Group Exercise

The Pros

  • Group training can provide an awesome atmosphere. Training with other people, especially for multiple sessions, can provide a terrific sense of camaraderie and make a terrific support network. I can’t write enough about the importance of a support group in helping you achieve your fitness goals. I usually advocate setting up a group among your family and friends, but a group fitness class has one already built in! It’s usually non-competitive and you’re all pushing and groaning through the same things. Take a look at shows like The Biggest Loser and Celebrity Fit Club. Even when the competitors are in direct contention they still band together and cheer each other on.

Accountability and adherence are often a lot better in the group training atmosphere than in one-on-one training and especially over non-supported training. People make excuses to themselves or their trainer, but who wants to miss a session of hanging out with their friends?

  • It can be more cost-effective. There are a few levels of financial involvement in fitness, and as the costs go up, so does the support. The cheapest is just joining a gym, buying a book, or investing the time to poke around online. This is usually the method with the highest risk of failure.

Next on the list is the boot camps and group training. Usually this is less expensive than one-on-one training, although it opens you up to the cons below. You still get some attention, guidance, and observations, as well as the other pros I’m listing.

At the financial top (other than risky surgeries) is one-on-one training. You sacrifice the pros of group training to sidestep the cons.

  • You get more eyes on you. This can sometimes be good and bad, actually. Usually in a group there are a couple of veterans who are familiar with the techniques utilized by the trainer. These vets are often happy to share their experience and help out new members. The only issue can come when the veterans and the trainer aren’t on the same page!

The Cons

  • Well, it’s group fitness so there is going to be less one-on-one attention. If there’s only one trainer and fifteen students in the class then the trainer’s attention will obviously be limited. A good instructor should be able to run an efficient class with quite a few members, though. Martial arts classes have had this format, quite successfully, for a very long time. Fitness is no different in this regard.
  • It can be hard to separate fitness levels in a group fitness class. Many classes are set up for beginners or advanced athletes, but even among these groups there can be broad variations in fitness levels. Some degree of self-motivation is required for true success in a group fitness environment. If you’re the fastest person in your class, make sure you’re really moving at your best speed, not just slightly faster than number two. On the flip side, if you’re the one behind then keep on pushing, you’ll get there.
  • Scheduling isn’t just on you; it’s for the best overall fit. The class has to be scheduled so that the most people can attend, not just you. So if you have an unusual schedule it can be hard to consistently find a group. In this way one-on-one training definitely has the advantage as you just have to schedule directly with your trainer.

Group exercise is catching on and I’m a big fan. It’s going to bring more people into the guided exercise world, which will greatly enhance their chances of fitness success. If you’ve never tried a boot camp or group training session before, give them a shot. Find a club team sport or join a martial arts class. I think you’ll be surprised with the workout you get and how much fun you have. It’s a far cry from the old aerobics classes that you’re used to.