Why are group fitness classes so popular? I mean, you see new studios opening up all the time only offering classes, with minimal equipment and big, open floor space.
So what gives?
I’ll speak from my own personal experience here, as one who attended classes first and as one who leads classes daily now.
As a youngster I was competitive in BMX racing and dance. I had a personal trainer at a facility who focused on working with athletes. I went because I was supposed to, but I didn’t enjoy it. The learning curve was pretty big and intimidating. Just me and this trainer who is telling me what to do, but not always showing me, so I wasn’t ever sure if I was doing it right. If I wasn’t the trainer would then show me, of course, but that added insult to injury and increased the intimidation factor. When I say youngster, I was a teenager.
As a young-adult I got away from fitness and the gym then decided in my mid-twenties it was time to re-enter. This time I was given a membership by some friends to an all women’s facility. It was here that I started running on the treadmill and would do some free weight exercises and started getting back in the groove. Enter my first ever Bootcamp. I saw a sign in the gym with a 6-week Women’s Only Bootcamp being held in the studio of the gym. I signed up without hesitation. It was held Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6am, the same exact schedule I was already on.
This was my first experience with a group fitness class. I fell in love! The camaraderie, the competition (I am still an athlete at heart), and the new friendships forged over grueling sweat sessions kept me coming back for more. This started in February of 2009. One of my best friends was the trainer who started that Bootcamp, Haley, and she now owns Body Language Gym in Edmond, OK, and is still leading Bootcamp at her gym. Now it is open to men and women.
Fast forward to November of 2012 when my boyfriend passed away tragically. It was everything I could do to get myself out of bed each day for months. You want to know what did it? Knowing the love I would be surrounded by with those friendships I made at the gym in Bootcamp. Oftentimes I cried during squats and burpees and my partner, usually my friend Haley, would shed tears with me. At the end of class I was always given hug after hug and checked on by people who genuinely cared. Those women encouraged me, loved me, and made me feel safe when I was enduring the hardest emotional pain I had ever experienced.
That same month I made some new friends who were friends of my late-boyfriend, Tag. They are sisters, one living in OKC and the other living in LA. They wanted to know me and have me in their lives because of how much Tag meant to them. Both of these ladies teach group fitness. I didn’t know at that time that this would ever become relevant, but just one year later, it did.
The sister who is based in LA, Jordan, is a Senior Master Trainer and Head of Education for PILOXING Academy, LLC. Jordan was going to be coming home for Thanksgiving and was teaching a PILOXING training while she was in town. I mentioned to Haley during one of our Bootcamp classes that I was debating on getting certified and her eyes got so big. I knew I would have a place to teach, so I jumped.
Today, four and a half years later, I am a Master Trainer in our four PILOXING programs. I have the honor and privilege of certifying others to teach our programs and being a part of the growth of PILOXING in my area. I am also certified in LesMills BODYPUMP and CXWORX. I teach a variety of classes around the OKC area everyday. I spend most of my time at the Downtown YMCA 4th/Broadway location where I have met and become friends with such amazing women that I wouldn’t otherwise know.
In February this year six of us headed to Disney World to run the Disney Princess Half-Marathon and spent a few extra days hanging and playing around the parks. One of our ladies is wrapping up her Residency at OU Med and will soon be off to Duke for her Pediatric Cardiology Fellowship. Another is about to bring a little one into this world. This past weekend we got together to celebrate these big life events in regular clothes in my home over a pot luck meal, no sweat involved, to connect, love, support, and most of all, enjoy the friendships we built within the walls of the group fitness room at the Downtown YMCA.
Of course we work hard in our classes. We challenge ourselves every time we walk through those doors. We encourage each other to give a little more than you thought you could. We also embrace each other where we are that day. If someone misses a class or a few, we let them know next time we see them how much we missed their presence there. We welcome with open arms and open hearts. We finish each class with a high-five and a job well done! It’s not the workouts that keep me coming back. It’s the relationships and people I have the pleasure of meeting within those classes that keeps me coming back.
In my opinion, this is why group fitness classes exist and continue to be so popular. I would love to hear how classes have impacted you in your life. Please share your experiences in the comments!