How to Make the Most Out of Your Group Exercise Class

In August 2020, Strive Physiotherapy & Performance took a group exercise class at F45 (Thanks for hosting us!). We went through a grueling high intensity interval training (HIIT) /functional fitness training workout for the full body. Some of us had some experience with group exercise classes, and some of us were more used to working out on our own

Whether you’re doing group circuit training, or any other group exercise class (even if it’s virtual/online!), there are many things that you have to get used to. Even if you’re experienced with exercise, if you’ve never worked out in a group before or with someone else telling you what to do, it can be a jarring experience… but also super fun!

You may feel increased soreness after the first few sessions, especially if you don’t usually do that type of exercise. There certainly is SOME crossover in terms of general fitness and strength, but if you only ever do weightlifting and suddenly you try a cardio HIIT class, you might find that it feels challenging in a different way and your muscles will handle it differently compared to your usual weightlifting exercise.

To help you mentally get ready for your group exercise class, I’m going to break down some tips and tricks you feel ready to take the challenge on!

But first… why would you even WANT to work out with a group anyways?

why group exercise

Pros of Working Out in a Group

  • Workouts are on a schedule 
    • Often group exercise classes are on THIS day, at THIS time, and starts promptly. Nothing kicks me out of bed faster than the fear of having to join a group class late.
  • Motivation to push yourself 
    • When you have an instructor leading you, you tend to want to put your best foot forward in the workout. Working out alone can SOMETIMES lead to a lazy workout if you’re having an off day.
  • Commiserating 
    • I am a fan of vocalizing my discomfort with exercises I don’t like (like when your instructor is telling me to do another 20 burpees). It also helps to have other people huffing and puffing nearby during tough parts of the workout. 
  • Fun with friends (or making new friends!) 
    • Workout classes are fun to do together with people you know! Or if you stay consistent with a particular class, you may notice the same people tend to go to the same class.
  • A variety of levels of fitness 
    • Wherever you are in your fitness journey, you are likely to see people who inspire you, and possibly have people that are inspired by you! 
  • Instructor to tell you what to do during your workout 
    • Some people need an extra push, or just need someone to instruct them through each move. With group exercise classes, you get this without the price of a private personal trainer.
  • Fun Exercise Variations 
    • My favourite new exercise I learned this year was a ball toss over your shoulder. You pick up a medicine ball from the ground, and toss it over your shoulder. Turn around and repeat. I had never done this exercise before and IT WAS AWESOME. Exercise doesn’t have to be boring.
  • Try something new 
    • A great way to get you out of your “same old same old” routine is to try something new! A group exercise class is a great way to learn new skills and work on perfecting already familiar skills.


Now let’s be honest, there are some CONS to group exercise classes : 

  • Not flexible (must arrive at a certain time)
  • May not be the exercises you prefer
  • Not necessarily personalized to your goals and health status.

But exercise is something that all of us need to do for our health, so if you’re wanting to switch up your exercise routine to something different, a group exercise class is a great place to start to see if you like it.

Tips on how to make the most of your group exercise class:

Arrive on time, prepared.

Nothing stresses me out more than running late for my class and arriving flustered to my workout.

Make sure you have your water bottle, athletic clothes on, and running shoes if needed. Some classes may require other equipment (like a towel or yoga mat) that you can bring – ask what you need ahead of time when you sign up.

In the introduction the instructor will typically introduce themselves, will let you know what to expect, and if you need to set up any equipment. Sometimes instructors will ask if there’s anyone new to the class – don’t be shy, put your hand up to identify yourself as someone who might need a little bit more direction!

First time? Take it easy. 

You don’t need to do the class at 120% your first time you try it out. Trust us – you will be exhausted.

Especially if you intend on doing the same class regularly, it may take a few sessions to work up to full effort. This will allow your body some time to get used to the new exercises, and will allow you some flexibility to push harder at the end of the class if you want to.

This controlled approach will help prevent injuries from doing too much too soon. If you’re completely fatigued in the first 5 minutes then it will be unpleasant to finish out the class. This approach should allow you to enjoy the class more. Would you start learning to run for the first time by sprinting 20km? (…I really hope not.)

So don’t take your class at a sprint! 

Don’t compare yourself to other people.

Easier said than done, I know.

Everyone in the class will have a different exercise background. For all you know, I might be in the class with you! (And I’m a physiotherapist that teaches people how to do exercise all day long – I feel very comfortable figuring out “new exercises”).

There may be beginners at the class that may have no idea what they’re doing (maybe just like you!). There are also sometimes “regulars” who have been going to the same class for years and are always chatting the instructor up – these people might look like they could lead the class themselves!

Go at your own pace and use your improvement class to class to measure your abilities.

But if you feel like you’re not pushing yourself as much as you want to… Compare yourself to other people.

This is one of the benefits of group training! If you struggle with pushing yourself and typically finish workouts feeling like it was easy or you felt “lazy/sluggish”, feel free to keep your eye out for someone that might be similar to you and try to keep up with them. Having a friend join the class with you is also very useful for this purpose. This is especially helpful for me for early morning workouts – 6AM is NOT my ideal time to be pushing myself hard.

Modify as needed!

The downside of group exercise classes is that typically you only have 1 instructor for MANY people in the class. This means that they can’t possibly give you personal instruction or identify the perfect level of exercise for you.

This means that you have a lot of responsibility to make sure you are doing exercises that are the right fit for you.

You will have to consider your overall fitness level over the past few months, any injuries or aches and pains that have been nagging at you, and your overall comfort level with the type of exercise you are participating in.

In general, if it hurts during the exercise (I’m talking “ouch” pain, sharp pain, or anything more than just tired/fatigued/muscle working pain), try to modify it.

If your aches and pains are limiting you… see a Registered Physiotherapist to more specifically address them and find out what is going on and get a recovery plan to get better so you don’t have to worry about it any more!

A Physiotherapist will also be able to provide you with more specific modifications for exercises that aren’t going well, to keep you going to your exercise class.

Now it is good to note, our class at F45 Doon had two instructors, and that is the standard for all of their classes! Multiple instructors plus smaller class sizes were a definite plus here!

group fitness class

Interact with the class instructor – don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Depending on the class type, there will be a natural break in the instructor’s talking where you can clarify exercises if you’re not sure.

Feel free to speak your mind in the class. Instructors will often ask the class questions as a group (ie. Do you want the fan on or off? Is the music too loud?) –

Feel free to let them know your preference so you can have a great workout!

Even if you’re experienced with exercise – try it out!

Do you have preconceived notions about a particular type of exercise? Ie. “Yoga won’t give me a good work out” “Zumba isn’t hard enough cardio” “weight lifting is for men only” (it’s not! – as a female physiotherapist I could write a whole blog on this!).

Try out a new class anyways! It’s always fun to try something new and worst case scenario, you have a funny story to tell your friends about that time you tried hot yoga and immediately regretted it. (I love hot yoga but it is very…. hot).

Don’t be afraid to switch it up mid exercise

Have you started doing biceps curls and realized 3 reps in that you can’t possibly do any more? Switch the weight for a lighter one.

If the right weight isn’t set up for you, ask if your instructor can grab one for you (or help yourself if you’re nearby to the weight rack!).

If you started off doing a jumping squat and realize after 10 seconds that you still have an eternity to go, switch it up to a regular squat. You can also switch back to the harder version if you catch your breath!

group fitness class

Not being challenged by a particular exercise?

Ask your instructor how you can make it more difficult, or feel free to branch out on your own if you have a harder variation that you are comfortable doing.

Missed your opportunity for a water break?

Take your water break whenever you need it. It will take 5 seconds to get a sip of water and get back to your workout. But do take advantage of any water breaks that are included in the class.

Ask questions after the class.

If you had any particular exercises or moves that you weren’t able to figure out during the workout, ask your instructor after the class if they can break it down for you in slow motion. That way, next time, you’ll be ready to dominate that move. 

Special note for Zumba/dance/step classes

-Don’t be afraid to look silly!

No one looks graceful the first time they try out choreographed steps that they’ve never seen before. Most classes will ease you into it and build throughout the song so that you can easily learn during the song… but to be honest, I take about 3 classes of doing the same choreography to really get it and feel comfortable. Learning new things is part of the fun! And you will feel awesome when you finally nail it.

-If it feels too confusing, take 1 part out of it

When you’ve got your arms and legs moving, sometimes your brain gets a little bit lost, and suddenly you’re off the beat of the music and now you have no idea what you’re doing. Don’t panic! Try to pick either the arm or leg motions to try to jump back into the beat of the music.

Then, if you think you can, you can add the missing part back in. I have also had lots of experience taking the pep out of my step during these dance classes if I’m getting confused – just take out any “jumping” moves and switch them to steps instead. 

Well that’s it for me! Do you have your eye on an exercise class but haven’t signed up yet! Go for it!

If an injury or a “problem area” is holding you back from trying new things, call us at 519-895-2020, or use our online booking tool on to book an appointment with one of our knowledgeable physiotherapists, and they will be sure to help you understand your injury and help ensure you are doing exercises that will help your injury – not hurt.


Amanda McFadden
Physiotherapist at Strive Physiotherapy and Performance

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