Twenty years ago when I was beginning my journey in the fitness industry, group fitness classes were usually filled with high impact movements and intentions of getting your heart rate as high as the pitch of the instructors voice. Any gym I worked at had classes going ALL day, EVERY day and they were typically packed with women very serious about their fitness. If you ever made the mistake of taking someone’s spot in the front row of a class, you’ll know what I mean.
Not much has changed in the way of demand for group ex classes, but the evolution of the style and format of classes has come a long way. With the introduction of step in the 90’s, the cardio kickboxing craze, Zumba taking over the world one cha cha at time, weight lifting classes like Body Pump or Strong, and even classes done on trampolines or pogo shoes (yes, there is such a thing), there is no end to the selection and variety of classes that can be found at most big box gyms.
I can understand the draw, because for many years I taught classes as my main focus of coaching, and I took all the classes I could get my hands on. At one point, I was teaching over 10-15 classes/week.
I loved the energy, the camaraderie and the variety that group exercise can provide. And let’s face it, wearing the mic was totally my jam. I’ve taught hi-lo, step, Zumba, Strong, Les Mills, Bootcamps, kickboxing; I think you get the drift.
In order to become a group exercise instructor, you typically have to spend a weekend in a course learning how to count music, be in front of people without making a fool of yourself and of course how to teach choreography. There is little to learn about anatomy, body mechanics or how to modify movements for the various needs and levels of the attendees. Granted, some instructors have a background applicable to being a fitness coach, but more often than not, the leaders of the group ex world are simply lovers of fitness and motivators of the less motivated.
Which is cool, until you have someone that needs specific coaching modifications. Like a new mom.
A mom that’s been stuck at home with a new born, feeling like the world has forgotten her and just needs to get out and be social. A new mom that feels unattractive in her new body and pressure to “bounce back”. A new mom that returned to group exercise after her 2 previous pregnancies and didn’t have any issues with them so why would this be any different?
Every mom needs to know the pros and cons and weigh the risk vs reward for anything they do postpartum. It may be yoga, it may be Crossfit, it may be step class. It’s important to have the knowledge about how the activities we choose when returning to exercise can affect our bodies in the long run.
So today I’m going to run through some pros and cons of group exercise for the mom returning to exercise. And my hope is, that if you are a self professed group fitness junkie, you will make an informed choice before returning to your previously scheduled program.
- Classes are scheduled and allow moms to create a routine – when you’re a new mom, who’s exhausted and wondering how she would ever fit one more damn thing in her schedule, the appeal to just show up, be told what to do for an hour and repeat, definitely has its advantage.
- Motivation from other women that attend – having a workout buddy has been shown to not only improve accountability, but to also nearly double workout performance during the activity!
- Less intimidation than the gym floor – if you’re new to exercise or self conscious about your new postpartum body, the gym floor can be super intimidating. Showing up to a class where the instructor guides you can take some stress off.
- Class can be too high impact for a new moms body – our entire body is still under a flux of change after babies arrival. Thanks to hormones and the trauma of pregnancy and delivery, high impact movements should only be re-introduced after:
- Correct breathing techniques have been mastered
- Pelvic floor and core function & strength has been improved
- Any postnatal symptoms have been managed or healed (ie: prolapse, incontinence, diastasis)
- A strategy is in place to approach the reintroduction safely
- Instructors are usually unaware of how to modify for a postnatal body. Lack of understanding and advice such as “listen to your body” or “go at your own pace” can steer mom towards a path of injury and dysfunction.
- Too much too soon – classes are almost always an hour long and involve too many repetitive movements for a new moms body. Any return to exercise should be done with a plan and a guided method of progression. Every mom is different and every subsequent postpartum recovery will likely vary from the prior.
- Comparison can be fatal to a new moms emotional state – it’s difficult not comparing ourselves to other women when our new bodies feel foreign and leave us with insecurities. Comparing yourself to a room of other women who are not postpartum, can leave us feeling frustrated and let down by our bodies.
For me, the risks of a group fitness class outweighs the rewards it brings to a new mother. Instead I recommend finding a postpartum specific class with an educated and caring coach that is there to see you through long term success. Do your research and find a class that focuses on function and not just strength, endurance or aesthetics so that you can carry your babies, walk your dog, enjoy being intimate with your significant other and get through LIFE without pain or discomfort.
This is the basis of my upcoming Moms Return To Training program and I’m hosting a FREE Beta Test of the program starting January 21st (Sunday!) so that you can test run some of the workouts and content BEFORE the program is released late February.
You’ll have advanced access to my program that’s designed specifically for moms returning to exercise for the first time or taking a step back to heal and start again. I am looking forward to getting your feedback on the content you’ll receive and having you help me shape the final product for other moms in need of a reliable postnatal exercise program!
All my best xox – Christy