Men and Group Fitness
As stereotypes go, group fitness for men is right up there. Have we made progress? Sure. But there are still massive misconceptions that exist about group fitness as a viable option for men. Why? Because historically, fitness classes have largely been marketed towards women. Let's look at some other common misconceptions when it comes to men and group fitness:
- Group fitness isn't a hard enough workout (ummm…have you been to a spin class?)
- Fitness classes don't build muscle (because we've used dumb words like tone & sculpt over the years)
- You have to be highly coordinated (think step aerobics)
- I'll be the only guy there (maybe true, but we're working on it)
- It's awkward & embarrassing (trust me, no one is looking at you)
- Group fitness is mostly cardio (keep reading)
It's really interesting. If you consider the above, none of those myths are founded on actual facts. Yet somehow, along the way, we've created a culture where many men still believe group fitness is all Jazzercise and Sweatin' to the Oldies. Let's unpack some of these myths and put a pin in it once and for all.
The Fitness Men Ignore
Speaking of stereotypes, I'm going to hit you with a few more. As a former fitness instructor myself, I've found these things to be true more often than not.
- Men tend to focus on the “Glory” muscle groups (back, chest, arms, & abs) and neglect the others (like legs)
- Men don't care about flexibility (until they get older and need a shoehorn to pull their sneakers on or get injured).
- Cardio gets ignored unless they're training for a sport
- Coordination, balance and core strength aren't top priorities for men
*Disclaimer: I'm aware that these aren't true for everyone. The above statements are generalizations and are direct quotes from the men in my life who participate in a regular fitness routine.
Why Men Should Take Fitness Classes
So, when it comes to men and fitness, the stereotypes go both ways. Here are the top reasons that men (and everyone) should consider group fitness.
- Fitness classes are well-balanced. A great instructor designs their workouts to address all the major (and often minor) muscle groups. So there's not “skipping legs” in a fitness class. In addition, instructors will often focus on those areas that many people tend to overlook.
- Classes offer variety. It's human nature to do more of the things you're good at and less of the things you're not so good at. Group fitness gives you a great cross-section of workouts that address all the major areas of fitness.
- Cardio that pushes you. None of the men I polled do regular cardio sessions. All of them told me they knew should. Unless they were an endurance athlete (runner, cyclist, swimmer, etc) cardio was ignored. This isn't just out of balance. It's dangerous. Most of the men in this small study of mine participate in pick-up sports once a week. Taking part in high-intensity cardio like hockey or basketball when you're under conditioned is down-right dangerous!
- Flexibility is built in. It's not just men, lots of people fall into the category of neglecting their flexibility – and they all admitted it. Inflexible muscles lead to injury, decreased range of motion (think shoehorn), and lowered strength profile. It's important, and it's built into almost every single fitness class.
A Man's Perspective
OK, I'm not a dude. I'm also aware that I have a very biased opinion (because I've always loved group fitness). So, I'm handing over the writing reigns to Brent for a minute. Without further ado, his unprompted words:
Well, it’s like this. I wasn't convinced that group fitness was for me for a couple of reasons.
- I know very little about it (what is it, what kinds of classes are offered, how long, what kind of commitment was required).
- The only person I know who does group fitness is crazy. Crazy fit!
So for me, there was a bit of hesitation to expand my comfort zone.
Imagine my reaction when Sara advised me that she had signed us for an event at The Fitness Room Halifax where we would be sampling Spin, Pilates and Barre classes. If memory serves me, we had a communication session (my polite term for “argument”) about the whole thing.
The Conversation That Changed My Mind
Sara: “I signed us up for a fitness workshop at a local studio”
Me: “Great, you want me to try these classes in front of a bunch of strangers where I'll be the only guy. Also, I'm pretty sure YOU know I know nothing about them. When was the last time I….”
Sara (she cut me off): “You know them! I signed us up with a bunch of our friends, it'll be fun”.
I thought to myself, “Great. Now I get to look like an ass in front of my peers. Just what I need”. And that was my lightbulb moment. I caught myself not wanting to try something new and that's NOT ME. So, I obliged. To be honest, the classes were actually a lot of fun.
We took that first workshop together and then had a meeting with Anna (owner of The Fitness Room Halifax). Her philosophy struck a chord with both us and we decided to commit to a full year of classes. Just like that! Fast forward just over a month and we've been attending 3 or 4 classes a week and loving it. In the beginning, my number one hesitation was not knowing enough about group fitness. In my time here, this is what I've learned.
5 Things I've Learned About Group Fitness
The workouts are done-for-you. No research or planning on your part. The programs are professionally designed and finish at a specific time. Not to mention, the instructor provides support, a kick in the butt if needed and a ton of knowledge to answer any of your questions.
No more waiting for equipment. Classes are limited to 15 people. That means there are plenty of weights, bands, balls & mats to go around. This is a huge time saver for me. I use to spend a lot of time trying to find (or waiting for) the equipment I need. Now I can just focus on my workouts.
Friendly competition is fun. I love this. Nothing pushes me harder than being in a room where 14 people are performing the same task I am. Naturally wanting to compete gives me the healthy motivation to perform at my best every time.
Meeting new people. This was my second hesitation and to be honest it was just silly. In the first class, I met a couple of new people. The next class, a couple more. The third, even more. Now I'm happy to report that we’re developing a peer group around our fitness classes.
It's a full-body approach. This has made a big difference for me. Cardio, stretching, and balance aren't typical focal points in any of my previous workout routines. I'm already noticing that group fitness is getting me faster results because I'm working from a more balanced approach and focusing on the areas that need work.
It translates into our lives. We do a lot of hiking, paddling, climbing, and exploring. Group fitness translates directly into me being more capable of doing those things.
Advice To Other Men
If I could give one piece of advice to anyone (not just men) who's hesitant to try group fitness it's this. Too often we choose not to try something new. And in doing so, you could be missing out on something that you really enjoy and something that's very beneficial to you.
Give it a try! What have you got to lose?