With so many exercise classes offered how do you choose which exercise plan is right for you? Let me help you break it down and share with you some of my own experiences in weeding through the melee of options.
Exercise Plan Ideas:
Pilates – (piˈlätēz)
A form of exercise developed by Joseph Pilates which emphasizes the use of core strength and body awareness to promote graceful movement, balance and yes, six pack abs. Pilates started out as the go to workout choice for professional dancers but has since gone mainstream and in a big way. It’s rear I meet a hard bodied middle-aged woman that doesn’t have this in her exercise plan.
There are several types of Pilates but I will key in on the two most popular – basically, the ones that I have tried. Mat Pilates and Reformer Pilates.
Mat Pilates –
Mat Pilates is performed on a mat and very common in group sessions. It focuses on using body weight alone as opposed to the machines used in reformer pilates classes. A safe way to start your Pilates journey as well as a wonderful base for any exercise plan.
A cost effective option too as it is frequently offered by donation, per class or free with standard club memberships.
My take: BINGO! I LOVE MAT PILATES. It helps to have the right instructor that can really help get you in touch with your body and use descriptive terms that you can relate to like ‘pretend that your balancing a martini glass on your knees’ and so on. If it doesn’t resonate the first go at it then try another class!
When you’ve met your perfect instructor (mine was Julie Poplawski, Instructor and author of Fill Your Cup) you will know it – you will feel it. I can’t gush enough about the changes mat pilates made to my body. Try it. Seriously. A MUST HAVE in any exercise plan!
Reformer Pilates –
Reformer Pilates is elongating and makes you feel graceful and tall. It’s practiced on a reformer machine and usually done in a one on one setting. This is because of the space the Reformer consumes but also it’s easy to choke on your form if you are not uber experienced which can cause you to hurt yourself or, almost as bad, to not get a good workout.
My take: Two thumbs up – with a caveat. I tried the reformer before I had any mat training and not only did I nearly eat it several times, I just didn’t feel anything. So, I’d recommend trying it but only after you have a handle on the movements in mat pilates.
Physical training that involves lifting weights. Unless you have will power of steel it will probably involve a trainer which can range anywhere from $45 – $85 an hour so can be a little pricey.
My take: Not for me. I’m the type of person who needs to feel the workout. This means I used a personal weight trainer and really had her push me with ‘more weight! more weight!’. This worked fine when I was 20 but fast forward to 40+ and not so good. My joints ached all the time and I tore my meniscus on the leg press. Yes, I toned up a bit but so not worth it.
A Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific balance oriented bodily postures. Some people do it for relaxation but it also uses muscle groups that nary another exercise can reach. It is done in group classes and many times on a donation basis. Very affordable.
My take: The jury’s is out ladies. To do Yoga you need to be able to balance and a lot of that involves really focusing on your body and not other things like what’s going on at work, where you should go for dinner, or those cute little Lulu’s on the chic in front of you. You also have to like the heat. I’ve yet to find a cool yoga class. Even the ‘cool’ ones seem hot.
You also have to be open to the spiritual side of it. I’ve tried a dozen yoga classes and all of the breathing instruction and incantations made me want to dissolve into a fit of giggles but to be sure.
So, between that, the heat, the need for balance, and a devastating incident involving a crow pose and the crushing of a very expensive pair of Paul Smith eyeglasses, I’ve realized that yoga may not be for me. I did get a good work out every time though. So I’m not saying never, just not now. I will keep you up to date on that!
This class combines Pilates, ballet moves and a bit of yoga to help form long lean muscles. Offered with some gym memberships but mainly at specialized businesses as a package or on a per class basis usually at $20 a pop.
My take: WOOHOO! This is HARD every time I do it. I was very surprised to find it to be very high tempo, ‘go,go,go!’. The motto of the class was to ‘feel the shake’ and let me tell you, my legs were shaking. Invigorating but not easy. I’ve made it a regular part of my exercise plan. Although it focuses on all muscle groups I highly recommend it for a serious leg workout. For abs I prefer Pilates.
Running / Jogging
As in running outside in the fresh air.
My take: NO GO. I have to admit I’ve never been a giant cardio person. I live in the desert so the heat is not conducive to running in the summer months but even so, I just can’t get into it. Not to be negative but even if it weren’t for the fact that that I like to be able to breathe, I have two words for running: Runners Facelift .
I can also add Sun Damage, Runners Knee… Nope. Running’s not for me and, in my opinion, not for anyone trying to maintain their youth. I know so many people who run, or ran in a past life, who now have a myriad of joint issues and injuries (and it didn’t do amazing things for their breasts either). For my cardio I’d prefer the Recumbant Cycle.
An exercise bike different from the standard exercise bike or spin cycle in that it has back support and your legs cycle in front of you as opposed to below you. Think of a Big Wheel that you had as a child or that your child had or has now.
My take: OH YEAH! This is the only cardio I’ve ever been able to do. Partially because of the back support but mainly because it’s very comfortable to prop a book on, lean back, and read. The upside, most gyms have them and they are great for your leg muscles and of course burning calories.
Downside is that you don’t get a lot of movement on your upper body. Great for someone who needs a couple notches down from a spinning class.
A super high intensity cardio class using a spin bike (with or without a seat) in a dim lit room (sometimes a completely dark room) with loud music and an instructor on a Janet Jackson headset instructing you on how fast to go and when to switch your incline. It is ALL the rage, economical and it burns off the fat.
My take: HOLY CRAP! I cannot do this. It is super high intensity and these girls in those classes seem to LOVE it. Major adrenalin rush. But me, I could barely keep my breath, I felt dizzy and sweat like a crazy person. It was dark in all six of the classes I tried which made it even worse.
No, no, no. Not for me but I wish it was because I have never seen an avid spinner that wasn’t fit and in shape.I suggest you try it at least twice. If you like it, this could be your answer to shaving off those extra pounds!
These are classes that combine everything. Balls, weights, elastic bands, barre, pilates, cardio, everything really fast and super intense. They are called different things in different cities. They average at $15 a class depending where you go. Here’s where I go:
My take: OWWWW! But in a good way! It is THE hardest exercise class I’ve taken, outside of spin, but when I do my face is pink for the rest of the day and I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I burned calories AND worked my muscles all at once.
It’s hard core and I wish I could say I did it more often but this is definitely a great exercise class to add to your arsenal!
Check out my most recent experience…the Megaformer!