There’s only so much time one can spend alone on an elliptical or in a weight room week after week. Fitness classes can provide a new set of physical challenges and a much-needed break from the monotony of traditional solo workouts, without the long-term commitment of team sports. A new breed of classes is introducing movement-intensive activities and new equipment into the gym, providing repeatable, challenging and innovative approaches to group exercise. Gone are the days of aerobics and cardio boxing dominating the class schedule. In training rooms in gyms across the country there’s a new activity suitable for nearly everyone, whether you’re looking for a reason to go back to the gym, a way to supplement your current practice or to engage new muscles in new ways.
Superman exercises at a boot camp in Vancouver, photo uploaded by Urbanmixer, some rights reserved
Adding a boot camp class into your weekly workout rotation can quickly raise your fitness level and help you get more out of your other activities. Typically held outdoors for small groups, boot camp courses rely heavily on military boot camp fitness programs to whip students into shape. There are women-only boot camps, bridal boot camps, post-natal boot camps, boot camps for seniors and even boot camps for kids. Combining body weight resistance exercises like pushups, sit-ups, lunges, and squats with sprints, obstacle courses, and plyometrics, these 4 to 8-week courses deliver results for people whose routines have plateaued, are trying to get in better shape, or simply require a change in their workouts. Beyond being physically intense, boot camps provide a level of mental challenge. In many cases, the classes take place in the dawn hours. If you’re not an early bird, some instructors offer evening boot camp classes. And in spite of the name, boot camp participants need not expect instructors straight out of “Full Metal Jacket.” Although there are instructors out there who use those tactics, there are plenty who are less intimidating.
Kettlebell masterclass in London, photo uploaded by klfitness, some rights reserved
Developed in Russia, Kettlebell classes are still relatively new to many in the States. These spherical weights with handles are designed to enable weighted movement in ways that would be near-impossible with traditional dumbbells or hand weights. The swings, windmills, and Figure 8s (among other exercises) performed with the weights utilize multiple muscle groups and joints simultaneously, improving mobility and range of motion while toning and strengthening muscles without adding bulk. A good teacher or trainer is essential. Without proper instruction in the use of Kettlebells, the odds of ending up with bumps, bruises or even more severe injuries can increase exponentially. If you’re not sure where to find a course in your area, this searchable database of certified RKC trainers and instructors may be a good place to start.
Aerobic dance classes are still a great way to reduce the burnout that often comes with repetitive cardio programs, and there are now more options than ever. While salsa, hip-hop and funk dance classes have achieved “classic” status, Zumba is a relatively new and fresh alternative. Zumba is the brainchild of Beto Perez, a Colombian trainer who had to improvise an entire aerobics class using the salsa and merengue tapes that were in his backpack after forgetting to bring his aerobics music with him. Drawing from the same salsa and merengue influences (and certified instructors), the classes can range in atmosphere from traditional aerobic dance to full-on party. Benefits – aside from the obvious cardiovascular fitness boost – include improved coordination and endurance. For the aquatically-inclined, there are Aqua Zumba classes, and even Zumbatomic classes aimed at kids ages 4-12.
Here’s a glimpse of what a Zumba class looks like:
For those in search of a challenging addition to an already-robust workout routine, circus training can breathe new life into a training program that has become ordinary. Classic circus stunts like tightrope walking, acrobatics, and yes, even trapeze offer a novel twist on traditional training. Depending on the gym or circus training center in your area, classes can be taken a la carte or in multi-week sessions. While the option to concentrate on one circus routine is usually available, there are also classes that focus on a broader range of activities and expose participants to a range of challenging routines. While at its highest levels circus training requires truly extraordinary physical feats, virtually anyone can enjoy the increased strength and agility, physical and mental endurance and improve balance that circus classes offer. It’s a sure-fire boredom buster.
Chinese Circus Art Center training:
Staying interested and motivated at the gym becomes a challenge for just about everyone at some point. The right class can keep your mind and body focused on new challenges, add a social element to your workout and get you moving more muscle groups in more ways. Exploring the less conventional offerings on your gym’s fitness schedule can prove rewarding in ways you might not expect. If you’re in the Boston area and looking for a solid and inexpensive way to add a class to your routine, check out the schedule of classes at the Oak Square YMCA, a venue New Balance proudly sponsors. If you live elsewhere, find the Y in your area. Although circus classes are more easily found near big and medium-sized cities, there’s likely a number of kettlebell courses and fitness boot camps in your area, wherever you are.
If you’re in a type of fitness class that you love, or tried something that you decided just wasn’t for you, share it in the comments! We’d love to hear about and benefit from your experiences.