“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands; they just don’t.”Elle Woods
There are a lot of reasons to exercise: managing stress, losing weight, avoid shooting your husband, using up those ClassPass credits that you impulse bought, etc. But with all the new-age workout classes available, it’s easy to fall prey to decision fatigue and end up watching youtube videos in your yoga pants instead.
After trying quite a few different workout classes, here’s my (somewhat) definitive guide to picking the workout that’s right for you.
If you want to achieve internal calm…
Yoga is great for building strength and flexibility while someone soothingly gives you permission to be present and calm. I’d recommend vinyasa/flow yoga if you get bored easily, since it essentially means the class will be focused more on working through a series of poses rather than holding them, which is great for both keeping yourself engaged and getting some cardio in. A really good class can feel like moving meditation, with happy/buzz-y effects to follow.
The cheaper option: Free online yoga classes are abundant, but I’d recommend Yoga with Adriene. She has a large library of yoga options for every mood and doesn’t use music in her videos – which means you can have your own chill/flowy playlist on in the background. Many yoga studios also offer community or donation-based classes, and it’s worth going to a live instructor on occasion who can correct alignment and make sure you’re doing things properly.
Running / jogging can allegedly also bring you to a zen state of mind, though I’ve yet to achieve this myself. It has a high starting risk of shin splints and a gross amount of sweat, but running is great budget cardio and way more interesting if you live in a fun neighborhood. I did the most running of my life in New Orleans, since I loved looking at the interesting houses.
Slightly more expensive upgrade: If you want to add some interactive adventure to your running, the Zombies, Run! app treats you as a supply runner in a zombie apocalypse scenario. This might motivate you to run a little faster – or, at least, distract you from the burning in your lungs.
If you want sweat, pulsing music, and fancy amenities…
Spin classes provide brutal cardio and a sore seat-region. The benefit of spin is that the resistance and speed of your bike is entirely up to you, so it’s easy to go at your own pace. The con is that there’s no easy at-home version (although maybe riding your own bike, I guess), and 45 minutes of cardio is my own personal hell.
Barre classes are supposedly ballet-inspired. They do include a barre that you use for some exercises around the perimeter of the room, but after attending two wildly different classes, I still can’t tell you what, exactly, this form of exercise is. It seems to be a weird mix of pilates body weight exercises, light weight usage, and music that ballerinas don’t dance to. It’s a good class if you want directed strength exercises in a less bootcamp-y environment, but not really worth it if you want anything resembling actual dance.
The free version: The first barre class I ever took was essentially like doing a series of Blogilates (that is, pilates) videos in a group setting. The second class was a little more involved, but I’d still hazard you’re getting about the same workout by binging Casey videos for like 45 minutes.
Power yoga, specifically CorePower Yoga, is a fancy Vinyasa-ish yoga class that moves at a fast pace. It occasionally incorporates heat and weights, and always includes a lot of ab work. Again, you could get a similar experience off of a power yoga youtube video, but if you love live instruction and regular yoga is a little too chill for you, this is an upbeat alternative.
If you want to feel like a badass…
Boxing is also intense cardio, but I don’t hate it and it can be incredibly cathartic. You can get roughly the same effect using kickboxing fitness videos, but honestly, hitting a punching bag feels more satisfying than boxing with air.
Self-defense classes are more about the self-defense and less about the fitness, but there’s definitely some exertion and it comes with the added benefit of making you feel more formidable. I know how to react if someone grabbed me, and it’s pretty liberating. I took a R.A.D. course which I really enjoyed.
Pole dancing and other acrobatic-y classes can make you feel both graceful and powerful. You’ll impress yourself with how much you can actually do on your first go. Your mileage may vary, but this is the most motivated I’ve ever been to go to a fitness class. On the flipside, pole can be dangerous – you’re off the ground, and sometimes (trying to be) upside-down. Don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with without a spotter, and come into the class prepared to ask for extra help when you need it.
Any movement is good movement…
And you certainly don’t need a fancy class or method to work out. But community classes can be motivating and putting my (not very fit) self into new, challenging environments has helped me to worry less about what other people think about me and finding happiness while not being perfect at every exercise.
What’s your favorite fitness class? I’m still trying to burn through my ClassPass credits before the middle of the month, so all advice is welcome.
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image courtesy of form fitness