Attention all nether rock dwellers: You might not have heard but we’re in a recession. And the long arm of the recession has been particularly tough on the fitness industry. Gym memberships are down, fitness clothing purchases are declining and personal trainers are finding their business getting a lot tighter. Mainly this seems to be because people view fitness as an expendable luxury. This seems a bit disingenuous to me. In my mind, fitness itself is a necessity for good health and a sound mind but fitness can be achieved without spending a dime – it’s called the outdoors, you’ve heard of it, right? So one way that savvy consumers are cutting back on their fitness luxuries without cutting out fitness altogether is to consolidate. Hence, the fitness trend for 2009 has been crowned: Group Fitness.
For those of you older than 20, group fit refers to what us oldsters use to call aerobics or cardio class. You basically have one teacher leading a room full of sweaty folks. Group fit has moved way beyond Jane Fonda and The Firm though and now you have options ranging from kickboxing to bootcamp to spin.
Whenever I mention group fit and my deep love for sweating with strangers – or just strange friends (hellooooo TurboKick!) – inevitably someone says, “Oh, I could never do that!” And hey, if you are happy running in the beautiful outdoors 365 days a year, I’m not interested in changing your mind. But many people avoid group fit because of one basic reason: self-consciousness. They say they aren’t coordinated (read: I’ll fall off the step or drop my weight on my foot or kick my neighbor) or they prefer working out alone (read: I don’t like other people’s bodily fluids flying at me) or even that they think they wouldn’t fit in (read: I don’t have matchy-matchy workout clothes, toned abs or I’m not 21.)
I’m not going to tell you that your concerns aren’t valid (Well, except for the matchy-matchy clothes one. As long as it covers your naughty bits and gives you adequate support then wear whatever you want! You’re just going to sweat all over it anyhow.) but if you can overcome your self-consciousness you will discover there are a ton of benefits to group fit. Not only do you have an instructor to tell you what to do – hard to think what comes next when your heart rate is in the red zone – but you also get music and, best of all, friends. It makes a huge difference to be able to laugh with someone else when you turf it. Plus it saves on money since the whole class is essentially paying the instructor’s salary.
A great way to get involved in group fit is one of my all-time loves: dancing. Eight million viewers of Dancing With the Stars can’t be wrong! For all of you who have sat on your couch and watched a parade of c-level stars shake their money makers, I am here to tell you that you can do it too! “But I’m not coordinated enough, blah, blah, blah….” Who cares? It’s so fun that you’ll forget all about the fact that your feet are more George Foreman than Mario Lopez. Plus there are tons of options in cardio dance. Latin classes like Zumba are exploding right now. Urban classes like Hip Hop Hustle are found in the farthest reaches of suburbia (not to be confused with Rihanna’s Disturbia, although I can see how you make that mistake). Ballet, tap, swing, ballroom, and even “aerial dancing” where you spin suspended from strips of fabric are found in gyms near you.
Back in college I was on a Lindy Hop (a form of swing dancing) team. It was truly one of the highlights of my college experience. While we weren’t doing it specifically for exercise, I definitely found that all the dancing made my butt tighter, my stomach flatter and my legs looked smokin’ in those little red hot pants (see above). While swing dancing was my first love, I also got to do a lot of ballroom dancing and discovered Latin dancing. Which came in handy after I got married and my husband refused to swing dance with me saying I was too bossy and I back-lead. Both of which are true. (I’m a control freak, remember?) So the husband and I took up Salsa dancing together and our marriage has been muy caliente ever since!
Wednesday’s Great Fitness Experiment Giveaway: Core Rhythms DVD Set
Would you like a chance to add some Flamenco to your flan (a bland Spanish dessert with the texture of cooked boogers)? One of my pet peeves about other dance cardio videos I have tried is that they take an aerobics instructor and teach her a few dance moves. This is exactly the opposite. In this 4-disk DVD set, international dance champions Jaana Kuntz (she of the hot pink hair) and Julia Powers (she of the big hair) teach you actual Latin moves from the Salsa, Samba and Merengue. I have to say that for an at-home workout, this is truly one of the more delightful ones I have tried. It’s campy – the shiny costumes! the spray tans! the omnipresent ginormous set of abs pulsing behind them! and it’s a decent workout – anyone who has ever watched “latin hips” in action knows those great abs don’t happen by accident! Basically it’s Strictly Ballroom meets Fit TV. It’s aerobics for drag queens.
And it’s so much fun you’ll forget you are even working out. Plus you’ll learn moves you can actually take with you to the club or your cousin’s 3rd wedding.
One last super cool thing about these DVDs is that you always have the option to change the view at any time. So rather than staring face-on at the teachers, you can switch to a back or side view to really see what they are doing. It also comes with an introductory DVD that explains slowly and simply how to do the basic moves so you aren’t left scrambling to catch up.
To enter to win your own Core Rhythms starter pack, leave me a comment below telling me how you feel about group fitness. Do you love a packed room of sweaty masses? Or do you prefer to work out that hip action in the privacy of your own home and then wow everyone at the next family reunion luau? Anyone want to go dancing with me?