If I had to choose between working out alone or working out in a group, I choose sitting on the couch. All jokes aside, I usually go for group fitness. Why? Because it’s more challenging than any routine I can come up with on my own.
Aside from feeling like you’re in a flash mob, here are my top five reasons for choosing a group atmosphere in the gym:
1. The music
Like your tunes remixed with a heart-thumping beat? Yeah, me neither. But let me tell you, it gets the job done. Nothing gets me going like trying to keep up with the beat of an even faster version of today’s poppy pop songs.
2. The mirror
Here is the one place where staring longingly at yourself in a mirror is encouraged. Because, really, it’s the only way to know if your back is perfectly parallel to the floor, and your leg is wrapped 360 degrees around your head, and your arm is bent over your back far enough to touch the floor. And if you can see yourself in the mirror then others can see you too. Talk about a nice dose of self-conscious motivation.
3. The workout
When left to my own devices, I know I fail to push myself as much as I can and should. But when I enter a group fitness class, I know I will be pushed to the limit. And because instructors don’t know the fitness level of each person, I always find they teach the toughest moves along with easier modifications for those who need them. I usually try to tackle the most strenuous variation, and my muscles thank me later for the effort.
4. The competition
I don’t think I’m alone on this one: I often find myself “competing” with fellow group fitness buffs when I workout in a group class. Of course, we’re not literally fighting toward any sort of finish line, but the fact that we’re all performing the same moves in the same space has to stimulate some sort of fitness contest. And I always find I work harder when I’m fully surrounded. Which is why I always try to plant myself right in the middle of the action, preferably near the instructor. I know that’s the intimidating spot, but whenever I wedge myself into the back corner of the room, my workout inevitably turns sluggish and unenthusiastic.
5. The teamwork
If the instructor can somehow work in some feelings of solidarity, then all the better. When I need to rely on others — and vice versa — to accomplish a common goal, I find I work that much harder.
Case in point: The other week I was in a class where we all assumed the plank position. After a minute or so, the instructor announced, “Eight more seconds.” But there was a catch: The eight-second countdown would not commence until every person was in the plank position. So you fell into one of two groups:
A. The person holding the damn position, staring around the room, staring down those who had given up; or
B. The person who had given up and was being shamed into planking again.
And it worked. After about 20 seconds of a silent, but palpable battle, we were all in the plank, the eight seconds were over, and we all fell to our guts.
Evil and effective.