Exercise Classes — Not Just for the Ladies!

If the words “exercise class” make you think Jane Fonda and leg warmers, think again, mister.
Exercise Classes Not Just for the Ladies!

Gone are the days when fitness classes were strictly the domain of bright spandex and dance routines. Modern gyms offer a wide range of classes that cater to everyone — even guys. Classes like spinning, boxing, core-strengthening, rock climbing and swimming cater to both men and women. The right combination can give you an overall-body workout and help reduce gym-routine monotony.

“Men tend to think of exercise classes as something women do,” says Michael Kimmel, PhD, a sociology professor at Stony Brook University and author of Manhood in America: A Cultural History (Oxford University Press, 2011). “The last thing men want is to walk into a class and see Richard Simmons running the exercise regimen.”

Susan Crane, former coordinator for group fitness and instructional programs at Princeton University, agrees that many men shy away from workout classes. “Men hear 'group fitness' and think aerobics and leotards,” Crane says. “The hardest thing is to get guys in the door, but once they try it, they tend to stay.” Here are six reasons why you should not only reconsider exercise classes, but go ahead and sign up for one.

  • Camaraderie and community: Working out with other people provides a social aspect that helps you feel less alone as you work out. Your peers and instructors can offer guidance and assistance, and the group atmosphere gives you a little spark of competition that pushes you to keep up. “People tend to like interacting with others while they exercise,” says John Boyd, group fitness director at the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers in New York. “Group fitness is community-building,” Crane says. “You can hold your peers accountable if they miss a class and you’re there to congratulate them when they do well.”

  • Time management: Because classes operate on a set schedule with a designated amount of time, there isn’t much room for not getting things done. “In classes, you only have maybe an hour,” explains Boyd. “The pace is continual and you will probably work out harder.” Working out on your own makes it easier to opt out, take a break, or skip part of your routine altogether. Classes don’t give you as much downtime and encourage you to push through your workout.

  • Guided instruction: A quality instructor can teach proper form, show you how to correct mistakes and help you modify your workout. “Instructors provide guidance, but they can also be good role models and mentors,” says Boyd. “They can help you figure out where you are starting and where you need to go.” Take advantage of your instructor's expertise and ask questions to tailor your workout to suit your needs.

  • Variety and diversity: “Classes offer you the chance to do so many different things that they help prevent you from becoming bored,” says Boyd. The format of group-fitness programs can change from class to class, with different instructors, new music, or a fresh crop of students. “Going to different types of classes gives you a cross-training effect,” says Boyd. “This is a great way to see diverse changes in your body.”

  • Routine: “The best kind of exercise is whatever you’ll stick to,” says Crane. One of the benefits of exercise classes is the established time and place. “If you know your class is from 7 to 8, you’ll incorporate that into your schedule,” says Boyd. “It’s harder to make excuses and put it off.” Use the specific time to your advantage and schedule other activities around your class schedule, but avoid choosing a type of class based on time or convenience. “Many people will choose a class type because it works well with their schedule,” Boyd says. The program that best caters to your physical goals might not always match up with your timing.

  • Element of surprise: You never know what you may discover about yourself if you don’t try something new. “A lot of guys think of yoga and Pilates as relaxing stretching,” explains Boyd. “But I tell them to take the class, and they come out dripping with sweat.” Trying new things in different settings can reveal strengths you never even knew you had.

“The most important thing with classes is that you like what you’re doing and you’re making the most of your time,” says Boyd. Make sure to get information about the class before you begin. You don’t want to start with anything too advanced, so talk with instructors about programs that work with your level. “Be patient with the first few classes,” says Boyd. “The program may be challenging at first, but if you stick with it, you will start to meet your goals and see results.”

About the writer
Eboni Booth is a freelance writer living in New York.

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