Let’s face it, fitness classes can be intimidating and choosing one can be overwhelming. In this article, we will explore which might be the right choice for you (given your goals, fitness level, and likes and dislikes), and what various classes actually look like.

It is crucial to examine different types of exercise, their specific pros and cons, and choose what is right for our specific needs. No two bodies are exactly alike, and while one class might be perfect for one person, it could be a major step in the wrong direction for another.

To make this task easier, I have compiled a list of common types of fitness classes and who they will benefit/not benefit. Of course, this cannot be an exact science as the type of exercise our body needs changes constantly, sometimes as much as day to day, depending on our stress level, mental state, and physical state.

However, this list is a good start in knowing what to look for and consider when choosing a type of exercise and/or fitness class

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

Interval training can take on many forms depending on your fitness level and may or may not include equipment. Another benefit is that it can be quick and done anywhere (hotel rooms, your living room, etc), and can help balance our hormones in a way that chronic cardio (focusing most or all of our exercise routine around long-distance cardio) can actually hinder.

In the form of a fitness class, it’s common to find TABATA classes (a specific form of HIIT), or many other class options that have interval training as part of their description.

HIIT is a form of cardio that can last as few as 4 to 30 minutes, and involves periods of high intensity sprint intervals with periods of rest/recovery. HIIT has been shown to improve our ability to burn fat and our glucose metabolism.

This might sound intense, but the beauty of interval training is that you can start wherever you need to, both in terms of the type of exercises/movements you do in your sprint interval, and the intensity of that interval. It simply means that you are working your hardest, which might look vastly different from the person working out next to you.

Another great advantage is you can design your interval training around what types of exercises you enjoy, for example you can run, do jumping (or regular) squats, burpees, or maybe at this point simply walking up a hill brings your intensity level to a 9 or 10 on the scale. Check out these great example workouts from the dailyburn: http://dailyburn.com/life/fitness/hiit-workouts-for-beginners/

Long Distance Running

Whether this is on your own or with a group, long distance running is definitely not right for everyone. While a certain amount of jogging/running might work for your body, centering your entire exercise routine around long distance runs without switching it up can actually have negative impacts on our stress hormones and joints.

Running is cheap (or free) and can act as a nice stress relief, not to mention we can do it easily, wherever we are. However, it can also enhance muscle imbalances, lead to injury, and raise our cortisol levels (our primary stress hormone produced by our adrenal glands), actually causing weight gain. Also remember that if you are in a period of higher stress, long distance jogging can act as more of a stressor on the body than if you are in a period of calm.

A great alternative is to switch up running with bike rides (or a more high intensity spin class), outdoor walks and hikes, and swimming.

CrossFit

Unless you’ve been living in a cave recently, you’ve probably heard of CrossFit. One thing is for sure, it definitely isn’t boring! Interestingly enough, CrossFit touts itself as being more than just a workout routine, but a lifestyle, down to the foods you eat (paleo diet) and the clothes you wear.

The bottom line with joining a CrossFit gym is that it be great for individuals with a solid fitness base, great energy levels/adrenal health and good weight lifting form. For others, however, it can cause injury and be stressful on the body. It involves many functional movements (movements that mimic those done in daily life) such as turning over tires, pull-ups, jumping on and over boxes, Olympic weight lifting and much more. There is no doubt that CrossFit absolutely provides a high intensity, fat burning workout, and builds muscle. The cons; however, are that you can open yourself up to SERIOUS injury and majorly stress your body, leading to fatigue, adrenal burnout and hormonal imbalance.

Boot camp

Many people (especially women) have tried a boot camp class. They can get us outdoors and we might meet some fun people that inspire us along the way.

However, it’s unfortunate that many boot camp options out there are basically 1 hour of super high intensity cardio, which is definitely not beneficial for everybody. Instead of boot camp, which can produce some of the same effects of stressful exercise on your body as discussed with running and CrossFit, I recommend trying out new forms of cardio exercise like interval training, hiking, long walks outdoors, and bike riding. Better than boot camp, join a hiking group! It is healthier for your hormones, and for your soul.

With that said, if you love your boot camp class and it works for you, go for it! But if you leave it feeling tired/fatigued, or you have to drag yourself to go, perhaps it’s not the best choice. Remember, we should always leave our workouts feeling more energized than we were going into it.

Yin or Restorative Yoga

I can’t stress enough just how important it is to incorporate some sort of restorative practice into your workout routine, not to mention stretching. We get so caught up in the rapid pace of life that we often forget to simply relax and focus on the breath, and often we actually forget how! And aside from being so very important to our mental state, incorporating more restorative exercise into your routine can go a long way in helping with weight loss efforts.

Needless to say, these are just some of many fitness class and exercise options. The real markers of if a particular choice is the right one for you depend on fitness level, stress level, history of injuries, current diet, nutrient status, and more. And let’s not discount having fun, which is crucial to exercise success. We should never regularly force ourselves to do types of exercise that make us miserable. And if you’ve been doing something that doesn’t seem to be working, try something else! If you attend a weekly spin class and now it bores you or you no longer look forward to it, try a strength training class and vice versa.

There’s no one-size-fits-all-approach, but we can make the best educated decisions for our bodies.

 

 

*Disclaimer: This info is not intended to be a substitute for the medical advice of a licensed physician. Please consult with your doctor before starting a new workout or diet plan and exercise at your own risk.

Rachel Fiske, NC, CPT-NASM Rachel Fiske is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant and graduated from Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition in Berkeley, California, and a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Rachel works with clients individually via skype, focusing on issues of weight management, GI problems, hormonal imbalances, fatigue and more via a whole foods diet and lifestyle changes. Consultations include diet journal analysis, individualized menu planning, and herbal/supplementation protocols.