “balanced progression in terms of the fitness spectrum.” (Check out our experience to see how different classes can help you address different fitness goals).
And once you start attending classes, choose to be humble. Most men tend to make the mistake of showing off at the expense of proper form. “Be patient. Pride is not really an advantage here. You cannot expect to get everything in the first class,” Manabat says. Don’t be bothered that the cute chinita beside you is doing the more difficult move. Everybody in the class is working at their own levels, so it’s best to get your bearings first. No one will look down on you, anyway.
“Don’t approach it with negative feelings,” urges Gonzales. “It may feel awkward at first, but you’ll eventually get the hang of it and get fit at the same time.”