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How to Modify Group Fitness Classes

Nov 03, 2022

Do you ever skip a workout class at your gym because you just "don't feel like it?" but you know that's not quite it?

Group activities and exercise classes at local gyms can feel VULNERABLE! Finding somewhere to stand. Figuring out who to talk to. Other, deeper reasons for this can be:

  • uncertainty around how to feel safe / not get hurt
  • worries around feeling embarrassed or "like an outsider"
  • not knowing about how much energy is required (emotional and physical)
  • figuring out how silently disappear instead of leaving early if we need to

As a LONG time fitness instructor at many gyms in many states, I can tell you that any instructor worth their salt wants you to feel empowered, healthy and safe. And we LOVE IT when you arrive early, introduce yourself and let us help if you're feeling uncertain or nervous. It's hard to teach so many people and still help everyone get what they need, and it's amazing to see students choose options that work for them.

Here are three ways to navigate group fitness classes:

  1. Communicate early and clearly. When you arrive at the gym (early for class, please!), kindly let the instructor/facilitator know you might need to modify the movements, take breaks or leave early. It helps us know how to cue and help you get the best experience!
  2. Fuel In Advance. Be sure to eat and drink enough 30-60 min before the event to avoid "crashing" at the moment of truth or pushing yourself to a point where you don't recover.
  3. Have a safety plan. Have 3-5 "go-to" movements that you know you can do pain-free in the event that you're not comfortable with what's being offered. (e.g. cat-cow instead of push ups)

and three ways to modify in group exercise classes:

  1. Don't use weight. Just confidently set the weights to the side and practice the movement safely.
  2. Go slower. Move at a pace that is controlled and pain-free. (If it's a fast-paced class / set to music, just do the repetitions at half-speed, do half as many, and you'll still be in sync!)
  3. Use a wall!  Often, planks and push ups, balance practice (and even squats) are much more manageable on a wall. When you get set up, find a spot near the wall or - if you don't - just confidently walk to a walk and use it! 

Whether you're attending a kettlebell class, group personal training session, yoga class or CrossFit Gym, YOU are the one in charge of your experience and how you feel! If you're unsure of how to modify, we're happy to offer some ideas ... but listen to your body and find ways to feel GOOD.

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