Monthly Archives: May 2016

Which Group Workout Class is Right For Me?

Throughout the years I’ve been on a quest to find my perfect workout class. Turns out, there’s no such thing. Different types of workouts are good for different reasons and depending on your goals and interests, one may be better than another. But in the end, what matters is that you like it and do it consistently. If you love running, run! If you love CrossFit, then do it! All workouts have their pros and cons. I wanted to write about my experiences trying different workout classes and what I liked/disliked about each one. Hopefully it will help someone else find something that works for them, or at least give them the confidence to try something new and different!

TRX

TRX is a form of suspension training that basically uses these long rope/band things that hang from the ceiling or wall and have handles on the end. It might be easier for you to Google it than for me to explain. 🙂

Anyway, TRX is a great full body workout. It’s basically a type of strength training although you can work some cardio in if you want to. It’s great for working any muscle you want, and it’s super simple to make a workout easier or more difficult depending on your fitness level. I have taken TRX at different gyms and have always enjoyed the classes. Everyone does them slightly differently so finding a good teacher is key.

Likes: good workout, doesn’t feel overly strenuous, can work your whole body, easy to customize to your fitness level

Dislikes: expensive, would be hard to do on back-to-back days (if you like to work out daily)

KETTLEBELLS

Kettlebells are sort of like dumbbells but with handles. You can do a LOT of exercises with them. Probably anything you could do with regular weights. You can also do things like Kettlebell swings or Turkish getups (which are ridiculously hard if you ask me). They come in all different weights so it doesn’t matter if you are just starting out or if you are already totally jacked. You can get a great workout with kettlebells. Trust me when I say you will be exhausted and super sore. It’s a great way to get your cardio and strength training in one.

Likes: Great workout, definitely feel it afterwards!

Dislikes: a bit too overly strenuous for me, can be dangerous if your form isn’t correct, can be expensive. I also found it a bit boring honestly.

REFORMER PILATES

Oh how I love pilates! I used to take mat pilates at my old gym 2x a week and my abs were never so strong and hard. It was really nice too because you get to lay on a mat a lot of the time! My natural self is very lazy. Anyway, reformer pilates is the same thing, except you do it on one of those funky reformer machines. Trust me when I say they look much scarier than they are. It takes some getting used to but if you have a good instructor the ramp up time should be quick. I always feel like I get a great workout doing reformer pilates. The downside is it is ridiculously expensive and often hard to get a reservation since space is generally limited in the studios because the equipment is so large. I don’t really want to have to book a workout weeks in advance. The studio I go to also has a very strict 12 hour cancellation policy.

Likes: So fun, time flies by, my abs love it.

Dislikes: My only negatives are that it’s very expensive (probably the most expensive of any class I’ve tried) and the classes usually have limited space/availability.

YOGA

I have a serious love/hate relationship with yoga. I would really love to be one of those SUPER mellow yoga types who does headstands on top of mountains, but let’s be honest, I don’t think it’s in me. I do like the relaxation that comes with laying on a mat and stretching. However, I find most yoga classes pretty intimidating and I can’t get out of my head enough to fully take it in and enjoy myself. I also really hate when I have no idea what I’m doing so I have to look around and try to copy other people, only to end up feeling really stupid and awkward because I can’t. A lot of yogis are SERIOUS about their yoga (they even call it a “practice”) and you will feel way out of place at those classes. Some of the teachers are a little loopy and far out there. I appreciate their weirdness but maybe not everyone would.

There are about a million different types of yoga. I’ve found Hatha yoga to be gentler and easier to follow than say, Vinyasa. Make sure you sign up for one of the easier ones if you’re new, or even a beginner class if you can find one.

Likes: It can be very relaxing, it’s good for when you’re feeling stressed out or overwhelmed.

Dislikes: It can be a bit pretentious and intimidating, it’s frustrating when you can’t do what others are doing, some yogis seem averse to deodorant

ROCK CLIMBING

So if you’re afraid of heights, this is scary. You will probably be required to do an intro class so you can learn how to put the harness on properly (and not kill yourself). I went with my boyfriend and we learned how to “belay” which basically means you give the person going up the wall enough rope so they can get up but not so much that they will come crashing down. I think? I found the whole introductory lesson to be a little over my head. But luckily my boyfriend paid attention and told me what to do. I was terrified my first couple rounds but eventually I stopped thinking about the height and just went for it. You need some upper body strength to get more than 2 feet off the floor. We started out on the easy wall since we were total newbies and it was still pretty challenging.

Likes: lots of fun! a good challenge. great for building upper body strength.

Dislikes: serious fear of heights is a problem, intro/ramp up class generally required, need special equipment and shoes, didn’t get to work my lower body as much, kind of a granola bro-y environment.

GYMNASTICS

Yes, after a years-long quest, I found an adult gymnastics class!!!! The class met 2x per week for 2 hours at a time. It was a LONG class.  The first 5-10 minutes were a short warm up of either jogging or jumping on a trampoline. Yeahh! That was followed by lots and lots of stretching…..legs, arms, shoulders, wrists, ankles, etc. This usually lasted about 30 minutes. I like stretching but it did get boring after a while! Then we did drills. Drills consisted of things like cartwheels, handstands, round offs, forward rolls, backward rolls, etc. This was actually my least favorite part of the class. I always bonked my head on the mat doing the rolls and it made me feel dizzy. I also had a huge fear of handstands. I can do them wonderfully if there is a wall nearby, but doing them on an open mat scared me to death. I didn’t want to break my neck! So I struggled through the drills. Then we spent a good 45 minutes working on tumbling skills. The  more advanced students would go off and do their own thing… flips, parallel bars, etc. The newbies like me would work on doing handsprings with mats and flipping into the foam pit. Sometimes we’d end the class with 15 minutes of conditioning, which consisted of pushing stacks of mats across the floor. It was EXHAUSTING!

At first I had a lot of fun with the class and enjoyed going. Over the course of a few months, it became draining. The class got more crowded and was eventually overrun by the experienced gymnasts. The coach was less than attentive as time went on as well. Each class ran until 9pm. I would come home so hyped up and unable to fall asleep that I’d have a hard time getting up for work in the morning. It was just not working for me. At the time, I was also trying to keep up with boot camp and weight training on my own. I couldn’t handle it all so I stopped going after a few months. I had already paid over $200 for the last session and missed a lot of it. But I just lost the  motivation and it was a 15 minute drive whereas the boot camp and regular gym I go to are both a 5 minute walk from my house. Maybe someday I’ll go back or find a new adult gymnastics class, but for now I’ll stick to my regular weight training!

Likes: SO FUN!!!! Jumping in foam pits is the best. It made me feel the excitement I always had watching the Olympic gymnasts as a child.

Dislikes: I actually didn’t actually learn anything new, like how to do a flip! The class times weren’t convenient for me. This would probably be way better with a 1 on 1 coach.

BOXING

I tried a beginner boxing class at a local boxing gym. I was totally intimidated and it took me months to work up the courage. But they had a really good deal going so I went for it. I have to say, I think I would have a different opinion if I went somewhere else. I found this particular class to be way too cardio-focused. I mean, I can do jumping jacks on my own time and that’s not something I’d pay money to do in a class. The actual boxing part was maybe 10-15 minutes of an hour long class. It was lots of calisthenics, push ups, stretching and a tad bit of boxing. So that was pretty disappointing. I also hated using old smelly gloves that who knows how many other sweaty people had used. If you’re a germophobe, think twice. However, the actual boxing was really fun. I went a couple of times and I guess I should’ve kept going since I wish I would’ve learned more about actual boxing techniques instead of just sort of randomly punching bags.

Likes: punching things is fun

Dislikes: too much cardio and push ups, didn’t get to box in the actual boxing ring, didn’t quite feel like Muhammed Ali as I’d hoped

CROSSFIT

Ok, so here it is: the good, the bad and the ugly of CrossFit. Sit tight.

I’ll start with what I like. Overall, I did enjoy the Olympic lifts a lot. I love lifting weights, so those movements were my favorite. I love snatches. I love push presses. I love Clean and Jerks. I, like most people, could go the rest of my life without doing another burpee and be PERFECTLY happy. But I understand they are a necessary evil in CF and it did feel good to know I just did 150 of them and didn’t die. To say there is no “cardio” involved in CF is a total lie, but a good lie. You definitely won’t see CFers on an elliptical machine…and that’s a good thing. The cardio portion is built in to the programming, almost seamlessly enough for you to forget you’re doing it at all. It is a lot like circuit training and most workouts are timed, so you are inherently moving very quickly…or at least, attempting to. Sprinting is a big part of CF too, unfortunately for me, because I hate running. Rowing is big in CF, which is surprisingly fun and difficult. That said, I did not miss the treadmill and can honestly say I never had my heart pound so hard than in CF. I liked that I didn’t have to spend 30 minutes on a boring machine thinking about the 500 other things I’d rather be doing. During a WOD (workout of the day), I couldn’t think of anything at all because my heart never stopped racing and there were very few WODs that didn’t left me laying on a mat, gasping for air. Take that, you evil little elliptical machine!

That brings me to my dislikes.

1. The WOD’s (workouts). Ok I don’t mind the bruises, cuts and sore shoulders that seem to persist no matter how much I stretched, how many bubble baths I took or how much glumatine I took. I don’t even mind the scar I now have on my ass from doing hundreds of sit ups in a WOD (you wanted brutally honest didn’t you?). I don’t mind a good challenge and thought CF would be a refreshing change from my old snooze fest workouts, but I seriously hated about 80% of the WODs. I hated them so much that one day I walked out mid-WOD because I was frustrated and pissed off. And for your info, the workout was:

Start – 90 burpees
@ minute 12 – Do a Fran (Fran is 21 pull ups and 21 thrusters @ 65 lbs, then 15 of each, then 9 of each) – a thruster is basically a squat and a push press combined
@ minute 24 – 90 kettlebell swings (16 kg)

We were supposed to do each round at the 12 minute mark (meaning, if it takes you the full 12 minutes, guess what, no rest period for you!!). That’s 36 minutes of pure hell. I got through 24 mins and wanted to die. Judge me if you want. I work out as a way to relieve stress, not create it. I spent the rest of the day angry that I couldn’t do 65 lb thrusters for 12 minutes straight and that CF seems to promote elitism and look down on those who can’t do 100 pull ups just for fun. I am not typically a quitter, nor did I think I was THAT out of shape when I started. But CrossFit proved me wrong on both counts. I accept being out of shape (I credit my stress, multiple moves, and ongoing insomnia at the time for some of that) and I personally didn’t mind being a quitter, especially if it meant saving myself from passing out, throwing my back out or avoiding the shame that comes with not completing a workout. And it’s not like I quit the gym. It was a hard workout and it was my first one after 2 weeks off for the holidays. So I suppose I should’ve given myself credit. But again, there is no “do the best you can” in CF. They expect you to do it all and to do it in an asinine amount of time. CrossFit’s motto should be “If you’re not first, you’re last” because it’s true for them. You haven’t worked hard enough unless you are barfing up your lunch.

2. Writing scores on the board. UGH.After each WOD, you write your name and your score on a dry erase board. What are we, 8? Not being competitive by nature definitely worked against me in CF. I don’t care if I never do a 300 pound dead lift. I don’t care if I can’t run a mile in 5 minutes. I just don’t care because to be honest, I knew I’d never be #1 in the class. I guess I need more of an ego to really enjoy it, but I certainly didn’t want to see my measly score at the bottom of the list either. It reminded me of being picked last in gym class which again made me feel like I was in a class full of elitist Olympians (or former all-star athletes who never got picked last for anything). Am I going to have a detention if I don’t record my awful score? Who cares? What I care about is being healthy, being in good shape and being strong. I thought CF was all about this too. But it often seemed that doing 100 half assed pull ups was WAY more important.

3. It is too difficult for beginners. Sorry folks, CF is inherently dangerous, although no one likes to talk about that fact. Heavy lifting is dangerous…in CF or any type of lifting/bodybuilding. Not using proper form is dangerous. So whose genius idea was it to do 100s of one exercise for time? Clearly, anyone, no matter how fit, is going to get to the point of exhaustion, which means that your form is going to decline as you get more tired. This is extremely dangerous, especially when lifting heavy amounts of weight (which they expect you to do on day one). Everything can be “scaled” down, according to the CF bible. But the trainers definitely don’t emphasize this the gym I went to (I think/assume/hope many others are more professional). Rather, they seemed to look down on people who scaled workouts. It actually pissed me off to no end. If I had never, ever set foot in a gym before and CF was my first experience in one, I honestly would’ve been traumatized for life on day one and ran straight home to a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. This, again, could’ve just be true at my gym…I hope! It was much less expensive and smaller than other area CF boxes, so I do think the quality of the programming suffered as a result. However, I weight lifted on my own for 2 years before joining CF and I still felt completely scared and way out of my element there. I admit I am hard on myself and get frustrated when I don’t pick things up right away. But none of these people walked in on day one doing muscle ups. So why do they act like they did?!!

4. Timed workouts. I get the idea. Everyone move fast so you burn loads of calories. Keeping count of how many reps you did, or how quickly you finished a workout can also help you track progress going forward. I get it, but I’d lose count because I was too busy trying to stay alive. And I didn’t mind AMRAP (as many rounds as possible in X amount of time) workouts because at least then, there is no set # I have to complete and I can got at my own pace. But the workouts where you have to do X, Y and Z in 15 minutes causes me sheer panic because A) I knew there was typically a good chance I won’t finish and B) I knew everyone will be standing around staring at me when I didn’t finish…or finished last. Again, good luck getting me to put my score on the board. I did it once because I got yelled at. (I did not have to serve a detention, however.)

5. Next, clearly, I didn’t appreciate the competitive nature of the programming because in my opinion, people in group classes/sports should be supportive and encouraging, not elitist. I know some people are competitive and played sports their whole lives and loved that aspect. I did not. I thought CFers were very team-like and everyone cheered everyone on and it was a way to compete TOGETHER. Instead, it feels like a Nazi boot camp where it’s every man for himself. I have no ego and I will be honest in that I never once had “fun” in a CF work out. I would leave thinking, “Why am I paying for this?” Again, maybe it’s just the group I worked out with or my high standards. Perhaps they were “in the zone” or just plain antisocial. I realize now I am just not cut out for competitive sports. But how is it so many other people love it?? CFers, please enlighten me!!

6. There’s no music! WTF. I need music to work out. I think my gym may have just sucked in this respect. I sure hope other boxes have nice, loud music. But man, I seriously cannot do a heavy squat without a little Pennywise in my ear. Someone could even sing or something. (This is just a foot note to my other criticisms)

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