The Problem with Classes

Richard Kelly 25th November 2019

Gym classes, such as step, Zumba and Pilates, can be great.  They provide a social element and a means to be guided through exercise whilst being watched over by an expert able to correct you if you go wrong, right?  What better way to workout than with your friends, having fun?

Well, there is a problem with this.  When you lead a class it is impossible to get around every single person in a class within one exercise.  Therefore the only people who are corrected are the stand out worst ones.  And an instructor will not correct one person constantly, because it will be seen as unfair.  So effectively a small sample of that class will be corrected, whilst the vast majority will not. 

As a result of this the class standard is usually pitched at slightly under the average level of those attending.  This enables at least half of the class to do the movements mostly correctly, enabling the instructor to help the people who most need help.  But this means at least half the class are not challenged by the exercises. 

With the notable exceptions of Pilates and yoga, where the goal is not to push too hard, in order to make them think they have had a hard workout exercises are made more intensive by reducing the rest time, increasing the reps done or speeding the movements up.  The heart rate goes up, people work hard in the class, and hard work is often mistaken for good work. 

Of course, that isn’t always a bad thing and doesn’t mean you still won’t benefit.  A step or spin class can still benefit you without the need to have constant correction or more advanced exercises designed to challenge you.  Taking a class or two won’t set you back, but certainly only doing classes will. 

Initially you will probably make progress, but in the long term you’ll stall, because you’ll lack the guidance and challenge to go further.  That’s why you tend to find the same people attending the same classes each week, having done so for years, and making little to no progress in the class.  This doesn’t diminish the social aspect or the fun of the classes, but they aren’t a very good way to make long term and sustained progress. 

Classes and class-based fitness studios have started to become more and more popular.  And from a fitness business perspective the drive towards class-based exercise is seen as increasingly more profitable.  Charging £10 per person per class for twenty people is a return of £200.  Five classes like that a day is a thousand pounds.  From a financial perspective it’s easy to see why these facilities have chosen to follow this model.  And personal trainers are being encouraged to do the same, through semi-private training models, which is where three or four individuals have a joint personal training session.  The concept being that it is cheaper for the individuals and more profitable for the trainer.  But as I’ve said, you just don’t get the same level of guidance that you would have one on one, and although this semi-private model might be between in terms of the trainer guiding you, the session will be designed around what can work for the attendees as a group, not what is individually best for you. 

Do you regularly go to classes?  If so email us and we’ll tell you if the classes you are attending are benefiting you or not.

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