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Many of us are ready to venture back into the world of group fitness, having grown tired of our home gyms and virtual workout subscriptions. Let’s face it: It’s hard to work out alone for months on end when you’re used to the energy of training in a group. That’s not to say there aren’t people who thrive in their home gyms and were doing so before the word pandemic was part of our everyday vernacular. Many of us, however, are ready to break away from our home offices and venture out into the world again.
But how do we find our way back to a class and gym that motivates us and provides accountability to crush our goals? Unless you’re extremely self-motivated and disciplined, this is one area where home fitness can sometimes fall short. Not to mention, getting back into our old routines and seeing some familiar faces every day can be a mood booster, even if it’s just a few days per week.
Here are some things you should consider when searching for a group fitness class that’s a perfect match for your goals.
1. What type of fitness do you enjoy?
First and foremost (and maybe this is obvious), exercise should be fun! It should be challenging and engaging, but definitely fun. If it isn’t and you’re doing something you hate, it’s never going to last.
Do you enjoy lifting weights and doing more HIIT-style workouts, or do you like to dance? These are the types of questions you need to ask yourself before trying a group class. Someone who enjoys weightlifting might be more drawn to CrossFit-style workouts or bootcamp classes, as opposed to a bike junkie who would be way more inclined to join a spin or tread class.
If you want to try something new, that is awesome. Not often as adults do we get to learn and experience new things. But at the same time, be honest with yourself. Think about what you really enjoy and what you dislike before biting the bullet and dropping a ton of money on a class package.
2. What’s your budget?
As with most things, you get what you pay for. That is not to say that more expensive is always better, but well-trained coaches and professional fitness instructors charge a premium for their time and services. While it may be tempting to choose a class based on price alone, I would drop into a few different studios to get a true sense of the quality of the product.
Most group fitness or small group training is generally priced within the same range, so if something is listed well below that, you might not be getting the quality and instruction you are looking for.
3. What time of day are you going to class?
The 5 a.m. crew is going to differ vastly from 9 a.m. or evening class-goers. Certain times of the day bring in different demographics of people, generally speaking. Those early morning peeps may be a bit more of an intense crowd, but once the later morning creeps in, you’re looking at more of relaxed vibe, in my experience. If the studio offers a noon class, the demographic may swing back to nine-to-fivers looking to get a sweat on during their lunch break.
See if you can try classes at different times of day, and decide where you think your energy fits in best so your classmates can add to your motivation.
4. Do you like the community?
If the studio offers a free intro class, take it. For me, a good group class is all about the vibe. The community of people attending really matters to me. Are they friendly, warm, and welcoming? Or does it seem cliquey and cold?
If you attend a group class and want to keep to yourself, that is A-okay, but read the room. If the atmosphere isn’t fun and upbeat, look elsewhere.
Does the coach seem invested in you? Do they say hello when you walk in? Do they know your name? These questions may seem silly, but they’re important in making you feel like part of the group, and these small actions can really foster community. A great community of people that you click with creates accountability outside of yourself — and makes it harder not to show up.
5. Look at the logistics.
This may seem obvious, but at a bare minimum, do their schedule and class offerings work for you? Moreover, how accessible is the class, and realistically, how far are you willing to drive to get there?
If it takes 30 minutes there and back, you need to be honest with yourself and decide whether that’s sustainable for you in the long run. Or does a 10-minute round trip make the most sense for you to stick with it?
6. Get referrals and read reviews.
It seems like those of us who enjoy a certain type of fitness know where to find each other, so ask around! If you have a local town or city forum on social media or a community center with a digital presence, check those out to find referrals. Odds are, if there is a really good group fitness class in town with reputable and well-respected coaches, people are talking about it.
Also, read reviews. Most studios live and die by their reputations, and people are not shy about letting others know about a bad experience. Take it with a grain of salt though, and use reviews as just one barometer to narrow down your search.
7. Utilize social media.
Having a digital footprint to get customers in the door is huge for group fitness these days, especially with a super saturated market. If you have a gym in mind, check out their social media. Do you see happy people who look like you in their photos? Does their space look clean and inviting? Does it seem like they have taken some time and attention to showcase their gym in a way that draws you in?
Doing this can be a great way to get a sense of their day-to-day activity before wasting your time trying a class that isn’t right for you.