Stick together to make workouts stick

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The year was 1989. It was the spring of my senior year and my sporting seasons were over.

I’d been involved in organized sports since I was 7. Fast pitch softball, basketball, volleyball and track filled my after-school and summertime hours.

In fact there’s really no way to calculate the thousands of hours I’d spent on a field or a court during the early years of my life. By my sophomore year I’d added Show Choir to my activities (think ‘Glee’ but with a little less drama and a LOT more hairspray).

Suffice it to say I was a very active adolescent. So, in the spring of 1989 I found myself without a sport, a coach to tell me what to do and we’d just wrapped up our show choir competition season. My mind and body were going through some severe activity withdrawal.

For reasons I can’t recall I headed to the Decatur, Ill., YMCA, an old run-down building in the center of town. I think the last time I’d even been in the building was in grade school for swimming lessons.

Anyway, I found myself in a large gym for an “aerobics” class. The instructor was a man in his late 30s or early 40s in running shorts, a tank top and long athletic socks with the stripes around the top.

He had a patch of black hair around a growing bald spot and a small white patch right in the middle of his beard.

Now, let’s be clear. I was no “newbie.” I’d done the 20-minute workout and the Workouts with Gilad on cable TV, but I was nervous.

Everyone in the room looked like pros. Even their outfits matched! But once the music started our instructor took command of the room, turned on Steve Winwood’s “Roll With It Baby,” my nerves disappeared and I fell in love.

Twenty years later I’m still in group fitness and have taught nearly every format of class you can think of. In fact, I now work for the Walla Walla YMCA as the group fitness director and get paid to do what I love.

I love to move to music whether its pushing through a Power Pump routine, shaking it in Zumba, coaching an indoor cycling class or finding peace in Yoga. There’s something synergistic about exercising in a group to fabulous music.

The benefits are many. Here are my favorites:

In a group setting, you’re more likely to finish your workout. You can’t push “stop” and go sit on the couch.

It’s way more fun working out with other people than working out alone.

You meet friends in class, which means you’re more likely to keep coming. Friends hold friends accountable, or at least hold them a spot in class.

The music in a group fitness class creates an atmosphere that keeps you moving.

Instructors are amazingly fun and creative people who have the ability to make you work hard without you really knowing it.

Statistics show that people who participate in group fitness classes stay with their workout programs three times longer than those who work out alone.

Did you know that worldwide, more people choose group fitness as their exercise than any other form of exercise?

So what are you waiting for? Somewhere in your town today there’s a group fitness class going on.

You, like me, might be a little bit nervous about trying something new or might feel like you don’t fit in.

But don’t worry. If you try one class and it doesn’t fit, just try something different until you find the perfect match for your interests and style.

And, who knows? You just might love it and never look back. See you in class!!

Leslie Snyder is group exercise director at the Walla Walla YMCA. She holds national certifications with the American Council on Exercise in group fitness, personal training and as a health coach.

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