This week I bring you a gym guide, that has been road tested by yours truly, to help you ease your way into group fitness classes and help you to avoid newbie blunders. And the good news is I’ve gone through the embarrassing pitfalls so you don’t have to!
Last week I talked about finding the right gym
, this week I want to discuss what happens after you’ve signed up. Where do you begin? Cardio room? Weights? Group fitness? And should I take the gym up on their offer of personal training?
Talk to the experts
Prior medical advice and chatting to the gym is an important first step. Doing this will provide you with information on what type of exercises will benefit you the most, and is safe for you to do. This really helps narrow down the choices.
My personal preference is going to group fitness classes, not just because of the social element. I enjoy having an instructor guide you through the exercises, giving you feedback and talking you through the more difficult parts. I find having an instructor pushes me that little bit further.
Personal training is expensive, but I find that doing a little bit to help dust off the cobwebs is helpful. For this reason, I had done some personal training sessions earlier on, to help me along at the start. This really helped me get my confidence up, that I could actually do more than I had realised, and got me enjoying being active again. This was just for a limited amount of sessions, however. Ongoing personal training is pricey, and I didn’t think it was necessary once I was at a level where I could begin working out in a group.
How to choose the best group class for you
When you first get hold of a gym timetable, all you have is class names and descriptions of what the session involves. On paper, there is no real way of knowing if the class will be right for you. Some will sound much too intense, and others may seem simple, but in reality are very hard.
Things to consider when choosing classes:
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It takes a very long time for me to get going in the morning, so morning classes are automatically out. I find I do best in the afternoon. People with MS will tell you they have a ‘peak’ time of day, and that varies from person to person. For me, it’s between 12-5.
Is the class appropriate for me?
If you have got to know the staff at the gym at a meet and greet, they are really the best people to ask about classes. They can match you up with classes that fit best with your fitness level and goals. They can also introduce you to types of classes you might not have considered before.
Is there something I’ve done before?
Another factor for me when I’m starting out is also familiarity of the exercises. Going to the gym for the first time or after a long break can make you feel like a fish out of water. So I like to warm up to my new routine with something I’m familiar with. In my case that’s yoga. This allows me to ease into working out with something in my comfort zone.
Is there something I enjoy doing?
Exercise can be hard work, it’s best to do something you enjoy doing, right? Think about what you enjoy and see if there is a class that involves that in some way.
Some gyms have express classes which are just 30 minutes long. These may be a good option when starting out, just check with the gym that express doesn’t also mean high intensity first. This is a mistake I’ve made before.
Your first class
Something I started doing is introducing myself to the instructor, give a brief heads up of my condition and explain if I have any special needs or injuries. The first time I did this, I felt as though I might come across as making excuses, but it was quite the contrary. The instructor was helpful and helped me work out alternatives if I felt I was struggling so that I could always keep up and never felt left out.
Introducing yourself also allows you to ask if there is anything you should know about the class, this is especially important if you will be using equipment. The first time I went to a spin class, years ago, I wanted to seem like I was a pro, and just jumped on a bike. It was set up all wrong and made a hard class even harder. Everyone has to start somewhere so don’t feel ashamed of saying it’s your first class. You will have a much better time if you do.
What classes did I try?
For the first week, I only attended yoga classes. I do a lot of yoga at home, but I have to admit, I enjoyed the classes environment so much more, and going to class is now my preference over doing yoga at home.
When I felt I was ready for something harder, I went to a spin class, I had done it years before. I find spin to be a great option because I can control the intensity of the class, and I can discreetly ease back on the gears if I need to.
The staff had been so supportive that in the end, I felt completely comfortable branching out, and I’ve since joined a high-intensity interval (HIIT), class. It’s a tough workout, but the trainer modifies the class so I can do fewer repetitions or use lighter weights. He’s been very encouraging, and every week I feel stronger, this is turning into one of my favourite classes.
My results so far
I have discovered that going to the gym gives me an immediate payoff, it relieves pain and recharges my batteries. I always leave the gym with more spoons than I had when I got there. Over the long term, it has also improved my balance and posture. Aside from the physical benefits, there is also that feeling of doing something that you thought you couldn’t. And I cherish that moment because it means that maybe, this MS thing, hasn’t got a complete hold over me yet.
If you haven’t tried exercise as an option to managing your MS, try it out. The results may surprise you, they definitely surprised me.