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General Fitness Classes

Many gyms have a variety of fitness classes available at various times of day. My own predisposition has been to attend classes in general fitness. These are mostly classes that include a general warm up of most muscle groups and aerobic exercise at the beginning. This include as general self assessment of heart rate at the beginning when one is getting warmed up through movement exercises, moving arms, legs, hips, torso and so on. Doing so as a group led by an exercise instructor is useful, and little thinking or planning is involved. There’s no standing around talking or resting. It’s an all out effort usually to the tune of some music and a smiling instructor asking occasionally: “how’s your heart rate now?” It’s all mindless, and one is usually guided through numerous exercises in which eventually every muscle in the body moves. That’s a big plus for a beginner who has not yet had a lot of experience planning his or her own exercise routines.

In addition to comprehensive, low intensity work-out using many more of the body’s muscles than you might use on your own, instructors will generally guide you through balance exercises as well as stretching exercises. The latter will tend to come near the end of the work out.

After the first 15 minutes of warm ups are completed a 2-3 min Tai-Chi exercise is often initiated. This calms the heart a bit, reducing rate of blood flow. It also get you ready for phase two which includes small weights, usually only something in the 3-8 pound range. If you have never done such an exercise class before, use the smaller weights or even the smallest available. Instructor will guide you through exercises with many repetitions and the weights will generally start to feel rather toward the end of a particular exercise segment. In general, instructors are able to make use of dumb-bells to guide participants through exercise for the arms, shoulders, chest, back, core (abdominal), and leg muscles. Sub-routines for each of those muscle groups can sometimes be part of particular exercise class on Monday, but you may not see it again until Friday. In this way, instructors guide participants through many different exercise over time and those who attend regularly have the benefits of a total body workout.

After working with weights many instructors will go back to general exercise routines in the first part, though not in the same order. The purpose is to give the heart an opportunity to elevate again, not excessively but enough to get the blow flow rate up and perhaps develop a mild to moderate sweat. Toward the end of this routine many instructors will initiate a moderate Tai-Chi routine with some stretching of abdominal, torso and back muscles emphasized. Many instructors will add balance-practicing routines at this stage. Afterwards, extended stretching of both upper and lower body will tend to complete the work out.

Many instructors will have at least two water breaks built into the one hour long class. It is, of course, necessary to stay hydrated during exercise routines of any duration whether you are doing them in a well-thought through class or on your own in the gym.

Fitness classes with heavier weights to build greater strength are also available at most gyms, yet these are not advisable for those just beginning. Classes that emphasize cycling are also generally available as are yoga classes. The latter, indeed fit well with general conditioning classes of the kind described above. However, yoga for beginners should be considered by those who are just getting started in a serious strength conditioning program. In particular yoga helps with flexibility, by helping to break the adhesions that stiffen the joints, thus measurably improving flexibility. Strength, flexibility and balance are extremely important particularly as we age.