One of your male clients is grabbing some H2O in between his sets and as he walks by the group exercise room he stops to watch for a few seconds. He looks in and sees a fairly large group of mainly women, who are basically moving around in a pretty dynamic manner. The music is bumpin’, people are sweating up a storm and his first reaction is: “I am never going in there”. Thinking by the time he walked out of this room, he would be wearing a purple head band, pink leg warmers and a pair of inappropriate short shorts…
This article is to help assist or encourage our typical male client who often hesitates or resists entering the group exercise room. Of course there are a variety of reasons or excuses that we have all heard in the past, but I truly believe that the basis of this issue stems largely from the 1970’s & 1980’s STIGMA that Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons pleasantly left behind. Now, I mean no disrespect to these two fitness guru’s that have helped to improve and shape (pun intended) this wonderful industry that I am grateful to call my profession. However, you can’t help but cringe or laugh a bit imagining these bright neon colored outfits that are often now seen at Halloween costume parties.
To accurately convey the importance as well as all the benefits that group exercise classes can offer your male clients, I think it is necessary to get a little background on how aerobics/group exercise was introduced, the impact it had then, and the impact it continues to have on the health and wellness industry. If you have read any of my previous articles then you know I’m a bit longwinded, so prepare yourself.
“Dr. Kenneth Cooper developed the term ‘aerobics’ to describe a system of exercises that he formulated to help prevent coronary artery disease. His scientific programs included walking, running, cycling and swimming. He introduced his concept to the general public in his 1968 best-selling book Aerobics. By the 1970s, aerobics had become synonymous with cardiorespiratory exercise that combined traditional calisthenics with popular dance styles. This new form of exercise was generally credited to Jacki Sorensen, a former dancer, and Judy Sheppard Missett, founder of Jazzercise.”
This was the birth of “High-Impact Aerobics!” Then, somewhere in the mid 1980’s a necessary shift in intensity came about with the launch of “Low-Impact Aerobics”. This was mainly due to the fact that injury rates were increasing, and as a direct result of this reality, we were introduced to the step. I got a chance to meet up with Josie Gardiner (ACE Group Fitness Instructor of the Year 2005 and one of the original Reebok Step Instructors & Master Trainers), to ask her about her experience when the step was introduced.
Step aerobics will be making a comeback in the near future “It was and still is such a fantastic piece of exercise equipment. The step offered a simple concept that I was able to mesh with my background in dance. Unfortunately, I believe that over the years some fitness professionals have complicated this very simple and effective workout tool. They have made the BPM too high or movements to complex and the workouts become too intense or confusing creating injuries and frustration amongst the deconditioned and sedentary population.” Josie Gardiner is a pioneer in the fitness industry and continues to have a huge influence on my own development as a health and wellness professional. She also went on to say that step aerobics will be making a comeback in the near future and I have no doubt in Josie’s prediction.
The 1990’s not only brought us a number of one hit wonders (when it comes to music); but it also started the transition for the word “GROUP EXERCISE” to replace “AEROBICS” in hopes that it would help create a more appealing term to exercisers of either gender. In addition, from 1990 to about the mid 2000’s, we had an abundance of diverse programs that catered to both men and women like Tae Bo®, Spinning®, yoga, circuit training, boot camp, various dance programs, functional training and core training. At this point we saw a bit of increase in participation amongst the men in group exercise. Then, over the past 10 years or so we had an explosion of fantastic large and small group programming that can be athletic, functional, easy to follow and at the same time it can challenge and push ourselves and our clients to reach their fitness goals faster.
Although the overall numbers have increased over the years, many male clients still keep their distance. So now it is our job as fitness professionals to change that fact. The benefits from group exercise are endless and I’m not only speaking from my own professional experience, but also my personal journey over the last 18 years or so. Here are a few simple suggestions and helpful tips:
- The will be maximizing their time: We live in a society that is GO-GO-GO, let your male clients know that they can get their strength & cardio workouts done in under an hour!
- It adds a little variety: Recommend your client give it three weeks. This enables them to give their body a chance to learn the movements. Trying a class doesn’t mean they have to commit to it forever. Plus, I think history has shown us that men sort of have a problem with commitment.
- Meeting women: Remember to remind your clients that this doesn’t mean they have the green light to approach each and every female in class with Joey’s line from FRIENDS, “HOW YOU DOOOIN?” What this means is that your client will score some points showing the opposite sex, that they are adventurous and aren’t afraid to try new things.
- Accountability: This one is for us (the FIT PRO’s) This is a great way to reinforce accountability. If they make new friends in classes, those friends will start looking for them on a weekly basis. This gives them a little incentive to attend. Allowing your clients to reach their fitness goals faster.
If your client has never taken a group exercise class before, then here are a few recommendations: Make sure you have taken the class or program yourself before recommending it to your clients. Unless you personally know the instructor or program be careful, there are a number of classes and programs in which the instructor is required to perform all repetitions and exercises with the class. Or, you may find certain instructors that are still thinking it is their time to workout. As fitness professionals it is our job and responsibility to provide an appropriate, safe and effective workout for our clients. That’s why we get paid! We don’t get paid to get our workout in!!!! As you can see this is a HOT BUTTON ISSUE for me and you don’t need to be a fortune teller to sense a future article regarding “Group Exercise – Whose workout is it anyway?”.
Here are some suggested multi-leveled programs: Spinning®, TRX® Suspension Training, Plyo Power®, Pilates or TRX® RIP Training. Now, I’m not saying that they shouldn’t try Zumba® because it has literally changed my life for the better. In fact, if I had to choose any type of workout to do, 9 times out of 10 I would choose Zumba®. Initially when I started Zumba® it was way out of my comfort zone as a male. Unfortunately I see more and more men try it once and then I never see them again. So, we can look at it in a positive or negative light. On the negative side, your client may get frustrated with the choreography and then label all group exercise classes with that particular judgment. But, if you look at it through my eyes (literally), if your client decides not want to come back to class, then I guess I’m stuck as the only male teaching to 40 or so women… Their loss!!!
 Josie Gardiner, personal communication/interview, October 4, 2012
“If you're going to PREACH IT, do yourself & the people you're influencing a favor & LIVE IT!What do I love? To dance, suspension train, jump & move athletically... Did I mention DANCE?”
Latest posts by Acea Theroux
- The Trainer Fuel Experiment - February 21, 2013
- The Importance of Stretching and Flexibility for You and Your Clients - January 21, 2013
- Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone - November 27, 2012