As a group fitness instructor, I am keenly aware of the imbalance in the sexes when it comes to attending group exercise classes. Even on classes where there are a lot of attendees, the male participants can typically still be numbered on one hand. Somewhere along the line, it was decided that group exercise is for women and there is something decidedly unmanly about it. That is very wrong.

The truth is that the reason a lot of women attend such classes is because they are typically more time focused on their sessions in the gym. While a lot of men want to strut around showing off how much they can lift, slamming weights and taking breaks from lifting to flex in the mirror, women typically want to work out quickly and then move on with their lives.

As a man, I can only postulate on the difference, but having a beautiful wife and a lovely daughter, I feel pretty confident in my assumption. While the majority of men, specifically young men, do not mind being mired in their own filth, women do not like spending inordinate amounts of time sweating and smelling strongly.

Consequently, group exercise suits women’s needs rather well. They are able to get a great workout without having to invest hours of their day. After working efficiently to tax their muscles and boost their metabolism, they are able to wash the sweat away and return to smelling good.

There is absolutely nothing unmanly about efficient exercise that allows a lot of work to be done in a short amount of time. Outside of the gym, spending less time to accomplish more is seen as a good thing.

More really can be accomplished in a group fitness environment. Unable to move at a snail’s pace and take breaks lasting long enough to ruin a good pump, participants in group fitness must move along to the pace set by the instructor and be accountable to all others attending the class.

The pace alone is enough to wear a person out. At any point in one of my TRX classes, hearts are pounding and chests are heaving, trying to suck in as much oxygen as possible. The floor is never dry at the end of class because a lot of sweat has dripped off the red faces of people in nearly constant motion.

I would challenge the men out there that think group fitness classes are not enough to wear out their incredible level of manliness to try out some of the classes offered at the Hamilton Recreation Center (HRC). I guarantee they will not walk out saying, “that was easy.”

Perhaps it is not the cardiorespiratory difficulty that is at question. It could very well be the case that men are aware how difficult it could be to stay in motion and working the whole time. While recognizing the aerobic difficulty, though, perhaps some men think their muscles would not be challenged.

It’s true that none of the group exercise classes involve deadlifting over 300 pounds and then dropping it from hip height to shake the ground and let everyone present recognize awe-inspiring strength. But that doesn’t mean group exercise is without muscular difficulty.

I am blessed to have some male regulars that attend my TRX class, and I would challenge anyone to make the case that they are without muscular strength. Yet these strong men routinely reach points of muscle failure where their shaking arms or legs are unable to keep going. That’s because group exercise not only challenges muscles but does so in a manner different than typically experienced in the weight room.

I would be greatly surprised if an iron-pounding gym rat were to take my class and not feel their strength wear out and have muscle soreness the next day. I would not, however, be surprised if they found that supplementing weight training with group exercise managed to increase their overall strength and performance.

With both aerobic and muscular intensity addressed, I guess there’s only one other reason why a lot of men may shy away from attending group exercise classes: looking bad. The guys may not like the thought of being shown up by women. But hiding from the classes won’t change the fact that the women who take them are still in position to outperform their male counterparts in cardio and muscular endurance.

The truth is there is nothing unmanly about attending the classes, a lot of benefits can be gained by adding it to a fitness repertoire and it can create a nice break between going heavy on a split training program. So to the men, I say this: ditch the predisposed attitude toward group exercise classes and discover a new way to outshine others at the gym. We’ll look forward to seeing you drop in.

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Chris DeLeon

Chris DeLeon is a certified personal trainer and military veteran. He is in his second year at CMU, working towards a bachelor of science degree in exercise science before going towards a doctorate in physical therapy . Chris began writing seven years ago, penning four published novels under the name Lee Daniel, but only recently brought his love of the written word to journalism. He joined the Criterion staff in the fall of 2016 and accepted the position of News Editor for the fall of 2017.

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