Happy Wednesday Friends! I don’t think I’ve talked much about my fitness background here at HH. As a kid, I took dance classes during the year and swam on parks and recreation teams in the summer. In high school, I spent most of my time dancing and cheering during the year and then swimming in the summer. In college, my workouts consisted of running on the treadmill, 30 minutes on the elliptical, swimming laps, or biking. Cardio, cardio, cardio. While it was effective for keeping or taking the college weight off, I mostly hated it. I kind of liked running because I could see improvements with it, but not that much. Mostly, working out was something I HAD to do, just like studying and brushing my teeth. It wasn’t until I started exploring other fitness options that exercise became something I actually wanted to do. Soon I began looking forward to my workouts more and more.
It’s funny, since finding workouts that I actually like, the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn is how to listen to my body. Over time, I went from dragging myself to the gym to going crazy if I didn’t go. As I mentioned on Monday, now the hardest part about working out is sometimes swallowing my pride and not going balls to the wall. Today, I put together a list of all the workouts I’ve tried in the past seven years, and I hope it helps you find that something that lights that fire in you!
Orange Theory Fitness
This is a one-hour workout that consists of an interval training system based on heart rate that includes running, rowing, and strength training. The class is one hour long and requires a heart rate monitor. A screen is present for you to track your heart rate/intensity level during the workout. The intensity level is scaleable. I’ve gone on and off over the years, usually using it to help push my speed training when training for a half marathon. I’m currently going 2x a week.
- Huge potential for calorie burn and maximizing the EPOC effect or afterburn.
- What I love the most is the coaches motivate the crap out of you and the group atmosphere. I know that if I were doing the same workout at home, I would not be able to push myself as hard. I also find trying to maximize my calorie burn throughout the workout motivating AF! Someone telling you can do it and seeing others around you do it is incredibly motivating.
- You get a good mix of cardio and strength in the workout as well.
- It’s expensive, but no more so than any other specialty studio or work out nowadays.
- With so much high-intensity exercise, it’s easy to overtrain.
- It’s also sometimes hard for me to tone it down. With large quick moving classes, it’s difficult for the coach to give one on one corrections in form.
- My understanding is that they use the age based heart rate percentages to determine your training blocks. This means they assume that two people of the same age have the same base, fat burn, and high-intensity zones. So, if you are very fit you could likely sustain a higher heart rate in the orange zone than the average. If you are unfit, you can probably maintain less.
- It’s unlikely you will build a ton of muscle in OT, but you will keep from losing what you have. If strength is your goal, do that before the cardio.
Bikini Body Guide 1.0
This is Kayla Itsines BBG Guide Weeks 1-13. It’s an interval training circuit style system with suggested LISS cardio on alternate days. I’m currently on Week 5 but have completed up to Week 10 in the past.
- The program set up is straightforward to follow and very clear.
- The pre-training without weight lets you ease back into exercise after a break and get used to the movements without weight. The movements are progressive and very clearly defined with regression options.
- Workouts are no more than 30 minutes and can be done just about anywhere. They require minimal equipment, and it’s easy to sub equipment when you have limited options
- There is an entire community (at least on IG) that really works to support each other. Suggested LISS cardio is left open for interpretation, so you have a lot of flexibility.
- It’s up to you to stay motivated. You don’t have a time you’ve got to be somewhere or a class you’ve paid for.
- If you’ve never had anyone coach your form, there won’t be anyone there to correct you. Yes, she explains it well in her manuals but are you taking the time to study her explanations? Likely not, so this increases your risk of injury. (This is true of any at home style workout – or workout without coach, even the ones I post here at HH)
- There is a ton of jumping in the program, so if you have pre-existing knee or other issues, probably not the best for you.
- The program is also extremely quad dominant, almost never focusing on activating the posterior chain exclusively. I often sub the lunges for hamstring curls, kettlebell swings, or one leg bridges so that my hamstrings get some activation.
I’ve only done Soul Cycle once or twice, but it’s basically a version of spin that is choreographed to include weights and core work.
Pros: The class is shorter than most spin classes, it’s 45 minutes (this could be a pro or a con I guess.) You include strength movements and core work. The music is great and the class flys by super quick. The instructor is always pushing you to dig a little deeper.
Cons: Personally I did not enjoy this style class, but that was because I had an upper body injury and didn’t realize I wouldn’t be able to do some of the movements in the class. I asked, Megan, my favorite spin instructor, what some of the cons of this type of spin class would be and here is what she said: “When you are doing extracurricular activities on the bike you are less focused on proper form. Good form is where you start to dig deep to get that cardiovascular benefit from cycling. When you start adding in other moves, you can easily become distracted by them and lose your form which can increase your risk of injury. “ I couldn’t agree more. As a novice in any kind of spin class (I don’t attend regularly I don’t have my own spin shoes, etc.) I find it incredibly challenging (coordination wise) to move around on the bike. Also, and this goes for any spin class, it’s my personal opinion that I spend a lot of time sitting working at my computer. I don’t think it’s best to invest my time in a workout that also includes sitting. That’s not to say spin isn’t a great workout; it’s just what I chose for me.
Life Time Fitness TEAM Programming
I can’t speak to this programming as a participant, but when I worked at Life Time, I was a TEAM coach.
- First of all, they have different programming that progresses in difficulty. It looks like the names have changed a bit since I’ve been there but the structure seems the same. The biggest benefit here is that the programming is periodized and progressive.
- The workouts are a small group, usually no more than 20. The most significant advantage is the inclusion of the active metabolic assessment. Something I never got to do when I worked there because I was always too injured (UGH!). Unlike Orange Theory which uses your age to calculate your heart rate percentages, they actually use a test called an Active Metabolic Assessment (AMA) to determine your heart rate zones. It’s completely individualized to you, and you can see progress in cardiovascular fitness when you retest your zones.
- You commit to 12 weeks, so you are likely to make friends in that 12 weeks and build community.
- The periodization can make it slightly difficult to jump into the beginner level classes at the beginning.
- The cost is reasonable for what you get between 150-200 a month (depending on their sales). However, there are (or were when I was there) additional fees for retesting your AMA which is a must since your cardiovascular fitness will improve with the programming.
- You also have to commit to twelve weeks which means if you don’t like it that’s a shame. However, there is a trial period of a week available.
I don’t know that I’m totally qualified to provide a review on this one. Yes, I’ve done Cross Fit, but both times I injured the shit out of myself. I partly blame myself, and party blame the coaches/gym. The Cross Fit gyms I went to did not require a foundations program and were on the cheaper side of Cross Fit. The coaches barely coached my form, and I got hurt twice. The first time I went, before I understood what was going on, I should have received more training and been forced into a foundations class. Shame on them. The second time, I knew better. I could see the coaches working out during the workout instead of coaching I knew better than to stay but I did, and I got hurt. Shame on me. Now I just avoid it, as much as I’d love to go back, it’s not worth the risk of injury to me.
- The workouts are part of a larger programming with different cycles of focus.
- You are in constant competition with yourself. You will lift heavier and work hard, the intensity is what you want it to be, but mostly it’s balls the walls. The goal is to train to be able to be able to prepare for anything, so the workouts feel new every time.
- You will build strength and muscle.
- The community is awesome, and it’s not just on Instagram.
- The workouts vary by the gym so that some gyms may have smarter progressive programming than others.
- The coaching varies by the gym. In my opinion, only those who also have Olympic weight lifting certifications should be allowed to coach CrossFit, but that isn’t always the case.
- The moves are highly complex which in and of itself increases your risk for injury. Pair that with a highly competitive atmosphere, and you can see why injuries occur frequently.
LES Mills Bodypump
I really only did this workout the summer I completed my dietetic internship in Palm Springs (also the summer Hungry Hobby was born!) It’s one hour long choreographed group fitness class which uses light weights and high repetitions.
Pros: A great intro to strength training for those who aren’t really comfortable strength training yet. This is definitely where I got my start, and I loved it. Usually, there is a mirror in the class so you may be able to see yourself and correct your form during the workout. Most instructors are incredibly motivating and helpful when giving form cues. The moves are repetitive, so you have a chance to perfect them.
Cons: The instructor is doing the workout with you so they can not give individual cues for form. The moves can get boring because they are repetitive. Also, if you don’t have great form, high repetition with bad form increases the risk of injury. You may gain strength, but not a change in muscle size or appearance. Studies have shown that despite a higher calorie burn in the class, body composition doesn’t really change. Due to the transient nature of large gym group fitness classes, the community aspect may be harder to obtain. Of course, there will always be the regulars, but it’s different than a small group setting.
I love Zumba, but I have limited experience with it. Zumba is typically a one hour long class with choreographed dance movements. Typically utilizes latin style movements but lately, a hip hop infusion has become more popular. The first time I tried Zumba was in a latin style class, and I did not like it. It took a while to find a hip hop fusion style instructor and then I was obsessed.
Pros: If you like dancing you’ll burn a ton of calories and barely feel like you are working. You’ll improve your coordination skills and likely be motivated to return.
Cons: If you don’t like dancing or are uncoordinated this workout isn’t for you. The twisting and varied movements of the class can increase the risk of injury. Similar to BodyPump, large group fitness classes may not build community as well as smaller fitness facilities or programs.
Strong by Zumba
I recently got the chance to go through an all day workshop and hope to become an instructor. (See my recap here.) It’s a regular interval based training that includes cardio kick boxing movements and traditional plyometrics. The neat thing about what they have done was to develop the workouts first, then designed music to match the workout. If you are motivated my music, you will love this combination.
Pros: If you are motivated my music you will love this combination. You can burn a ton of calories, and the class will fly by. There are no weights, so it’s ideal for most healthy beginners. They have done a great job at teaching instructors regressions and progressions, so it’s a calorie burning fun time for everyone.
Cons: If you are uncoordinated or don’t like choreographed workouts then it won’t’ be for you. If you have existing injuries or have a hard time taking it down a notch, this won’t be for you.
I’ve had experience with several run groups so I thought I’d throw this in there as well.
Pros: Easy to build community because it’s the same people at each workout. If you like to talk and run then the miles will fly by. You may be motivated to run a little faster or farther just to hang with the group. It makes running kind of a team sport which is fun!
Cons: You have to find a group or at least a segment of a group that runs your pace, that can be a little tricky to figure out at first. Even if you do figure it out, there may not always be someone there that runs your pace. If you like running solo then obviously this will annoy you.
I am a personal trainer, although I don’t do one on one training anymore. I will say that if you are new to fitness, investing in a personal trainer for at least 12 weeks is a good way to get a foundation level of fitness. You will learn proper form which you can use as a foundation for any group workout you can get.
Pros: Have someone design a program that is progressive and periodized to fit your needs and goals. Learn proper form with one on one feedback. Get one on one support and motivation.
Cons: Experience level of trainer varies widely. The cost is much higher than group workouts. There is pressure to continue working with them past the basics.
I’ve written a ton of tips for workouts type posts over the years, here are a few other posts if you are interested:
- How to Prevent Skipping Your After Work “Workout”
- Hot Yoga Tips
- What You Need To Know Before You Start Running
- Advice & Tips for Your First Half Marathon
- How To Get 10,000 Steps Per day
- 6 Day Training Split
- Tips To Take Your Workout Outside (Guest Post by Suzie from Suzlyfe)
- High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Training
- Low-Intensity Steady State Training (LISS)