How to find your Group Fitness Instructor Fit.

Group fitness classes offer encouragement, community, and positive energy that can keep you  motivated and help you achieve your fitness goals.  Not to mention groups are much more engaging than sweating solo and the camaraderie  from the other participants can increase the fun factor in your workouts.  But with millions of different group fitness instructor options, sometimes choosing the right class for you can be daunting. Finding the right instructor can make a huge difference in whether or not you enjoy group fitness and choose to make it  lifelong habit.

The best group fitness instructors make exercise fun and help you improve your conditioning by appropriately challenging you according to your fitness level. They also teach moves that help you get the most out of your workout and avoid injury by providing guidelines during class on how to correct your form.

But choosing the right instructor isn’t just a matter of trial and error. There are steps you can take ahead of time to ensure the instructor you choose is qualified and a good fit for your personality and fitness level. Here are my top tips to help you find your best group fitness instructor fit that will inspire and guide you to greater health and more fabulous workouts!

 

Check for Credentials

One of the first things to look for in a fitness instructor is certification from a nationally recognized certifying organization, such as the American Council on Exercise (ACE) or the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). That accreditation tells you the instructor you’re working with has the knowledge to provide you with a safe and effective workout.

The club where you work out should make sure their instructors hold appropriate credentials. But if you’re not sure, you can double-check by logging on to the ACE  or ACSM website or asking the club for a current list of instructor certifications. Doing your homework will ensure you have a teacher that’s qualified to guide you in safe, effective workouts.

Get References.

Ask other participants who’ve taken a class with a particular instructor about the class format and teaching style to decide whether a certain class would be right for you. Have they enjoyed the classes? Are there any drawbacks to be aware of?  Many reviews from other regulars will give you an idea of what to expect in your first workout with that particular instructor. Yelp can also be a good place to do some research online to discover other’s experiences. 

Find a TEACHER not just a leader.

Find an instructor who is a teacher—NOT just a leader. Really qualified group fitness instructors should be cueing form and imparting some information that’s valuable for you to take out of the room with you. Listen to what they’re saying, do their words educate and inspire you? When you can get a great workout AND learn about your body in the process, you’ve found a talented teacher. Heres a clue to help you:  A teacher has good information. A leader may just exercise in front or count a lot of reps.

Find an instructor who speaks your body language.

We all learn and follow in different ways. Some need to hear articulate cues, some need to visually see an exercise, or some may even need a hands-on adjustment to feel the exercise. All instructors motivate their groups in different ways. Its important to find an instructor who “makes sense” to you. It can be highly subjective. Consider it looking for a coach. Who’s going to get you to work harder for your very best results? Chances are you’ll know when you meet him or her after a few workouts.

Just DO IT .

Taking class is the only way to know if the fitness instructor is right for you. During the class, look for an instructor who:

  • Makes the class personal by making eye contact with you and others in the room.
  • Makes you feel welcome, comfortable, and tries to learn your name.
  • Offers modifications and intensity options to meet all ability levels in the room.
  • Makes exercise fun, engaging, and positive.
  • Focuses on improving health and energy, rather than appearance or fitting in “skinny jeans”.
  • Avoids comparing participants or “barking orders” and instead provides genuine acknowledgement for personal accomplishments.
  • Always puts your workout above his or hers. Its a BIG red flag if the instructor is more concerned with getting his/her workout instead of helping you get yours.

A good instructor will do all those things and make you feel mentally, physically, and emotionally happy.  If it’s your first time, consider introducing yourself to the instructor and asking him or her to keep an eye on you, especially if you have medical issues to consider. And always try a class at least twice to see if you really like it. No instructor should be judged by just one class. Everyone has off days and it’s never the same class every time. Give each instructor three classes to see if their style matches what you are looking for. Ask questions. Give feedback. And always give everyone a chance.

Most likely when you find the right instructor for you, you’ll KNOW. A light bulb will go off in your head and you’ll think, ” OH WOW! This is the most amazing class ever! Why haven’t I taken this class before?!!?”. When you find your group fitness fit you’ll be smiling LONG after taking the class. Its a good sign when you can’t wait to go back.

The connection you make with your fitness instructor can be life altering. I am a better person because of my time sweating with Shannon Fable, Stephanie Snyder, Jay Blahnik, Erika Quest, and Buddy Machua. These teachers went above and beyond helping me with my physical strength…. they changed my life simply by being in it.

Do you have a favorite fitness instructor who has helped you grow stronger? Leave your favorites as a comment below – share your referrals and we will all get a chance to take class with top notch teachers!

Hope to see you all in class soon! Till then… keep shining 🙂

Caroline

 

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The 80 / 20 Rule for HEALTHY Eating.

While healthy eating is important, there are times when we all want to indulge and need a little wiggle room to do so. Life is meant to be enjoyed, and if having a piece of cake at your friends birthday party is going to bring you pleasure, then by all means you should have a piece of cake. Thats why I subscribe to the 80/20 rule. This rule reminds you that if you want to maintain a healthy body and weight, you’ll need to make wise food choices more often than not, but can make occasional allowances for certain foods or larger portion sizes without falling off track.

Depriving yourself to an extreme isn’t sustainable long term and neither is indulging 24-7. When you don’t let yourself enjoy the things you love, you end up craving them more. This is where practicing moderation comes in. Moderation allows you to enjoy some of the sweeter (or more savory) things in life without overdoing it so you don’t sabotage your efforts to maintain healthy habits. By indulging wisely and treating yourself once in a while, it makes it easier to stay on track and maintain a healthy life.

You don’t have to be perfect or make healthy choices 100% of the time to be fit, strong, happy and well. Here are my guidelines to making the 80/20 rule work in your life:

Caroline’s 80 / 20 Guide

Be Choosy. Part of indulging wisely is figuring out what is really worth the indulgence and what splurging means to you. For instance, if you have a sweet tooth but you could take or leave french frys or potato chips, save your indulgences for dessert. When you’re confronted with unhealthy foods you don’t really crave or love, either skip those or substitute healthier foods so you have room for the indulgence you really want later. Lets say you dine at a restaurant, and chips or fries come with you sandwich; ask to substitute a salad, fruit, or vegetable for the chips or fries if dessert is a more appealing treat. Even fast-casual restaurants like Panera Bread allow you to do this. Swapping out unhealthy foods for healthier choices not only gives you more room to enjoy the things that are really worth the indulgence, but it helps you to eat more nutritious foods along the way.

Plan your 20% Indulgences Ahead. Every week, go over your schedule and pick the one day  or specific moments when you want to allow yourself to enjoy the things you normally avoid. If you know you have a big event on Saturday night, that might be the perfect occasion to indulge. Or if you know you have a birthday dinner with a friend on Wednesday, you might want to enjoy treats then. Regardless of the occasion or the timing, planning indulgences ahead of time gives you something to look forward to throughout the week so it’s easier to remain healthy the rest of the time.

Plan the other 80%. Plan your week’s meals and snacks so its easier to remain healthy 80% of the time. Make sure you shop for all the required ingredients and prepare to be successful in your planned meals. Think ahead, plan to succeed, and you’ll build a healthy habit of 80% nutritious meals.

Savor Your Splurges. When it’s time to indulge, ENJOY IT. Don’t let guilt get in the way or beat yourself up for having a treat. Practice awareness when eating so you maintain a healthy level of satisfaction and don’t feel physically ill of overstuffed. Take the time to enjoy your treat away from tv, work, or other distractions. Be mindful, slow down, and savor every second.

Frequent Indulgences RX: There will always be times when opportunities to indulge are more frequent than normal: holiday seasons, vacations, and birthdays are good examples. When this occurs, the best thing you can do as always, is plan for it. Otherwise, one celebration can easily blend into another and before you know it, you’ve spent a full week or two indulging over and over. Here are some ways you can offset these occasions so they don’t overtake you attempts to maintain a healthy lifestyle:

  • Exercise. During those weeks you know you’ll be indulging more than 20% of the time, spend some extra time moving. Even an additional twenty to thirty minutes during your workout can make a huge difference. Also choose to incorporate more movement into your day to day, taking the stairs and walking as much as possible.
  • Nutrition. For those time frames when indulging is more frequent, eat especially light and healthy when you aren’t celebrating. Choose to eat nourishing whole foods and many raw fibrous fruits and vegetables. Also make sure you stay hydrated. Before you indulge, drink two glasses of water to fill you up so you indulge a little bit less than you would otherwise.
  • Support Team. Communicate your health goals to others and recruit support to help keep you on track. The more open and honest you are with those that can help you the more successful you’ll be. Accountability is a highly motivating success strategy!

Falling Off The Wagon. There will be times when your healthy habits start to wane. Accept that this is natural and just a part of life. Remember that every day is a new day and a new beginning. If you find yourself spiraling into unhealthier habits on a regular basis, hit the restart button. Recruit support from friends, family, and your fitness coach. Communicate your goals and desire to get back on track. Choose to regain control and you let the small set back teach you lessons on how to move forward to be your best.

The 80/20 rule is all about knowing that we need to give ourselves some wiggle room to maintain healthy eating over our lifetime. It is easy to become unmotivated if you feel like you’ve screwed up by not eating perfectly. And so often this is used as an excuse to continue to eat poorly. That’s what is so great about the 80/20 rule: re-defining what is perfect to allow you to comfortably fit the mold!

It’s all about progress, not perfection. Work on your health, your choices, and your attitude towards yourself. Look at where you want to go, recruit support and set small realistic goals. Any small steps forward WILL add up to progress and fulfilling your vision of a healthy, balanced life.

Do you already practice the 80/20 rule in your life? What are your favorite indulgences? Here’s to enjoying the sweeter things in life and finding a happy, healthy diet balance!

Hope you have a great week. See you soon… till then keep shining 🙂

Caroline

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Caroline’s Happy Back Workout

If the phrase “Oh, my aching back” is part of your vernacular, you’re not alone. Back pain is the second most common neurological ailment in adults (headaches come as a close first). Lucky for you there is a simple (and free!) aid to help relieve and prevent back pain: exercise. Not only does movement help decrease lower back pain, but it may also speed recovery, prevent re-injury, and enable you to enjoy a long life full of activity. Taking proactive steps to prevent or treat lower back pain is easy and can be done at home without any special equipment.

Exercises that may help reduce or prevent back pain include:

    • Aerobic exercise: to condition your heart and muscles, maintain health, and speed recovery. Walking, cycling, and swimming are great back happy cardio options.
    • Strength: with a focus on the back, stomach, and leg muscles.
    • Stretching: to keep your muscles and other supporting tissues flexible and less prone to injury.

Things to avoid to keep your back happy:

    • Straight leg sit-ups.
    • Bent leg sit-ups or partial sit-ups (curl-ups) when you have acute back pain.
    • Lifting both legs while lying on your back (leg lifts).
    • Lifting heavy weights above the waist (standing military press or biceps curls).
    • Toe touches while standing.

Its important not to let the fear of more back pain keep you from trying gentle activity. Exercise is the remedy to healing your body. Too little activity can lead to loss of flexibility, strength, endurance, and actually cause more pain. With permission from your doctor, a gentle program of cardiovascular and strength exercise can help ease your aching back and help you on towards health.

Ive created a simple 10 minute physical therapy workout to keep your back happy. These are a few exercises will help strengthen and stretch the areas that need it most and help you on towards optimal spinal health. Aim to work through the routine twice focusing on quality and moving slowly with control.   As always, check with your doctor or physical therapist before starting a fitness routine. Honor your body and if anything doesnt feel right stop immediately.

Caroline’s Happy Back Workout Routine

Strength

  1. Birddog (Opposite Arm and Leg Extension): Strengthens muscles running down sides of spine, back of shoulders, hips and buttocks. Begin on all fours, hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. Keep head aligned with spine (to help avoid tilting head, look at floor).  Keep buttocks and abdomen tight. Do not arch the back.  Lift one arm up and forward until it is level with torso; simultaneously lift the opposite leg in the same manner. Keep arm, spine, and opposite leg aligned as if they are forming a tabletop. Balance yourself for 5 seconds then slowly return to starting position. Switch sides and repeat. Do 10-12 repetitions 2-3 sets.
  2. Plank: Lie face-down on the floor with your legs together, forearms close to the torso, and toes perpendicular to the floor as if you’re going to do a push up. Lift your body using your abdominal muscles and your arms, until it’s in a straight line from head to toe, and the only things touching the floor are your toes and your forearms. Hold this position for as long as you can, working up to three minutes at a time. Click HERE for more of my perfect plank tips. 
  3. The Bridge: Strengthens several core muscle groups – buttocks, back, abs. Lie flat on your back with the knees bent at a 90-degree angle, feet flat on floor. Tighten abs. Lift your butt off the floor keeping your abs engaged. Your shoulders to knees should be in straight line. Hold for a count of five. Slowly lower buttocks to floor. Do 2-3 sets of 12-20 reps.
  4. Side Plank: Roll to the side and come up on one foot and elbow. Make sure the hips are lifted and the core is engaged, and hang tight for 30-60 seconds (or as long as you can stomach!).

Stretch

1. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch. Kneel on mat. Bend right leg and place right foot ahead of you on floor, knee lined up over ankle. Left leg (knee to toes) remains on floor behind you (place a cushion under the knee if mat does not provide enough cushioning). Keeping back upright, press pelvis forward slightly – until you feel a stretch in the front of the left hip. Do not extend knee beyond toes. Tighten left buttock and tuck the tailbone under to increase the stretch and or move your left knee further back. Remember to keep back upright. Hold stretch for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

 2. Lying Piriformis / Glute Stretch. Lie on back with legs in air, knees bent at 90 right angle. Place left ankle just above right knee. Grab the back of your right thigh and pull legs toward chest until you feel a stretch in the left glute. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

 3. Knee-to-chest stretch. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Using both hands, pull up one knee and press it to your chest. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite leg. Return to the starting position and then repeat with both legs at the same time. Repeat each stretch two to three times — preferably once in the morning and once at night.

When you are pain free and ready to continue your lower back strengthening program with a more challenging routine, feel free to try out my latest 10 minute hip and core circuit. These exercises will continue to build your core strength to help you stay active and pain free for life!

 

Do you have a favorite exercise that helps strengthen your body towards health? Leave me a comment below if you enjoy these videos or have a favorite exercise move to share! Hope you have fun with these workout videos and enjoy a healthy, happy back for life!

See you soon… till then, keep shining!

Caroline

Other Things To Check Out This Week:

do it. DO IT NOW.

 

Some people spend all their lives on a boring little island called, “Someday Isle”. “Someday I’ll be happy. Someday I’ll hike in Nepal. Someday I’ll run a marathon. Someday I’ll have a great adventure”. But life is NOT a dress rehearsal. Life is HERE and NOW. Reach out and seize it, you deserve it!

 

Challenge yourself this week is to list five things you’ve been procrastinating about and plan to take at least a little bit of action towards them. A small step forward makes a difference and you’ve got nothing to lose but time. Waiting to learn how to swim? Holding back to send out your stellar resume? Trying to find a reason to ask that special person out? Just do it!. DO IT NOW!!

After all I am getting older..

 

Have a great week and hope to see you soon 🙂

Caroline

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