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I remember the first group fitness class I attended more than 35 years ago. The music, the instructor, the energy of all the other women there was intoxicating. I was completely sold. This was the fitness avenue I had been looking for but didn’t know it until that day.

I had always been an amateur athlete, playing softball, running track, playing soccer, tennis etc. so I always felt comfortable, even exhilarated by physical exertion. But this new playing field was absolutely joyful for me. The music transported me. I loved all the synchronized movements that the instructor dished out for us to interpret and follow. Donna Summers was headlining that day and it was “Hot Stuff.”

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So much has followed since that day. Friendships that developed from that day still exist because we share the goal of feeling and being healthy and fit. I have watched so many people, men and women, timidly step into the Group Fitness studio, whether it’s Yoga, Cycle, Boot Camp, Bounce it Off, Strength training or Pilates, hoping not to be noticed and feeling a bit inept but in short order they become transformed by the experience.

The talent and strength of a seasoned professional instructor cannot be overestimated. He or she sets the tone, imparts the knowledge, bestows praise and captures the spirited power of being part of the fitness driven group. The infectious energy of an instructor can help to elevate the emotional response in everyone, which in turn provides the motivation to try a little harder, go a little faster and stay in the game a little longer.

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Making new friends is a given. Zumba class is a great example of that. The people in class often have to be asked to stop chatting so class can get started. There’s group interaction with some of the songs that is sure to make everyone smile. The instructor often exhorts everyone with a call to “boogie” more. With smiling faces and sweaty brows, the dancers thump and bump to the beat. After class, the chatter escalates to an even greater level, now sharing the victory of the class along with the challenges that await each person in their day. We share our lives along with the dance.

While some people find a specific Group Fitness class niche and stick with it, others like a variety of classes to keep it interesting and challenging. Cross training in multiple modalities is the way to go in order to maintain cardio vascular fitness, muscle strength and flexibility.

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It is common to see Boot Camp people heading to yoga or Pilates class for some concentrated flexibility work after a hardcore aerobic workout. Cycle junkies regularly come Pilates Mat to balance out the mechanical stress of being on the bike.

One of the latest trends in Group Fitness is to provide a Wellness component. Classes like Restorative Yoga, Meditation, Roll and Release are bringing mindfulness and a sense of well being to our members. Instructors have so much training these days including Masters Degrees and many certifications that help to educate and truly care for people physically and emotionally.

Age is not a barrier to class participation. One woman I have known for 25 years is now 88. She comes to class 5-7 days a week and does everything from Cardio Kickboxing to Bounce It Off on the mini trampoline. She is not the only octogenarian that

enjoys a wide variety of classes and who also has lots of friends whose ages span all the decades. Group Fitness is a culture that bonds people through fun fitness classes.

About the Author

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Linda Hertzberg is  the Group Fitness Director at Camelback Village in Phoenix, Arizona.  Linda holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and secondary education from Arizona State University. She grew up playing baseball, soccer, volleyball, cheerleading, dancing, running track, and eventually tennis when the Village opened. She started her own fitness business over 30 years ago and has been committed to excellence in fitness programming and to the people using those programs ever since.

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