Who says healthy habits have to be kicked off in January? A new exercise routine can begin any time, and is easy as one, two, three — or rather, three, two, one.
For those looking to start a fitness plan, a good place to focus is aiming to get in three strength-training sessions, two cardio workouts, and one day of active recovery — such as yoga, mobility work, or stretching — each week.
Those efforts can all be fulfilled by group fitness classes, which is my jam. It’s a great form of entry because they require no upfront exercise knowledge or experience; simply reserve your spot in the studio, or press play on an on-demand or live-streaming class from home, and your instructor will guide you through your workout.
Attendees of classes range from rookies and regulars to co-eds and retirees to husbands and wives, and just about any other populations you can think of. It’s a judgement-free space where all are welcome. And it won’t be long before you realize the power that these communities have to transform strangers into what we like to call our “fit fam.”
I’ve spent more than 20 years in the group fitness industry, and I’ll let you in on a little secret: The hardest part of any class is walking through the door — and accepting that your first time might be a little challenging.
Your first class will likely be a bit of a blur. Just like hearing a song for the first time, you may not catch all the words. The second time, you start to hum the chorus. By the third, you’ve picked up a verse. The more times you take a class, the clearer and more familiar it becomes. I suggest trying a class format at least twice before you decide whether it’s for you or not.
For those new to a group fitness or exercise routine, I suggest starting with these formats and fitting them into your three-two-one plan:
Type of effort: Strength training
Days per week: Three
With a strong emphasis on proper form and technique, this class teaches the foundational strength-training moves. You’ll gain familiarity with free weights, helping you build the strength to progress with the class and the confidence to move your efforts onto the weight-room floor.
What really sets it apart is the music: Each muscle group gets its own track, and the instructor uses the ebbs and flows of every song to execute a variety of tempos, progressions, regressions, and ranges of motion.
Strength training is a critical component of any exercise routine for a wide range of reasons, including its ability to support healthy metabolism, bone density, balance, coordination, and functional movement.
Type of effort: Cardio
Days per week: Two
This indoor cycling class combines high energy and high effort with performance-focused technology. It’s designed so both the first-time cyclist and seasoned athlete can get an effective workout.
If you’re new to cycling classes, aim to get there 10 to 15 minutes early and ask your instructor to give you a custom bike fit so you feel ready to go when class starts. (You can also find bike setup tips here.) Cycling shoes are not required; each bike is equipped with cages for regular sneakers.
Throughout the ride, you’ll be training your cardiorespiratory system as you move through different levels of power and intensity. You’ll use the bike console to monitor your heart rate and measure watts, or power exerted.
Type of effort: Active recovery
Days per week: One
In my view, you can’t build a well-rounded fitness routine without incorporating at least one yoga class each week. I love that it simultaneously boosts your energy and calms your body and mind.
In the ROOT class, you’ll be guided through a series of foundational yoga movements. If you attend in-person in the studio, the space will be warm. You’ll go at a slower pace, with the mindful, moving in ways that encourage breath-centric movements to strengthen your body and increase your physical mobility.
These three signature formats are perfect for getting your feet wet with group fitness. I suggest sticking with the three-two-one routine for a few months, then slowly starting to explore more classes and adding new ones to your weekly lineup. Feel free to supplement your favorite classes with efforts on the fitness floor — equipped with the new knowledge and confidence you gained in your studio sessions.
Please remember to listen to your body, and that if you need to progress more slowly, that’s OK. If you have an injury or medical condition, consult with your healthcare provider, and know you can always ask your instructor for modifications.
Day by day, class by class, your fit fam will be there to help keep you accountable — and will laugh/cry with you when your instructor yells “one more time” for the fifth time.