Incremental Fitness

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Hack Your Mindset About Exercise: Six tips for the 40 and up crowd.


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If you are over 40, you may get some reminders from your doctor or friends and family that have had health problems about being more attentive to your health. Perhaps you believe that you won’t have health problems, or that you will deal with it if the time comes… Or you may believe that things just stop working as well as they used to as you get older. This and other ways of thinking need to be hacked. Below are six tips on how to hack that mindset.

  1. Think about a time when you were the most physically active. What was the activity that you enjoyed doing? Everyone has something, it does not necessarily mean that you played organized sports. How can you tap into that feeling of excitement and motivation? Find a gym, studio or adult intermural league to join. Or if it is other endeavors find a hiking club or a community garden that you can not only get you moving but stimulate your mind.

 

  1. You don’t have to wear gym clothes to move better in life. If the gym is too much for you and the great outdoors is your mecca then go for what makes you happy. Make sure you have some suitable footwear for the terrain that you will be hiking on. If you enjoy company then make it a time to catch up with friends while exploring the trails.

 

  1. If you are having health problems, thinking that exercise won’t really help much is the wrong attitude. The benefits of increased blood circulation, maintaining muscle tone and pushing your cardiovascular limits not only contribute to positive effects in your body but also you mind. If anything, a sense of accomplishment that you stuck to your schedule of whatever you enjoy doing while being physically active is important.

 

  1. Contemplating something more physical than a walk does not have to be a mind over matter battle. Investing in your health by seeking out qualified allies can help dipping your foot back in the water easier. If you suffer from chronic injury then talk to your doctor or look to a physical therapist or corrective exercise specialist. If the doctor gives you a green light to exercise and that is not enough then find a personal trainer. Any of these allies are a supplement to what you do. You will see them a few hours out of the week. Use that as your motivation to start changing the other hours of the day that you spend at work or retired.

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  1. Stop holding yourself back from being physically active because of discomfort or you are always tired. Use that opportunity to improve your health so you can do what you want and like to do. Perhaps there is a trip you have always imagined would be so much fun. Regardless how close or far the location is use that as your goal. Speak with your doctor about any chronic conditions and look at your options. Sometimes water aerobics is a great low impact way to improve things like cardiovascular health or strength and it is low impact at the same time. There are often many services that are inexpensive if not free for older adults. Check with your county government or agency.

 

  1. Doubting your physical capabilities leads to a path of a sedentary lifestyle that is riddled with a lack of mobility, strength and balance. Instead of thinking of exercise as something you cannot do – think of it as an opportunity to learn. Why learn? This is a chance to learn about your body and how it adapts and changes. As you introduce the right kind and right amount of exercise you will see that you can regain important physical functions. Also, the confidence level will also improve especially when it comes to what you can more easily do with less thought about your body.

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Squashing the Myths About Exercise for Older Adults – Part 2


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Despite our cultural depictions of aging, we all have the ability to age well with the strength, agility and balance to maintain our quality of life and the activities we enjoy. Traditional exercise programs, and even many fitness professionals, often disregard the ability of mature adults and seniors to maintain and gain qualities like strength and agility.

Regardless of age, we should all make the time to move, exercise, or play. Let’s squash one of the myths that hold mature adults and seniors back from moving better:

2. It is too late to exercise or You’re too old for that

This myth seems to be based on a limited and subjective definition of “exercise.” Exercise does not have to happen in a big box gym, nor do you necessarily have to be wearing fancy exercise clothes. (You don’t have to wear leg warmers, tights and a headband unless that’s what motivates you!)

Consider all the activities that can contribute to exercise and fitness. For example, building and tending to a garden incorporates squatting, lunging, digging, pulling, dragging, pushing, core strength, carrying objects, and more. If you don’t have the space (or interest) to be a neighborhood farmer, then going for hikes, joining a rec league, pilates, enjoying the social, mental and physical benefits of Tai Chi, or trying out some group exercise classes at a gym/pool are all great ideas.

If you have a favorite park or enjoy walking in your neighborhood? Start there! Finally, if you do want a gym, shop around and find one that you are comfortable at. Independent gyms vary greatly. Find one that you’ll enjoy and will continue going to rather than paying for a membership that you are not using.

Find the exercise that fits your preference and lifestyle. Do something that YOU enjoy doing!

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Squashing the Myths About Exercise for Older Adults – Part 1


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Despite our cultural depictions of aging, we all have the ability to age well with the strength, agility and balance to maintain our quality of life and the activities we enjoy. Traditional exercise programs, and even many fitness professionals, often disregard the ability of mature adults and seniors to maintain and gain qualities like strength and agility.

Regardless of age, we should all make the time to move, exercise, or play. Let’s squash one of the myths that hold mature adults and seniors back from moving better:

  1. You will hurt yourself

This myth implies that mature adults and seniors are too frail and weak to exercise and moving will just lead to injury.

That is a just plain wrong. Yes, anyone starting a new exercise program should start off slow and set a foundation based on their current fitness level. Yes, consulting your doctor, getting your eyesight checked, being aware of the effects of medicines, etc. are important considerations. Lastly, yes, it is important to recognize any physical restrictions based on past injuries or current mobility challenges. These are factors to be considered at any age when changing lifestyle or starting a new fitness program.

The key is to recognize these factors and develop exercise options based on this awareness. For example, if walking places too much strain on joints, Nordic walking (i.e. with walking/hiking poles) is an excellent option. These poles actually facilitate an increase in oxygen consumption and energy expenditure by engaging the upper body instead of just the legs.

Contrary to this myth, improved fitness levels actually reduce the chance of injury. People with reduced mobility, tend to modify their movement based on fear or discomfort. Imagine walking on a narrow bridge over a swamp of alligators. How are you walking? Probably with shuffling steps in a hunched position. In this position you have a narrow base of support, walking is difficult and uncomfortable, and catching yourself if you trip will be difficult. Now, imagine a beautiful walk on the beach. You are relaxed with a more comfortable and confident gait. With a better range of motion, posture, and gait there is less of chance of injury or falls. Gait and balance issues are a major cause of injury in older adults.

One of the key contributing factors to reducing falls is exercise. Everyday life takes mobility, flexibility, balance, coordination, agility and power. Testing and training those functions in a proper fashion will lead to more confidence and ability to move throughout life with more ease.

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Exercise Without Assumptions – Train For Balance


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We rarely enjoy it when individuals make assumptions about us based on our beliefs, how we look or our age. When it comes to moving better and exercise don’t let assumptions about your potential hinder you. Regardless of your age, you should be training for a physical experience – life.  I strongly believe that age should not restrict someone from moving better. You can read more about it here.

Balance

When you walk, run, climb stairs, get in and out of a car you use balance. It doesn’t take actually standing on one leg during your day for your balance to be tested. Merely shifting your weight can be difficult if your balance has eroded. If you don’t take the time to test your balance regardless of your age – your ability to use your balance over time will decrease.

The good news is that you can re-train to improve your balance.

Consider changing your stance when you are doing some upper body movement that you enjoy doing. For example – curls or presses with two dumbbells are often done in a neutral stance. Your feet are about shoulder width apart and you are doing all the work in your upper body.

Consider changing where your feet are at next time you do curls or presses. A staggered stance – with one foot back will test your balance. Or an individual could do the exercise with a narrow footprint – feet close together. In both instances, your balance will be tested.  Often I have clients do is a rear lunge and then a press. Thus, I ask them to perform a rear lunge and stick it and stabilize before pressing the weights. Very quickly they will see how challenging it can be especially since they have to do it in steps and not just throwing the weight up. An option is to instead step back instead of a full lunge and driving the back knee down.

Especially as we age having good balance will keep you out of the hospital and greatly reducing the risk of falls. It is one thing to be able to do a 350 lb double leg press on a machine. This feat does not translate if the person has difficulty walking upstairs or stepping up onto a curb because their balance is not good.

What is good balance? Generally, good balance is being able to shift your weight, walk and do everyday life activities without an unsteady or unstable gait. Of course conditions like arthritis can affect how you shift your weight. If you do enjoy going for walks and feel as if you can’t anymore consider getting some walking poles.  You can still move better within your chronic conditions.

Test your balance in however you choose to exercise. It can be done by seeing how long you can hold a leg up. Just remember our bodies move in life as a unit. When you want to really test your balance you should be moving. This movement can include lunging or moving with weights. Just remember to mix things up and change your foot pattern.

Of course, consult your physician before starting an exercise program. Medications can affect balance so it is important to understand what the side effects can be from a qualified professional.

 

Train for life!

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Maintain or Improve Your Functional Capacity


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Take a moment and take an honest look at your health and ability to move well. This doesn’t just mean being able to lift, shoulder press or leg press an impressive amount of weight. Moving well includes being able to sit down and stand up without having to rock or use the arm rests. This also includes the balance, strength, and power to climb stairs. Even if you may have restrictions because of issues like chronic disease or arthritis you can still strive to improve your quality of life and move well within those restrictions.

Challenge yourself – if you are moving well right now what are you doing to make sure that as you age that does not change? If you are not moving well right now what are you doing to improve your physical ability?

Take a look at the below graphic. It is a simple and straightforward way of thinking about aging well. To explain what a functional capacity means – think about your daily life. Think about those daily activities that you need perform every day. These activities include what you need to do to maintain your health and well-being.  This capacity includes being able to go to the bathroom to pick up an object off the floor.

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I also challenge you to also include the things that you want and like to do. That capacity includes being able to get in and out of a sailing boat, competing in a triathlon or getting on the ground to play with the grandkids. What do you want and like to do? What do you have to improve so you can do those wants and likes easier or with less discomfort?

Maintaining your independence involves having that functional capacity. Maintaining your quality of life involves being able to move how your life demands. Introducing more or different ways of exercising will not only help you physically but also mentally and neurologically. Stay “in the green” and on the right path of a good functional capacity for your life!

 

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Exercise Without Assumptions: Train for Power


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We rarely enjoy it when individuals make assumptions about us based on our beliefs, how we look or our age. When it comes to moving better and exercise don’t let assumptions about your potential hinder you. Regardless of your age, you should be training for a physical experience – life.  The benefits allow you to move muscle more quickly. Read more about the research behind power training for older adults here.

Power

Not many of us are powerlifters…but all of us do power moves in our daily lives. We don’t move as explosively or straining under enormous amounts of weight – but not every move we do is a fluid or slow movement.

Consider opening up a refrigerator whose magnet is not budging much. A slow and easy pull may not do the job. Instead of tightening your grip, contracting those muscles and giving a forceful pull allows you to open that door.

Other examples of when we use power – climbing stairs, rising from a seated position or lifting objects.

Yes, there is strength involved – but speed is involved when it comes to power. For instance, if you slowly rose from a seated position you may fall back if you didn’t go fast enough. With the ability to stand up firmly without using your hands (or rocking forward) takes power.

We all trip over things – it is the catching that is important. Being able to move quickly and shift your foot so you don’t fall takes not only the ability to move the foot but to firmly plant it. Being able to reach out your hand quick enough to react and grasp something or catch your fall is very important.

Consider adding short bouts of moving with weight and moving as fast as possible to your regime. Of course, consult your physician before starting an exercise program especially if you are getting yourself back on track to train for life!

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The Fitness Triangle


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Draw a strong & healthy foundation for your life to rest on. Three important things are in play when moving better in life to improve your health or sustain what you have. Your mind has to be in the right place. Find out what really interests you. Also be consistent in moving, exercising, whatever you decide to do. Lastly, always mix things up and keep your body guessing.

Mind

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Where is your mind at? What motivates you? Taking the time to move better in life comes in many shapes in sizes. You can’t miss the countless gyms and boutique studios popping up. Depending on who you are – it can be welcoming or overwhelming. Follow that path if it attracts you & shop around for not only something that is good for your pocketbook but also makes you want to come back again! Join a group fitness class or get outside and join a hiking group. Sign up for a race & start training for it. Grab a friend to join you on your fitness journey.

Don’t turn that brain off from moving better those many other hours of the day when you are not exercising. Using your feet as a mode of transportation, taking a break from sitting at your desk and standing up is also so good for you. Do what you can with what you have – start with that.

Where is your mind at when it comes to what you are putting in your body? Moving well is only one piece of the puzzle. Be mindful of what you use for fuel. This does not mean an all-or-nothing take on what you eat…it means that you have balance. Seek out qualified professionals to help you if you want to get advice about what foods are good for you and how to compliment all the work you put in moving better.

Consistency

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Be consistent just like Forrest Gump…you don’t have to run though.

After you find what you like to do – DON’T STOP. The movement, exercise, activity that gets you blood flowing & raises your heart rate that you keep on doing is the one that is good for you.  Make it more than one activity. There is no substitute, pills or supplements for consistency. Be consistent about moving.

Think of an analogy of driving a car up a gradual incline. If you take your foot off the gas pedal the car will eventually stop and start coasting back. If you keep your foot just enough on the gas pedal you still are moving forward. You don’t have to (or should not) slam that foot down and floor it for your workout regime. You need rest days for your body to heal & rest!

Yes, this also means being consistent about what you are putting in your body too! You are only as healthy as what you are eating. Make sure that there is more of the good stuff coming in than the bad stuff. Also, Water…lots of it.

Variation

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Mix it up and go for a hike! Find a challenging trail & put one foot in front of the other.

Variation to your regime is the magic potion. You are consistent at moving every week – but are you doing the same exact exercise at the same exact pace/weight/stance/etc? If so eventually your body would get bored.

Think of eating your favorite meal every single day for 365 days. No matter how much you loved it, it would get old. Think of reading a article and each sentence was the same. Think of reading an article and each sentence was the same. Think of reading an article and each sentence was the same. Think of reading an article and each sentence was the same…

Got it?

Mix it up! Change your intensity. Change the speed. Change your stance. Change from standing in place and moving weight to moving with weight. Your workout routine should not be the same every week.

Of course there are other important things to keep in mind when focusing on a lifelong journey of health. Just keep in mind these three things on your journey to continue to build on that foundation that you have built. Drop me a line if you want a coach in your corner to help you set that foundation!

-Damien

 

 

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What It Means to Listen to Your Body


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You may have heard this many times or read it…

listen to your body.

However there is often very little explaining of what it means and what you should be doing. It really is not that cryptic or ambiguous of a phrase. This is important, so let’s pull down the curtain.

Let’s keep it simple…

Scenario #1

You are walking barefoot on the sidewalk to get the morning paper and didn’t see a shard of glass. Pain happens, possibly some cursing – but it hurt. You stop walking and investigate if you can pull it out or hobble back to the front door & get some tweezers.

You felt pain, stopped and investigated.

Scenario #2

You and a good friend went out for some dinner. On the drive home on the highway you were behind the wheel and your stomach started turning…really turning. There are ten miles to go until your exit but there is a rest stop coming up before then.

You pull off the highway & take that rest stop exit because your stomach was doing somersaults… so make a b-line for the bathroom.

Yes, these scenarios are fairly straightforward – you felt or noticed something going on in your body and you were attentive to what was going on. You did not ignore the pain or uncomfortableness. Instead you were vigilant and decided to do something about it.

Now enter two other scenarios…

Scenario #3

You have been putting down a respectable running regime the last month on the trails. There was no pain or any issues. You are now up to 10 miles twice a week. This week you decide to switch things up and do the same amount of mileage on the pavement instead at the same pace. You find after the second round that halfway through you feel some pain below your knees. The following week instead of the 10 you decide to decrease the road runs to a respectable 6 and then work your way up over time. Also, you sprinkle in some more stretching. Over time that pain subsided and eventually went away.

You backed off on the mileage on the roads and worked your way back up. You also increased the time stretching after runs to target any tight muscles.

Scenario #4

A bagel and a coffee has been your go-to breakfast for a while now. However, you find that by 10:30 a.m. you start dragging and have to grab another coffee to keep on point the rest of the day.  Today you wake up and decide that you are tired of the never-ending battle to stay alert. You begin trying out different things to eat for breakfast and seeing what your energy level is. Soon you found your go-to breakfast that did not leave you wondering why you were always so tired.

You decided to change up your breakfast after you found that crashing before midday was a pattern. After noticing the pattern, you edited & kept on editing you breakfast until you found what would not send you back for another cup of coffee.

You know what it means…now listen!

Honestly if in any of the scenarios someone just ignored what was happening and kept on going – the outcome would not be good. The argument is made often that you can just push through it especially if it is pain related to exercise. I would counter that eventually that pain will come back & will not go away. The solution can be as simple as taking a look at what has changed to make your body react that way. It is one thing if you are uncomforable because of a challenging workout that is targeting those leg muscles during lunges. It is another if you are feeling a sharp pain.

Of course, there may be many things in the mix like stress, muscular imbalances or running form that can be a wild card. Just fight the urge to be stubborn and think that it will just go away (like never addressing tight calves -yes runners I am talking to you!). When it comes to what you put in your body, of course that can be complicated. But again, if you ignore what you are feeling and it is not changing – why not see what you can do about it?

Above all, if you listen and can’t figure out what is going on then talk to a qualified professional that can be your guide. She or he can use their experience, knowledge & objective view of what is going on to assist you. 

Empower yourself to take charge of what is going on with your body. You have a choice – be proactive! You don’t have to do it alone.

 

 

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Mature Adults & Seniors Deserve More Than Traditional Exercise


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We all live our lives differently. However, the one thing we have in common is the drive to live our lives with not much restriction. Not being able to do what we want to do, like to do or need to do can affect our lives is substantial ways. Outside forces are one thing, but when it comes to our bodies it can affect our independence. Traditional exercise even with its benefits is not a complete enough physical experience for mature adults and seniors. You deserve more.

If balance, mobility or a good range of motion are hindering everyday life and fun activities such as golf it can be life changing.   You want to be able to take that vacation abroad, sign up for that hike and above all do what you want to do – when you want to do it! At its core – these are the outcomes that you seek which fall in the like, need & want categories that Dr. Cody Sipe, Co-Founder of the Functional Aging Institute describes. Put simply – what do you like to do, what do need to do and what do you want to do?

As our population ages, it is no secret that age is nothing but a number these days. Working professionals and retirees such as my parents are active, busy and involved in their community. Sometimes I am lucky if I can get them on the phone! The reason that they are as active as they are is because of the results of being physically active in ways that allow them to make everyday life an independent experience. They are able to do their likes, needs and wants independently and easier.

Why traditional exercise is not enough for mature adults

While you may want to grind out a workout like your 20-year old self, you don’t care to be limping around at work the next day. Also moving in the only dimension that machines restrict you to is not reflective of your every-day life. Mature adults should not only be striving to be stronger but also to move in all directions better.  Their likes, needs and wants don’t fall into one category of strength or conditioning. You are not necessarily attracted to aesthetics as you are the outcomes of being active and the freedom of being able to do what you desire to do.

Priorities may change in regards to your health and your life. Buzzwords like strength or fat loss may be on your list but the words that may more appeal to the mature client are what you like to do, want to do, and need to do.   For instance, mature adults may want to accomplish exciting physical challenges like climbing mountains, challenging hikes or Triathlons. Or because of a fear of heart disease you want to lose weight to stay healthy – not specifically to fit better in your clothes.

Especially at this point in mature adults lives training for three-dimensional movement is pertinent. Re-setting, refining and correcting the grooves of movements of bending, lunging reaching or moving in different directions with weight is often left by the wayside for mature adults. We do not live in a one-dimensional world if we train as such as we age our range of movement and mobility suffers among other things. You deserve a training program that allows you to live your life with a positive view of aging.

Why traditional exercise will not fully improve or maintain independent lives of seniors

Often in traditional exercise, the assumption about the abilities of seniors sets the foundation. Plain and simple – you are fragile and should be handled with care. You should sit down doing most if not all of your exercises. Assumptions about any client before getting to know them is a disservice without a doubt. When it comes to seniors this restriction will not help you do what you want to do. This only holds you back and does not continue or improve a healthy way of life.

A training program should not reflect your age – it should reflect your abilities. It will meet you where you are and over time will change as you progress. The program should challenge you over time after you have set a good foundation of the step you are on. The program may regress – to help you even more. In time, you are ready to take another step forward. A program should incorporate things like power, strength, balance, and agility.

The risks of falling can be the elephant in the room with an aging population. The factors contributing to falls are 1. Balance and mobility problems 2. Medical conditions and medications 3. Vision and 4. Environmental hazards. According to the Fall Prevention Task Force in San Diego “In 2013, in San Diego over 17,000 older adults were treated and discharged from the Emergency Department and an additional 7,000 were hospitalized.”

Exercise can help to reduce this serious risk. However, automatically putting you in a category of doing exercises while sitting down, using machines that don’t allow you to move as you should is a disservice.

Why Functional Exercise is important to mature adults & seniors

In short – there should never be an assumption that just because we hit a certain age that our quality of life decreases and we are unable to do what we want to do.  The physical functions of mature adults and seniors are more than leg presses or a workout that does not ever challenge you because you are “old.” Instead, the activity should cover the areas that the Functional Aging Institute promotes for such clients: mobility, balance, neuromuscular function, cognitive, cardio respiratory & musculoskeletal function. These areas coupled with meeting the needs likes and wants of clients provide a better foundation for mature adults and seniors to build upon and enjoy their lives however they see fit!

If this sounds like the path that you want your fitness journey to take contact me for a free consult.

 

Damien

Functional Aging Specialist

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6 Important Things To Do In A Group Fitness Class


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Some individuals decide to go all in on group fitness classes as their choice of exercise. Others use a group workout as a way to mix things up in between their personal training sessions or their own workouts. However you decide to use group fitness classes to up your exercise game there are some tips on what not to do when you first start…or even if you are a veteran.

 

#1. Show up early.

Especially if this is your first class – get there early to meet the instructor and see what type of equipment that you will be using. Even if you are not able to go into the room because there is a class in session – you can get an idea about the class format, the flow of the class, music and energy level. Also, use this early time to meet the instructor and they will be happy to let you know what is on the menu for that day and show you equipment that you may have not used before. It could be a Silver Sneakers gym or another big setup. Either way you should still get acclimated.  Lastly, getting there early allows you to sign any paperwork that has to be done before your first class.

 

#2.  Let the coach know of any injuries or restrictions that you have.

Before class starts – always let the coach know that you have a sore knee, shoulder issues, some injury or for instance have broken something in the past. This gives the coach an opportunity before the class starts for a quick one-on-one chat about any exercises that you should avoid and what you can do instead.  If you are pregnant let the instructor know and what you can do. Often pregnant women know how to do alternative exercises, even so just let the coach know!

#3. Challenge yourself & give 100% effort.

One of the motivating aspects of a group class is the infectious energy that is in the room. This one of the reasons people love group classes because of a community that keeps each other going. Motivation is great. However comparing yourself to someone else and trying to do what they are doing could end you up injured. Allow them to motivate you to give your 100% effort. Use that!!  If your 100% effort is not matching their effort who cares? The instructor can introduce 1-ups to an exercise to make it more challenging for them. If you can’t do it yet – then use that as your motivation to come back next class and get better.

#4.  Pay attention as the coach demos the exercises.

The class has started and you are ready to kill it and get moving. There will be times during the class where she goes over what you are doing.  This is important. You may know how to do a squat or some other movement but pay attention to how the coach does it. He may have something he is specifically asking the class to do or is giving options that are useful especially if you are finding it challenging – or not challenging enough.

#5.  Ask questions before the class gets started.

If during the demo the coach does or says something that you don’t understand – ask her. If during the workout you want to know how to challenge yourself more without adding weight – ask her during a break. Of course, this is not a personal training session.  The coaches focus will be on the entire group & there are a lot of moving parts for her to juggle. Even with that in mind, questions to clarify how to do an exercise or a progression should be asked!

#5. If you know you will  – or do sweat a lot – bring your towel.

Sweating is a good thing. Sweating on equipment that a person in the class with you uses 30 seconds after you – is not. Don’t expect that the facility that you are checking out has towels. Be proactive!

Untitled design#6. Give out high-fives & fist bumps like they are going out of style.

Get some of that good energy flowing! Many friendships are started in group classes. There is a great community in group classes regardless of the type of workout or fitness level. You all may have different reasons why you are there but you came together to workout!