Group exercise classes and CrossFit. Whether it’s an informal circuit session organised in the off season by your cycling club, a military-boot-camp-style class or CrossFit, group exercise sessions can be a fun and motivating option for off the bike training. There’s no doubt that these types of classes get a lot of people exercising who might not if they were on their own, but should they be part of your regular training routine?
There are a number of factors to bear in mind when considering taking part in a class and, if you do decide to participate, ways you can minimise your risk of injury and maximise the gains you’ll get.
It’s important to be aware of the distinction between exercise and training. Exercise is physical activity for its possible health benefits. Training is physical activity with a longer-term goal in mind, usually improved performance in a particular sport. The nature of group classes is that they tend to fit into the first category and, as such, tend to be fairly random in nature with regard to the exercises and movements prescribed.
BURN EXTRA CALORIES, HIIT WORKOUT
You’ll probably end up doing some exercises that may benefit your cycling but it’s likely to be more through luck than planning. Also, if there are 30 participants in a class all doing the same exercise, you can almost guarantee that it won’t be suitable for them all. One of the premises of this post is that a one-size-fits-all approach is far from ideal for off the bike conditioning and, unfortunately, the very nature of group classes means they fall into this camp.
In theory, all exercises can be modified or scaled to the participants, but in a group environment it’s unlikely that the instructor will be able to make the personalised coaching interventions to ensure correct form across the whole class. Many such classes are businesses and, as such, more participants mean more money for the instructor or gym. It’s also important to remember that their technical training may be fairly limited, especially when dealing with any injury concerns.
Also, the ethos of many of these classes is to keep pushing and this can cause individuals to go dangerously beyond their physical capabilities. Obviously pushing beyond your perceived limitations can be a good thing as it’s one of the premises for improvement, adaptation and increasing your capacity for work. However, it’s important to be mindful of any injury risks and the potential issues of overtraining.