Which are you, lone wolf or groupie?
Barre, spinning, CrossFit, Yoga, Zumba, free weights, cardio… when it comes to choosing a workout, there are a whole host of activities to choose from. The issue isn’t choice, it’s how to choose. How do you know what will work best for you?
Workout newbies should start with group workouts. In classes, instructors will walk through each exercise with you, correct your technique, and push you when you feel like you’re at the end of yourself.
Group workouts are great because we naturally tend to work harder when others are around us. This means you’ll get more out of a workout than if you’d done the same work on your own.
There are downsides to the group workout though. It can be harder (but not impossible) to measure your progress, unless this is something the gym does for you. This means it can be easy to just slack off during workouts and not push yourself to improve week by week.
It’s also important to take into account the kind of class you’re doing. You need to make sure you attend classes that target different parts of the body. Some classes cover arms, legs, abs, and cardio work all in one, others, like barre, might lack the cardio aspect or the ab aspect, and so you’ll need to make sure you attend other classes that target these.
Let’s start with all the great things about working out by yourself. Freedom of choice, flexibility, easy measuring of progress. You get to choose what to exercise, and when to do it, so if there’s an exercise you really can’t do, or something comes up one day, you can still go to the gym on another day and get your workout done. Because you’re putting together your own workouts, you’ll be able to tell when an exercise you hate (hello, planking) starts to hurt a little less or requires less work.
Some of the upsides of riding solo can be downsides though.
Let’s break them down one by one.
– Freedom of choice. If you get to choose which exercises you do and which body parts to target, is there a chance you don’t push yourself to do the exercises you enjoy? If you lack self-discipline, this could become an issue.
– Flexibility. With a class, if you miss it, you miss out. With a solo workout, you can postpone it. That’s inherently a good thing, but it means there is the potential for you to postpone until kingdom come. You could just keep postponing it until it’s been a month and you still haven’t managed to get to the gym. Here again, self-discipline becomes an issue.
– Easy measuring of progress. It’s easy to measure your progress if you’re the one setting the benchmark, but it’s also easy to mess up your form. Seasoned exercisers won’t struggle much with form and shouldn’t have to worry about getting injured, but newbies should definitely be careful about making sure the way they workout isn’t hurting their bodies.
So which do you choose? As with most things, this isn’t that straightforward. I’d recommend that ask yourself two questions when trying to decide:
1) How confident am I working out? Am I familiar with different exercises and equipment or do I need extra guidance?
2) How disciplined am I? Do I need routine and someone to push me, or am I generally good at pushing myself?
I think with these questions you’ll find your answer. Remember that you don’t have to go for one or the other, there are ways to do both.
You might be confident with a treadmill and a crosstrainer, and so you could do cardio by yourself without any issue; and then on the other hand you might be a little less sure of yourself when it comes to weights, which you could do classes for.
You could also go to the gym with friends. Buddying up produces a lot of the same affects as working out in a group session (in terms of pushing yourself a little harder), and if one or both of you has long-term experience of working out, then you can watch each other’s form to make sure that you don’t get injured.
There’s no right or wrong here, it’s all about finding what suits you.
/Femi, The Girl Who Hates Working Out
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