Is Your Workout Good Enough?
I’ve always been a fan of group exercise classes and personal training. Golds Gym has always been my favorite place for a good spinning class and Equinox is by far the best when it comes to creative, fun group classes. But there is no Golds Gym or Equinox in Fort Worth so I’ve tried lots of other things since moving here. I’ve tried zumba, body pump, body combat, yoga, rpm, hiit, and most recently CrossFit. I’ve been on a mission to find the solution that will give me the best results in the least amount of time.
Before I go any further I’ll say that I was trained as a Poliquin Strength Coach and have taught spinning for a few years as well. I think my classes were pretty fabulous and I think I was a pretty great trainer. I’m a stickler for form. There’s nothing I hate more than watching people squat with a rounded back or loose good form because they’re trying to lift too much weight. It’s been drilled into my brain that form is more important than how much you’re lifting. Good form is essential when you’re lifting heavy weight, when you’re lifting lighter weights with more reps (such as a body pump class), or when you’re on a spin bike (you need to be in the right position to not create wear and tear on your body that will end up in an injury).
While I do think that the type of exercise is very important when it comes to achieving specific results I do think that you need to find something you enjoy and want to keep doing over and over again otherwise you might as well not do anything, and that’s no good either. So if lifting heavy weights isn’t your thing and you’ve tried to like it but just can’t then stick to what you like because at least you’re moving your body.
How to Choose the Right Group-Ex Instructor
Over many years having lived in many different places I’ve been to a lot of amazing classes and a lot of terrible ones. First you have to find an instructor you like and feel comfortable with but most importantly you have to find one that’s actually doing their job. Sounds simple right? You’d be surprised. The job of a group fitness instructor is to make sure that YOU are getting a good, safe workout. They should be watching what’s going on, actively monitoring the room to make sure that everyone has good form, helping those who are struggling, correcting form when it’s wrong, encouraging participants to challenge themselves. Most likely you can peek into a class for a few minutes and see what’s going on. With some of the cardio based classes like zumba it’s more about having fun and not so much about form but with anything that involves lifting weights, or sitting on a bike, or even using resistance bands you need to have good form and your instructor is being paid to make sure that you’re doing things right. Group-Ex instructors are not being paid to get themselves a good workout. If your instructor never helps anyone, walks around the room or makes sure to correct form you may want to find someone else.
Last week I attended a class where the instructor voiced her dismay when someone walked into the class because she would have to give up her spot in the rotation. (It was a class based on groups working through different stations). So instead she set up her own “group” by herself and instead of watching the class to make sure everyone knew what was going on she shuffled through the stations and got in her own workout. There were 4 brand new people in that class – which she knew about-, which means she REALLY should have been watching form.
How to Choose a Personal Trainer or Strength Coach
Your coach should be able to explain to you exactly why what you’re doing is going to get you the results you want. They should be writing things down, taking note of your strength gains and any adjustments that you’ve made. They should have a clipboard, a notebook, anything that lets you know they’ve put time into planning your workout and are not just flying by the seat of their pants. Most trainers have quite a few clients – that’s how they pay their bills, and I’ve met very few that can keep track of exactly which client did what at the last session. You need to be challenged and pushed beyond where you would go. You do not want a trainer that will let you get away with squatting 90lbs when even you know you can squat 120 lbs. if you really tried. A good coach thinks you’re stronger than you think you are and holds you to those expectations. Since we’ve established that a good coach has paperwork to monitor what you’ve been doing, your routine should change every few weeks. If you’re doing the same thing for more than 6 weeks in a row and haven’t increased your weights at all it’s time to break up. You pay good money for a trainer, their job is to tailor a routine to your individual needs and not use the same bag of tricks on everyone.
I’ve recently fallen in love with CrossFit. It takes the concept of personal training and group exercise and combines them (that’s just my opinion). I’ve been lucky to have great coaches that have pushed me even when I haven’t wanted to be pushed and the class provides camaraderie. It’s not tailored to your individual needs since it is a group format but you lift very heavy weights, which you wouldn’t do in a group-ex class. It combines strength training with metabolic conditioning. One day you could be doing nothing but squats and the next day you could be doing nothing but running and burpees. It’s always challenging, always fun and you will always build some muscle and raise your heart rate. To me, it’s like combining the best of both worlds.
I know that story; I’ve been down that road. For a long time spending time with my daughter took precedence over any form of physical fitness – it still does. Now that she doesn’t nurse anymore I don’t have to worry about breastfeeding when she wakes up so I workout at 6am. If she wakes up early or winds up in our bed in the middle of the night I stay home with her instead – I’m happy with that because she is my top priority.
So, what do you do if you just really don’t have a lot of time? Something is better than nothing. When I first started getting serious about lifting heavy things again and willing to spend a little more time on me – almost 2 years after Annabelle was born- I started doing private, 30 minute CrossFit classes before I moved into the 6am class when Annabelle finally weaned. I was lucky enough to get an awesome coach, Dane at GSX CrossFit, who really challenged me. We did a lot of things to really maximize time. Whole body movements, sprinting, pushing. You don’t need to spend an hour staring into space on the elliptical or jogging around a track. You can get a quick bang for your time, this is how.