When it comes to group exercise, I have no idea what I’m doing. In all of my twenty-three-and-a-half years, I’ve only ever participated in one fitness class. Now that I’m a college graduate and a certified GAW (grown-ass-woman), I decided to give the organized sweat sesh phenomenon another go.
I recently tried five trendy workout classes for the first time. While not exactly easy, it was definitely entertaining. Check out my reviews below.
I was a competitive dancer from ages three to eighteen, so I thought that Zumba, a high-energy dance workout set to international music, would be a piece of cake. Once the Latin music began pulsing through my veins, my imagination began running rampant. “Maybe I’ll move down to Miami and a super-hot Latino will fall for my Zumba swagger,” I thought, wiggling my hips like the instructor.
After chugging my entire water bottle during our first break, I realized that another woman had stolen my spot on the dance floor. But after five minutes of giving her the stink eye I became silently grateful that I was no longer in the center, as I was slowly but surely deteriorating. All in all, this class surprised me in terms of difficulty and impressed me in terms of morale—everyone was in such an awesome mood on a Wednesday night.
Highlight:Feeling like I was in dance class again.
Pitfall: Realizing that when we were instructed to “shake it,” everyone else was shimmying their shoulders while I was furiously pumping my body like a girl at an eighth grade dance who just started watching MTV.
This class differs from the typical kickboxing class because you punch and kick a real, hanging heavy bag. Fair warning: If you sign up for a kickboxing class with your younger sister, you will probably spend more time trying not to laugh than accomplishing any real fitness goals. (Two words: Bear. Crawl.)
After some stretching and girl-crushing on a classmate wearing a super-cute workout ensemble, I decided that I was ready to kill it. Then the first whistle blew, and I realized I was out of my league. For starters, I had borrowed my sister’s bulky gloves that she got when signing up for the course, which forced me to pause and take them off when we were instructed to drop to push-up position. While this was helpful in the sense that it stole precious push-up time (I cannot do two consecutive push ups), I felt like a total newbie. Second of all, I had no idea how heavy punching bags actually are! By my second roundhouse kick, I was exhausted. Then came the Bear Crawl.
For those of you who don’t regularly attend kickboxing classes (like me), the Bear Crawl is when the entire class gets down on all fours and awkwardly scampers around the punching bags like savages performing some type of mating ritual. I started envisioning my fellow kickboxers crawling in business casual office attire around a Keurig machine, and I just lost it. Overall, this class was incredibly difficult, but I would definitely try it again.
Highlight: Feeling like a certified badass.
Pitfall:Looking like a certified lameass once the fatigue settled in.
This total-body workout utilizes weights, body bars, and resistance bands. As the Muscle Pump crew started lining up outside the fitness room, I would say that I brought the average age down to about fifty-one. That thought process lasted about five whole minutes, until the warm up was over and my quads were screaming.
When we got into the gym, everyone went over and started grabbing various exercise equipment, so I hung in the back to see what they were getting: one resistance band, one stability ball, one yoga mat, and two sets of free weights.
I 110 percent thought I was going to burst into tears at one point. The class consisted of slow, stable resistance training—you know, the kind that hurts the most. We alternated between upper and lower body exercises with resistance bands, crunches on a stability ball, shoulder press using the free weights, and love handle-blasting leg lifts. As it turns out, resistance bands are harder and more infuriating than free weight exercises because your hair gets stuck to them, and I should probably stop judging old people because they kicked my butt. I will be taking this class again, because I couldn’t move for the next two days.
Highlight:I took the class on Saturday morning, so it gave me a little extra confidence at the bar that night.
Pitfall:I was the only person who couldn't figure out how to properly secure my resistance band for our side leg lifts, and the teacher had to come over and help me like I was in fifth grade.
Indoor cycling, or spinning, includes steady uphill climbs and springs⎯and plenty of fast pedaling. My aversion to spinning is the direct result of a former college roommate of mine, who was a spin-crazed lunatic. But for the sake of good journalism and a desire to have buns of steel, I decided that no amount of time pedaling on a stationary bike could possibly bring me to her level of insanity.
Once I mounted my bike, the woman to the left of me mentioned that she had been taking this class for the past four years. Her first words to me when I told her I was new were, “Oh wow, beginner classes are on Tuesdays.” It was a Saturday.
She soon became my spinning spirit animal, telling me when it was okay to remain sitting during the “jumps” (alternating between sitting and standing for one count), because I almost catapulted off my bike and letting me know when the class was almost over. The coolest part about this class was that it was black light spinning, so the loud music and the darkness kind of help you forget that your eyes are stinging from your sweat and your butt is killing you.
Highlight: I couldn’t see the clock because of the black light.
Pitfall: My butt and ladybits hurt for the rest of the week. Those women who brought their own seat pads know what’s up.
I took vinyasa yoga, which incorporates inhaling and exhaling as you move smoothly through the poses. Let me just say: Time has never passed slower than it did during the five minutes I was waiting for class to start amidst my fellow yogis.
“Why does everyone have their own yoga mats? Do I need a yoga mat? Why didn’t anyone tell me it was BYOYM? Wait, this is a gym. They’ll definitely have yoga mats. Oh, shoot, there’s a girl I graduated with. I really don’t feel like talking to anyone. I’ve got to stare at the ground to avoid making awkward eye contact with a family friend. Why is no one wearing gym shoes? Are my toenails painted? Oh thank goodness we are filing in now.”
Okay, welcome to the serious portion of this article: Yoga is amazing. I am terrible at it, but I like it. Such good vibes! My only complaints were that the teacher’s Zen voice was almost too low for me to hear from the far back corner. I didn’t understand or couldn’t do half of the things that she said, but I was into it. I’ll be back next Thursday.
Highlight: I have a really hard time falling asleep at night, and since this class was from 8 to 9 p.m., I slept like a baby.
Pitfall: Aside from my general lack of flexibility, zero pitfalls! I loved it.