How to know which workout class is best for you
For many people, working out is a struggle. It’s a struggle to find the motivation to go to the gym and it’s a struggle to push yourself to the point where you’ll see real results. But fitness classes and boutique studios that specialize in a particular workout seek to bridge that gap by creating an environment that’s inclusive and inspiring.
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“Even if you’re doing a program that has been designed for you by a personal trainer, it requires a lot of discipline and willpower to do it on your own,” says Kyle Byron, a personal trainer and nutritionist in Toronto. “Group classes have been around at least since the 1980s, and what fitness professionals noticed right away was that attendance was high, and people were making friends in the classes and offering each other social support. It’s a fun way to train.”
Although personal training grew in popularity in the early 2000s, he says, once people started to realize how much they were spending on one-on-one sessions, they gravitated back to group classes, giving rise to blockbuster fitness phenomena like CrossFit and SoulCycle.
“The friendships you make and the fact that you’re struggling together for that one hour feels like a support network.”
With the plethora of workout classes available, it can be hard to find the right one for you. Byron advises his clients to get a Class Pass, which allows you to test out a variety of classes in a month. But if you’re looking for quick answers, below he breaks down five of the most popular workouts to help you determine your perfect fit.
A blend of cardio and resistance training, this workout is high-intensity and pushes your abilities. The weights you’re lifting are typically very heavy and the cardio portion works you to your maximum heart rate.
“You can always modify the exercises in CrossFit, which makes it very inclusive — a 60-year-old obese woman may find herself working next to a fit 19-year-old guy, but they’re both getting a good, hard workout,” Byron says.
It provides a full-body workout, and you can expect to get strong, toned muscles as well as fat loss, thanks to the blend of cardio and resistance, “which is what we need for ideal body composition.”
Perfect for: The person who likes to work out hard and push themselves to the next level.
This workout is almost entirely cardiovascular in nature, although some versions might have participants get off the bikes to do planks and other small resistance exercises.
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“The problem with spinning is that the body adapts quickly to the exercise and you get diminished returns on the workout. You’re actually burning fewer calories than you think,” he says. “Plus, you’re sitting down the whole time.”
But if you’re looking for a fun workout, this could be for you. Classes usually play great music and it’s always loud.
“Places like SoulCycle, in particular, take it to the next level, with DJs and neon lighting, making it an experience and not just a workout.”
You can expect stronger legs (and slightly bulked up), as well as improved cardiovascular function, increased energy levels and better mental health. But unless you change your diet and add more resistance training, you won’t experience much fat loss.
Perfect for: The person who likes cardio and is looking for a good time.
The name of this workout really should say it all. “By definition, they drew the name from the military, where they push people to the edge of their capabilities.”
This is a high-intensity workout where you’ll be maxing out your heart rate and pushing yourself until you feel like you can’t go anymore. But with modifications, boot camp workouts can be done by people of all fitness levels.
“The person going there has to be able to check their ego at the door and be honest: if you can’t do an exercise, ask for a modification,” Byron says.
Boot camp workouts will result in a stronger, fitter body, as well as increased energy and better mental health.
Perfect for: The person who likes variety and is willing to push it to the limit.
Taking inspiration from the exercises dancers do at the barre, these classes are low-impact, and focus on toning and lengthening the muscles. Don’t worry, you don’t need to have any dance experience.
“This is a unique total body movement workout. But the resistance it offers is small, so you’ll only get part of the way there if you’re really looking to transform your body,” he says.
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Barre classes offer a full-body workout and you can expect to see leaner muscles, a strong core and fat loss.
Perfect for: The person who wants a low-impact workout and lean muscles.
Everyone is familiar with yoga, but not everyone is aware of the different forms of exercise and how differently they affect the body.
“Restorative yoga is mostly stretching and lying down on a mat, but there are challenging versions that become more like resistance training.”
Byron says that because there’s little to no added weight in these classes, you’ll likely plateau soon with this level of training unless you push yourself to intensify the exercises and poses.
The result will be worth it, as you’ll have a stronger, more flexible body that will be more resistant to injury, and you’ll lose fat and gain muscle.
Perfect for: The person who wants to strengthen their body and feel more centred.
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