Choosing an exercise class, dance class or martial arts class that is right for you
Exercise classes, dance classes and martial arts classes and combinations of all three; there are so many to choose from! If you are seeking a class to help improve your health and fitness, the good news is that there has never before been so many, and so many different types. Under the heading of Fitness there is Body Pump, Body Combat, Circuit Training, Aerobics, including high impact, low impact and Step; Spinning, Aquafit and Aquacise, Core, Pilates, Yoga and so on. Martial arts classes are also developing at a fast rate with the increasing interest in mixed martial arts. To name only a few you can take classes in Karate, Wing Chun, Judo, Aikido, Cage Fighting, Dirty Boxing, Boxing, MMA, Kickboxing, Jeet Kune Do, Jujitsu, and there are many different variations within each of those.
Equally, thanks to the popularity of TV dance programmes like So You Think You Can Dance? And Strictly Come Dancing along with increased media coverage of National competitions, dance classes are on the rise again, and if dancing is your thing, then you can move your feet to Tap, Jive, Salsa, Ballroom, Latin, Ballet, Swing, Country, Modern, Belly Dancing, Pole Dancing, Hip Hop, Bollywood and even lap dancing classes.
And of course there is a growing number of combo classes combing dance and fitness into dancercise classes and also combining martial arts and exercise classes, such as BoxFit, Tae Bo, Boxercise Circuits and more.
The down side is with so much to choose from, how do you pick one that is right for you?
Well to a large extent it's a matter of getting stuck in and seeing what you like and what you dislike, but there are some basic rules that can be followed, especially if your primary reason for choosing such a class is to improve your health and fitness while you are having fun.
Get some medical advice
If you have not exercised in some time and/or you generally lead a sedentary lifestyle, it is a good idea to seek some medical advice before embarking on any fitness programme or starting a new exercise class. Even if in your head it's "just a dance class" keep in mind that these can mean a significant increase in your cardio effort and calorie burn. So get yourself checked over. A visit to your GP would be the best place to go for a quick once over, but you may well be able to get the main tests done at your local chemist. Many chemists now offer facilities to check blood pressure, resting heart rate, blood glucose and cholesterol. Alternatively, your local gym or a personal trainer will be happy to carry out a health and fitness test although these sometimes cost a little more than the chemist.
Consider your current physical condition
Not all fitness classes are suitable for everyone. If for example, you suffer from joint problems, especially in the knees or ankles, or are very overweight, then you should consider avoiding classes with a lot of impact, such as high impact Aerobics, Step classes, Kickboxing, Karate, Hip Hop or some Latin dance. Instead choose something with little or no impact to the joints such as Bodypump, Spinning, Tai Chi Chuan, Wing Chun, Ballroom and Belly Dancing. If in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask the instructor before attending.
Consider your existing level of knowledge
Classes not only vary in type, but they also vary in suitability. Within this site we try to give an indication, where known, as to the suitability of the class for different levels of experience and fitness, i.e. Suitable for: Beginners, Intermediate, Advanced or All Levels. However, many martial arts classes are split into more levels to accommodate gradings and larger class sizes, so it is always worth checking with an instructor as to which class you should attend especially if you have some experience. Equally, dance classes can vary simply because one person’s idea of intermediate or advanced is different to another’s. So if you think you are an expert at heating up the floor Latin style, you may want to attend a more basic class before throwing yourself in at the deep end to avoid any potential embarrassment.
Where is the class?
If motivating yourself to exercise is sometimes a challenge, the location of a class is an important consideration. You are far more likely to attend regularly if it is within 15 minutes drive of your home than you are if it is half an hour away.
When is the class?
Similarly, it is important to choose a class which is held at a time that suits you. If you have to rush there from work, without any tea and change in the toilets when you get there, it will tarnish the whole experience. Better to give yourself sufficient time to get there feeling unhurried and motivated and to get home feeling relaxed but feeling the satisfaction that only comes from exercise.
Does the class interest you?
Are you a fitness freak who will try any type of exercise thrown at you as long as it requires a sweat towel? Does your DVD collection consist mainly of Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee or Steven Seagal films? Are you a huge fan of the film Dirty Dancing or were you a budding Billy Elliot many years ago?
If the answer is no to all these questions then try different things until you discover something you really like, and maybe even feel passionate about. But if you fall into one of the above categories then don't fight it. Go with the flow and choose a class that lets you pursue your interests, or perhaps even live out your fantasies.
Is the instructor insured and qualified?
We include these questions in the details we list about classes on our sites, but very often the answers are left blank as we have simply not been told. Always check with the instructor. In terms of insurance they should be able to show you a valid public liability insurance certificate. Equally, don't be afraid to ask them where they qualified, how long they have been teaching and whether they belong to any professional bodies. No decent instructor will be offended by you asking.
The cost of attending classes varies tremendously, and you must also consider any additional costs involved. For example, most martial arts classes will require you to join a club and to obtain a licence. This is an insurance requirement on their part and is often kept at cost, nevertheless, the joining fee, membership fee, licence fee and possibly the cost of a uniform will all be added to the cost of the weekly classes when working out your budget.
Some dance classes may require you to have special shoes, although they should have contacts in the industry where you can source them at a reasonable price.
Most exercise classes, such as aerobics or circuit training have no hidden costs as the equipment is provided. However, some gyms may require you to be a member before you can attend a class, or may charge more for none members. Be sure to investigate smaller, privately run fitness classes in your local area, perhaps at a village hall, church or school hall. These are often very good value and are run by freelance instructors/teachers who may well be better qualified and more experienced than those in the bigger gyms, clubs and schools. If you haven't exercised for a while you may need to to invest is some appropriate, good fitting clothing and appropriate shoes, but again the instructor will be able to advise you.
Good luck in choosing your class and most of all...have fun!