There are many types of Group Training Programs these days. They come in many forms. Zumba, Yoga, Weightlifting, Bootcamp, CrossFit, Bodybuilding, Tactical, Cycling, OCR, Athletic Performance, and more. They each offer different benefits and there are pros and cons to each one.
Features of a good Group Program include camaraderie, a shared Trainer, programming done for you, facilities and equipment, etc.
These are all wonderful things and can train people to high levels of fitness if they show up consistently and eat well.
One of the problems with Group training is that when it becomes a habit, people can fall victim to training too hard too frequently.
Beginners always get results if they just show up. The first 6-8 weeks are gung-ho! They want to train as often as possible because they are getting results and they love their trainer and their new friends!
Good training programs work because they force humans to adapt to a given stimulus. The process of adaptation requires a specific stress (the training stimulus) to be imposed on the trainee. The recovery process is where the wanted adaptation actually occurs.
All too often, with adults specifically, life stress is also present. The body doesn’t know the difference between life stress and training stress. The body treats all stressors the same and tries to recover from everything at once.
This is why training very frequently for too long (weeks-months) with no rest can be a detriment to the athlete. They can start to get nagging overuse injuries or exhibit other symptoms of overtraining.
So…how can you avoid it and get the most out of the training program?
- Talk to your trainer about your specific goals. The trainer knows the program and which days you should attend to get the progress you seek. This in itself can help you figure out your schedule and you can see how your body reacts to the training. You can always re-assess if something doesn’t seem to work for you. The more your trainer gets to know you, the better he or she can help you make an informed decision.
- When your body talks to you, listen. If you have a nagging pain or your energy levels are decreasing, it might be time for a break. Sometimes a week of low intensity exercise like swimming, walking, stretching, massage, etc can be exactly what you need. Sometimes the issue is more serious. Either way, have an open discussion with the trainer (and don’t talk to them during your class or group training session, schedule a separate time for this).
- Try a custom program. Group training programs are built for the masses which means about 80% of humans fall into this. Maybe you’re in the 20% and you need something specific. Try 1:1 or even a remote custom program. These are made for you! The problem is you will miss the group. Sometimes your progress and health is worth it. Maybe you and your coach can come up with a plan in which you can attend (some) groups within your plan.
- Put more thought into your recovery. If you are training hard but you don’t sleep, eat well, or do restorative recovery, you’re missing the boat. Recovery is more important than the training itself. Sleep and nutrition are more important to health than the actual training. Make sure your priorities are in order.
- Don’t do the “Secret Squirrel” Program. It has become common now that trainees will do way too many conflicting programs because they bought some ebooks or saw some cool workouts on the internet. For example, say a CrossFitter goes to a CrossFit group 4x per week, then decides that they also want to get better at Squatting so they start the “Smolov” program on the side. Then, they want to get better at running, swimming, and biking, so they pick up a book about training for triathlon and also do that, etc. People want to do it all but they usually end up biting off more than they can chew. Mixing training programs never works because the authors of those programs didn’t communicate. Don’t see something shiny and just do it without consulting your primary coach.
People are getting much more fit in general than even 10 years ago. This fitness movement is growing and it’s awesome. Resistance training is very healthy and more and more research proves it. It may be the most important thing to maintain as we get older. Whether or not you choose to participate in a group or custom program, enjoy being part of a fitter society and take an intelligent approach.