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Which Group Fitness Class Is Right For You?


At this point in the semester, the sight of your campus gym’s weight and cardio rooms is probably more nauseating than exhilarating. And while our Pinterest boards and collection of colorful sports bras may tell a different story, many of us know deep down that our time running on the treadmill or riding the stationary bike isn’t exactly the highlight of our day.

That being said, a ton of colleges offer much more exciting alternative solutions to our monotonous workout woes: fitness classes. These instructor-led group workouts typically incorporate a combination of cardio and strengthening moves that help to burn calories and build muscle, while the participant is able to familiarize themselves with a specific type of exercise. Additionally, an article by Dr. Dolan in the ACSM Fit Journal suggested that group exercising promotes consistency, positive social interaction and diversity.

If you’re looking for a different way to turn your summer body fitness goals into reality, look no further than HC’s guide for finding the perfect fitness class for you. But first, let’s knock out some common fears many collegiettes have about trying group fitness classes.

1. I’ll be the only newbie who doesn’t know what I’m doing

How will you know if you never try? It’s normal to get the jitters when attempting something out of your comfort zone, but odds are you will find that fitness classes are definitely worth the risk! Take fitness class fanatic and HC Amherst Campus Correspondent Evelyn Kramer’s experience with guided workout classes: “I can cater to my own specific fitness goals and have fun doing it.”

2. It will throw off my normal gym schedule

While a lot of us consider simply stepping foot inside the gym an accomplishment, participating in a fitness class can keep you from slacking off once you’re there. Bettina Weiss, a collegiette at Connecticut College, explained the clear benefit she found when she started attending spin classes; “What you put in is what you get out. If you want a really hard workout, you can make it happen in a fitness class. If you want to slack off, then it's your loss!” In fitness classes, collegiettes are able to progress on a personal basis, but with the guidance of a trained instructor. And maybe a pre-scheduled “gym appointment” is just what you need to give yourself that extra motivation after a long day, “It is a lot easier to force myself to go [to the gym] when class is at a certain time,” says Katie King from Western Michigan University.

3. I won’t be able to keep up

“At first I was a little bit apprehensive, because there are a lot of mirrors and people. However, after I realized how much I enjoyed spinning, I forgot about those nerves,” says Weiss of her first spin class experience. While many college gals feel that they will be lost, confused, or not up to par in a fitness class, many are designed to be “user-friendly” and include skills that can be mastered over time. Have a little faith in yourself, girl!

Now that you know that you can, it’s time to choose a style of class that best fits your exercise needs. Take a look at our guide to classes below.

If you’re looking to achieve inner piece, rock some serious core muscles and improve your flexibility, Yoga-inspired classes may be your solution.

Towards the end of the semester, feeling peaceful and serene seems just about as likely as your chances of breezing right through that chemistry final. And while college does provide its fair share of super-stressful-can’t-catch-a-break days, most campuses also provide some form of yoga classes that are worth checking out. Need more convincing? The ACSM suggests that yoga can be used to combat issues like sore muscles, joint pain and stiffness.

Although those of you who are not yet Yogies may think that yoga is just performing a bunch of awkward positions while breathing deeply, think again. The series of poses performed in these classes are grouped to encourage the flexibility of your muscles, and mastering correct breathing technique keeps those core muscles in check- just two of the many benefits yoga-inspired workouts have to offer.

Hot Yoga, or Bikram yoga, consists of performing traditional yoga sets in a room that heated between 105 and 110 degrees. “It is definitely a hard workout,” Katie says, who takes a class at an off-campus hot yoga studio. “You sweat a ton, like dripping (that part’s gross), but after you relax it is the best feeling ever. I would even wake up at 5 am to go to the early class when I had a busy day.”

While it is difficult for campus exercise facilities to maintain the temperature spike required for Bikram, many surrounding gyms and yoga studios offer the class for a discounted rate to students.

Vinyasa yoga is a more traditional, fast-paced yoga class that involves doing specific poses in a particular order while focusing on breathing technique, according to Fit Day. If you’re interested in yoga but want to try some other workout types as well, check with your campus gym to see if they offer Les Mill’s BodyFlow; a triple threat yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi workout combination that incorporates high-intensity exercises with lengthening, breathing-centered poses and burns an average of 400 calories per class.  Namaste!

If you want a cardio class that tones thigh and calf muscles, increases stamina and offers a just-as-intense alternative to running, try spin and cycling classes.

While spin and cycling classes have been a staple of the fitness class scene for decades, recent years have brought forth a whole slew of variations to the traditional workout.

Having a personal stationary bike means you can control your own resistance levels throughout the class. Another perk? Spin classes often play some pretty solid soundtracks, which help add some excitement to your workouts and push them to the next level.

Weiss discussed why she can’t get enough of the spin classes offered at her on-campus gym at Connecticut College: “I don't obsess over measurements but instead get to enjoy the music and work as hard as I can for the allotted time and be happy with the results. I prefer spinning so much more than running.”

Sarah Gilson from Loyola Marymount shared a similar experience after trying her first cycling class; “I was hooked! You work really hard, but it goes by so quickly that I forget how hard I am actually working. I look forward to going every week!”

Love the bike but trying to avoid a boring routine? Try SoulCycle, which adds in hand weights and core exercises to a traditional spin routine, after the brand’s founders became bored with the monotonous nature of a standard spin class. Les Mill’s RPM class uses beats from the class’s soundtrack to guide the intensity and cycling speed, giving participants a sweat-inducing interval workout. Triathlon biking workout classes have also been popping up on campuses all over and work to improve participants pace and form using stationary bikes.

Seem like something you would love? Check with your campus gym to find out what spin classes are offered and how you can sign up!

If you want a fun way to incorporate strength training into your workouts to get sculpted and toned all over, try a lifting-oriented fitness class.

Ah, the weight room. Sweaty guys, loud clanking, obnoxious grunting… it’s probably just about the last place you want to find yourself, ever. While strength training is an important component of any fitness regimen, it’s not always something that makes it very high on our priority while rolling solo at the gym. The solution? Try a weight-incorporated fitness class, which combine strengthening workouts in a sequential order, ensuring you hit all muscle groups and perform an adequate amount of repetitions. The best part of these classes is that strength training burns calories and boosts metabolism around the clock; one side effect we certainly don’t mind.

Kelly Thurston, a collegiette from Salisbury University, participates in Les Mill’s BodyPump two or three times a week, “It’s an all-over strengthening workout that is low weight-high repetition, so it helped me tone up all over without getting bulky.”

BodyPump, a class that goes through a set of workouts, each of which is intended to target different areas of the body, is offered on-campus at many universities nationwide and burns approximately 500-700 calories per class.

Looking for something a little (well, a lot) more intense? Crossfit, which is offered at schools like the University of Nevada and University of Alabama, consists of training sequences designed to maximize strength and endurance. And given that the program is modeled off training systems used at the Police Academy, consider it a “no frills” way to get a ripped body. Check out this video for a closer look on what Crossfit training consists of and be sure to ask your school’s campus recreation department about any current Crossfit programs being offered on your campus or in the surrounding area.

Looking to burn calories, listen to great music and improve your balance and dance floor skills? Say hello to dance-inspired fitness classes.

Who said a workout has to be boring and tedious?! Dance-oriented fitness classes are on the rise in a major way on college campuses across the country, and for good reason. Not only do these group classes give participants a way to let loose in a positive and beneficial way, but they have also proven to be quite the calorie burner. Perfect for those of us that are a little gym weary, dance classes are also a great way for collegiettes to get into a consistent workout routine.

Mariah Moses, a Virginia State student and Zumba lover, describes what keeps her coming back to the wildly popular dance aerobics class offered at many schools, “I like it better than being in the gym because I feel like you can’t really do too much in just the gym. Zumba involves more movement and is way more fun.” A chance to burn between 400 and 600 calories in an hour just by shaking it to great music? We’ll take it!

For those of you looking for something that provides some serious muscle toning, try Pure Barre, a personal favorite of Alabama alum Jessica Johnson; “I've been going to Pure Barre four to five days a week and I love it. I’m addicted.” Barre classes consist of sets of workouts (performed to fun music) that incorporate a ballet barre, light weights, bands, and sometimes other equipment. The exercises target typical “problem areas” (arms, abs, thighs, and butt), and also work to refine the participant’s center of gravity and overall posture (tutus optional, but HC-approved).

Want to add some culture to your fitness regimen? Look around on campus or nearby gyms for classes like salsa and belly dancing, which give participants a way to learn about the ideology and technique behind these classical dance styles while reaping the benefits of a stellar workout (along with some very impressive dance moves for weddings and formals). Looking for something a little more non traditional? Try Nia, a class that uses inspiration from all sorts of dance and movement styles to deliver participants with an all over workout that is said to heal, tone, and bring peace of mind. You can find Nia classes offered in your school’s area here!


So whether you feel the relaxation of yoga, the fun of dance, the intensity of strength training or the endurance of spin would benefit you the most (however no one said you had to pick just one!), start your spring with a group fitness class that is sure to provide results in more ways the one. Good luck from HC!

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