Group classes are like dessert: They’re something to look forward to, and they joyously bring people together. But they aren’t always what’s best for your health. And if all you ate were pastries, brownies and ice cream, you’d certainly have some holes in your health.
Two main reasons CrossFit gyms started hosting their introductory classes in groups were:
- To save the gym owner, or other coaches, time. It’s much less time consuming to run a group of five new clients through a workout than it is to spend an hour individually with each of them.
- To make it more affordable for the client.
While group class introductory classes might work for the young 25-year-old, who has been an athlete her whole life, who is completely comfortable in a gym and has no lingering injuries or mobility issues to speak of, they’ve got some serious shortcomings for the rest of the population—meaning for 95-plus percent of us.
1. You’re not going to connect with a coach in a group class
Many people join a new gym because they’re seeking support through a relationship with a coach, who can help them take small steps to improve various health issues.
Whether it’s training and nutrition help to improve their A1C levels because they just found out they’re a diabetic, or just emotional support to help them overcome their fear of the gym, it’s impossible to help clients work through their pain, so to speak, in a group with 10 other new clients. In other words, nobody’s going to reveal in a group class that they were just diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
If I have learned anything in 10 years of coaching, it’s that the clients that stick around and see real results are the ones who I have a personal relationship with. And this can only be done in a one-on-one environment.
2. You’re not going to discover your true raison d’être in a group intro class
On a similar note, I recently wrote an article about the importance of finding your why—meaning your true intention.
In short, the fastest way to failure is failing to find your true intention: Your actions end up out of alignment with your stated goal, which is frustrating and leads to self-induced guilt trips and eventually to giving up on the gym altogether.
Those who need a little more help figuring out their plan of attack to keep them on track and accountable are probably not going to receive the care they need in a (most likely) chaotic workout with a group of inexperienced attendees learning to squat for the first time.
3. You won’t get adequate help with that chronic shoulder pain
No matter how good a coach is, an introductory group class can only really be a generic workout, prescribed in a way that anyone can do it.
Again, for those who are young, already fit and pain-free, it might be all they need. But let’s say someone has undiagnosed chronic shoulder or back pain: What they need is individual attention from the coach (And, of course, they should also probably seek a qualified medical professional first).
There’s no chance the coach can effectively individualize training sessions with appropriate movements and rehabilitation exercises for an injured client—or even just for someone with challenged movements patterns—in a group intro class. About the best he can do is offer a short-term, band-aid solution by giving them a substitute movement to help them avoid pain during that hour.
4. You’re not going to learn about higher level concepts in a group class
The coach will likely go through basic pulling, pushing, squatting and hinging movements with the group. And he’ll probably teach things such as how to recognize the difference between a 45 lb., a 35 lb. and a 25 lb. barbell, and show them where the medicine balls reside etc.
But there likely will be little to no opportunity to dig into some very important concepts that would tremendously help the clients out in the long term. I’m talking about things like how to breathe and brace properly when you’re lifting, or understanding the idea of preserving the intended stimulus of a training session, or how to read a tempo prescription, to name a few.
5. You’re not actually going to get, um, coached
Although most CrossFit gyms promise you’ll be coached every time you show up, the reality is, those in a group intro class really don’t get the more intense coaching that helps their progress long term.
Instead, the coach is there to babysit adults. Their primary duties are to show the group basic movements and then make sure nobody is moving too erroneously, to explain the workout so nobody is confused, and to ensure the class starts and finishes on the hour.
In fact, the more efficient movers in the group might find the coach doesn’t even pretend to give them a single coaching cue, because they have to deal with the bigger hazards in the room.
So what will you get in a group introductory class?
What you will get through an introductory group CrossFit class are some hard workouts. You’ll probably get a little more fit. And you’ll sweat and laugh and feel good about yourself, regardless of whether the workouts are actually what you need as an individual. You’ll probably have a lot of fun along the way, and you’ll certainly experience that amazing feeling of being high on endorphins.
These are all good things; however, are they what you need to improve your long-term health, fitness and wellness?
If you’re looking for more—such as:
- A relationship with a coach you can confide in,
- help figuring out your true intention and drafting a plan of attack,
- appropriate exercise and workout prescriptions for your unique wants and needs,
- and help fixing your chronic back pain (i.e. actual coaching):
It might be worth considering a one-on-one CrossFit introductory program.
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
Featured image courtesy of @jelgerandtanja