Take A Class

Welcome to the Musclehead Gym.

In this post, we look at the different types of fitness classes typically offered in a gym environment.


I’m not gonna try to convince you to take up the exercise habit in this post.

Until you decide to really do it, any convincing on my part ain’t gonna have any more value than my old Pan-Am stock.

Those reading this who have already done it, know exactly what I mean.

It takes a lot of work, a lot of sacrifices, and plenty of sweat.

The rewards?? — well, that depends on where you wanna end up.

We all have our motivating factors…. and it helps to know what those are.

But let’s say you’ve already decided to do it…….

And let’s say:
you want to lose some weight and feel better about yourself and your body.

That means you’ll probably want to start out focusing on “Cardio” — exercise oriented to get your heart rate up and burn fat.

Where do you start?

I’m primarily a strength-trainer….
but I have trained many a newbie in my time, and I can tell you that everybody asks the same questions, carries around the same doubt, and has the same fears.

I tell em the same thing I’m gonna tell you…..
…. you don’t need to hit the ground at full speed.

You don’t have to have all the details of your diet, supplementation, and exercise worked out ahead of time…. you can start out by just walking for 30 minutes if that’s what you want.

The important thing is to get started doing something.

You can always add stuff in.

But start.

That’s the first thing.

At the bottom of this post, you’ll find a number of links to help you with choosing a fitness approach, information on dieting and supplementation, gyms versus home training, etc.

In this post, we’ll just talk in general terms about getting started.

You”ll want to have a checkup …. to make sure you are fit enough to start an exercise regimen.

Not only that, but he may suggest some simple diet changes, or meds that might help you.

I know this checkup thing might sound extraneous…
but there are some sneaky diseases out there that don’t give you a lotta warning before they become a problem…

and that could affect your choice of a fitness program — like diabetes, or hypertension —

It also puts a pall on everybody’s workout when you gotta be carried out of the gym on a stretcher cause you didnt get checked out first… ya know?

So it’s worth doing.

There are a lot of ways of doing cardio…. and your first decision is gonna be how you approach it.

As I previously mentioned, cardio can be as simple as walking 30-45 minutes a day.

And there are many more interesting ways of getting your cardio in.

It’s all in what you like, ya know?

If you don’t have any real fitness background (other than playing dodgeball in gym class ) the easiest way to decide on this is to find a gym that offers a variety of free or lost-cost classes and take some.

This is a good way to find an approach that you will enjoy….
……. and you’ll be amazed at the different types that are available.

Remember to bring a towel and a bottle of water.

Choosing a Class

I’m gonna give a brief description of the kinds of classes you can take….
keep in mind that not all the classes mentioned might be appropriate for you.

I’ve included my recommendations as to intensity,
but you should always feel free to watch a class before you decide to join it.

“Pilates” is a system of exercise utilizing elastic bands, pulleys, springs, etc. along with controlled breathing, flexing and the like … it can get complicated, but the basic classes will give you all the fundamentals you’ll need to advance quickly.

To me, this system is like a cross between yoga, medieval torture, and going to the chiropractor.

But you might like it.

It’s good for flexibility and toning.

“Zumba” is a popular class …….
… it is a high energy, cardio dance-to-fitness system featuring uptempo latin style music.

Zumba is just one of a number of dance fitness classes, with music themes ranging from disco to rap, and if you like to shake yer booty, well, maybe these are the classes for you.

Now, you might be saying that you’re not in shape to just jump into a class like that….
but, it’s important to remember in any class that you only need to maintain your own pace…
……there’s no drill instructors in your face screamin’ at you to keep up.

You can always take a spot in the back of the room,
…. so you won’t feel obligated to go any faster than you want.

But, in my experience, instructors are extremely patient with new members, and will do everything they can to accommodate them.

I promise you, you will lose weight and tone up taking Zumba …. and it’s fun.

“Weighted Cardio” : this comes in a variety of different flavors….and names, too.
Basically, it’s some dance and stepping movements, combined with movements with a weighted bar or kettlebells and calisthenics.

Having taught one of these classes, I can tell ya, I wish I had a nickle for every musclehead who came in cocky— and left ready to pass out.

It can be as intense and strenuous as you make it… since, ultimately, you control how many reps and how much weight you use.

My advice is to use very light weight, and try to keep up with the class without pushing yourself too hard the first time.

Once you get a feel for the class, you can then better gauge where your limits are.

This is also a very good way to get used to using free weights, since many of these classes utilize overhead lifts, squats, and curls.

“Step Classes” utilize a set of elevated platforms or steppers with which participants
perform choregraphed movements to a beat or music.

Probably not a good choice for your first class….
but if you’re looking for an intense heart and lung workout, you’ll find it here.

“Mixed Aerobics” blends all kinds of stepping, dancing, calisthenics, and other movements to work the whole body and get the heart rate up.

This would make a good choice for those who want to combine a little variety with medium intensity.

“Spinning Classes” are group rides on exercise bikes…..

( why call it ‘spinning’ class?
The first time I heard the term I thought they were teaching people how to make yarn. )

Usually the class leader sets the pace and resistance for the group, sometimes accompanied by music, or in really fancy ones, even video of a scenic trail.

I’ve seen em where the whole thing was computerized.

Again, starting out, you can go at whatever pace you are comfortable with…
it won’t be long before you’ll be going at the same pace as everybody else.

You can burn an awful lot of calories ( 300- 700 ) in one of these classes …. and it’s great
for building aerobic endurance as well.

CrossFit Classes: these are designed to be high intensity, mixed discipline classes incorporating martial arts, running, calisthenics, and weight training … if you’re the adventure-some type, you should definitely try it…. but be ready for some serious work-outs.

“Yoga” may sound a little advanced or too involved for the beginner, but in truth, these are some of the most popular classes with newbies who try them…

The tempo of instruction is usually very relaxed, and while the intensity might not be sufficient to serve as an everyday workout, it certainly can get your heart rate up.

I like it because of it’s benefits in terms of flexibility and strength, and would recommend it as
a part of a larger workout plan.

Kickboxing” is another popular class– good for flexibility, toning and especially for cardio endurance.

You’ll also be learning a good system for self defense.

Whether this is a good class to start out with,

well…. I guess it depends on what condition you are in.

If you are more than 50 pounds overweight, I’d recommend you hold off on this one for a little while…

…. because the intensity is unavoidably higher than in other classes.

Well… that’s some of them, anyway.

Now, you might ask….
…….. if I take a couple of cardio classes a week, can I get and stay in shape?

I guess the answer depends on where you want to end up…….

A class like ‘spinning’ can help you tone up and keep the weight off, when combined with the proper diet…. but won’t really help you build muscle.

I always recommend people do both cardio and weight training — about 45 minutes of weights with 30 minutes of cardio afterwards….

But, a class like “Cross Fit” might be an excellent choice if you are on a tight schedule and want to combine the effects of weight training and cardio.

Whatever approach you think is right for you, the most important thing is to get started  !



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