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Want to achieve fitness success? Look no further than Group Fitness Classes.

Do you want to get fit?

Perhaps you have been down to the gym but found all those exercise machines a little daunting? It doesn’t help your confidence when there is some super-toned muscle-bound hunk running on the treadmill at break neck speed.

And let’s face it, running on a treadmill is quite dull isnt it? Lonely too, even with a personal trainer encouraging you on.

This is why I love group fitness classes. They aren’t dull at all. You feel motivated not only by the instructor but also by the other participants. There’s a social element as well as healthy competition.

group fitness classes

The first class I ever went too was Body Pump over ten years ago. I remember being a reluctant attendee. My legs were on fire the following day with the sheer agony of delayed onset muscle soreness. But after a few classes I began to notice results – a difference to my physique and my stamina.

Soon after I discovered Body Combat, the martial arts based fitness class from Les Mills. I was hooked and eventually went on to train as an instructor. And yoga followed on soon after.

I now teach Body Combat, Body Balance, Hatha Yoga and Power Yoga in clubs around Edinburgh.

I love it more now that I did when I started and do you know why?

group fitness classes
photo credit: Gamma Man via photopin cc

It’s not just the social aspect of the classes although I have made some really good friends because of it. It’s not just the adrenaline rush of 30 or 40 people shouting “Kiai” whilst performing a roundhouse kick, or the beautiful sight 30 or 40 people looking strong and proud in Sun Warrior pose.

No it’s the sense of achievement you can see on the participants faces when they master a move, meet a goal, or make a lasting change that benefits them physically. It’s an achievement getting slightly more flexible after each yoga class. It’s an achievement pushing their aerobic capacity in Body Combat.

For me as a group fitness class instructor, there simply isn’t anything better than seeing that look of achievement on their faces.

Whatever your fitness goals there is a group fitness class out there that will be perfect for you.

Your turn: What is your favourite group fitness class? I would love to hear about your achievements, or your stories about your favourite classes. Please leave a comment below and share your experiences.

Ten top tips for making the most out of your first Yoga class

So you’ve decided to go to your first yoga class?

Well done.

You’ve overcome the perceptions that yoga is some sort of religion, involves impossible to get into poses and sitting around on mats chanting. You know it can benefit you physically and mentally and help you get stronger, more flexible and can help your posture. But there is still one barrier left. Going to your first class.

Don’t worry. Don’t feel intimidated! Here are ten top tips for your first yoga class to think about before you go that will make your first class go well for you.

1) Read a book or watch a video beforehand.

It will help if you know the basics of yoga then you will have an idea of what to expect in your first class. There are hundreds of yoga poses and styles. But there are also hundreds of books and videos both on and offline. I like the videos they have on YogaToday.com but a simple search on YouTube would suffice.

photo credit: myyogaonline via photopin cc
photo credit: myyogaonline via photopin cc

2) Pick a yoga studio convenient to your home:

It might be a fitness club offering a yoga class or a dedicated yoga studio, but make sure it is close to home. Also check out the advert boards in your local shops as they often carry ads for yoga classes in community centres or church halls.

3) Get there early so you can have a look round.

Get there at least 15 minutes early: This will give you time to fill out any necessary forms, get yourself a locker if available and start to unwind before class. if you can get into the studio, set your yoga mat in a comfortable place in the room – and don’t assume that as you are new that you need to hide at the back.

4) Eat sensibly before your class

Keep food on the day of your first yoga class light and simple by having healthy food at least two to three hours before class. Not heavy, fried, fatty, saucy, spicy, and high-acid food as they might make you feel sick as you start to exercise. It’s also not a good idea to exercise on an empty stomach either as you may start feeling light-headed as your body needs fuel that is not there. I like bananas before my classes.

5) Drink drink drink

Drink plenty of water before and after the class. You must be hydrated during class because you will sweat even in less physically demanding types of yoga. Best start drinking water at least two hours before so your body can absorb the water properly. If you are doing hot yoga or bikram yoga make sure that you’re fully hydrated before you start. Because you will sweat buckets.

your first Yoga class
photo credit: BozDoz via photopin cc

6) Wear really comfortable clothes

Wear comfortable clothes that aren’t so tight that they restrict your movement. You don’t need to wear long pants, just wear something you feel relaxed and confident in. Ladies can wear quick-dry Capri and tight tops where gents may put on shorts and baggy t-shirts. Remember that unlike gym exercises, you will be bending and stretching a lot, so loose clothes tend to fall in your face during downward poses and it will become difficult for the teacher to check your alignment.

7) And take off your shoes and socks

You practice Yoga barefoot. This freaks some people out. They don’t like espousing their bare feet. But being barefoot gives you more grip on the mat especially in the standing poses. If you have any problem being barefoot, ask your instructor if you can keep your socks on—or you could buy a pair of yoga socks.

8) Talk to the teacher

You might be shy or uncomfortable talking to the teacher, but they are there for you. Yoga teachers are very helpful and encouraging—they want new students to have the best experience possible during their first class. If you don’t talk to the teacher before the class starts he or she will always ask if there is anyone who hasn’t done yoga before. I find that even when I ask this question some people still stay silent. Don’t. Make yourself known. Also let your teacher know of any medical conditions you have that might affect your practice. Your teacher will offer changes if needed as you can adjust most yoga poses to your needs.

your first Yoga class
photo credit: lululemon athletica via photopin cc

9) No mobiles

Keep your mobile off. Maintaining silence in the room is difficult with irritating ring-tones going off. Be mindful of the other students sharing their love and energy with you.

10) Don’t go too far

Gyms are quite competitive especially when men try to out do each other with the weights they can lift. But yoga shouldn’t be like that. No one is going to criticise you and there is no prize for “Most Intense Pose.” It doesn’t matter if there are poses you can’t do or you are not super flexible. Always listen to your body—don’t go too far just to keep up with the rest of the class. If it gets too much, spend time in child’s pose until you are ready to jump back in.

And most of all enjoy yourself!

Your turn: I’d love to hear your stories about your first yoga class. What was it like? How did you feel. Do any of these tips resonate with you? Click below where it says “Leave a Reply” and share your thoughts.

Hit tight hamstrings – yoga can stretch muscles and improve flexibility

Many men have tight hamstrings. It’s common with athletes, particularly runners and footballers. But anyone who exercises regularly and works their legs with weights and machines can find that their hamstrings become shorter and tighter.

I was the same. Well into my 30s I couldn’t bend down and touch my toes. Then I took up yoga, initially as a participant, and then went to train as a teacher and I am now more flexible than I have ever been.

I have written on this blog before that more men should try yoga. Hitting tight hamstrings is one of the top reasons for giving yoga a go. It can stretch the hamstring muscles, release tightness and improve flexibility.

tight hamstrings - yoga can stretch muscles and improve flexibility
photo credit: robswatski via photopin cc

If you were like me then your hamstrings might feel like just one great big knot of tightness. There are in fact three distinct muscle groups. The technical names are the semitendinosus, biceps femoris, and semimembranosus, but to keep it simple just think of them as the central, inner, and outer hamstrings. There are standing and seated yoga poses that let you stretch and release each of these.

Go to a yoga website like Yoga Journal or download a yoga app; look up these exercises and given them a try.

To stretch and release the central hamstrings look for forward folds. You do each of these with your feet hip width apart – I’ve included the old style Sanskrit name of the pose just to make it easier to find the poses on the web. Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana), Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana), and Plow Pose (Halasana).

tight hamstrings - yoga can stretch muscles and improve flexibility
Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana): photo credit: myyogaonline via photopin cc

To relieve the inner hamstring take your legs wider to bring the stretch into the inner edges of your legs. Poses that stretch the inner hamstrings include Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend (Upavista Konasana) and Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana – whilst I do not focus on the Sanskrit names unless my classes specifically ask me to I am very fond of this one. It just sounds great to say) .

tight hamstrings - yoga can stretch muscles and improve flexibility
Intense Side Stretch: photo credit: dejahthoris via photopin cc

Finally to work on the outer hamstrings take your legs closer to the mid-line in standing forward folds. Look for Revolved Triangle Pose (Parivrtta Trikonasana) and Intense Side Stretch (Parsvottanasana) – I particularly love this one. It takes you to the fine line between pleasure and pain – in a good way.

If you introduce a little yoga alongside running, pumping weights and martial arts you can get a perfect balance of cardio, strength, flexibility and stretch.

Over to you: Are you a guy who has used yoga to improve your flexibility and in particular your hamstrings? Many men still see yoga as something that only ladies do. Help me to get more men to try it out. Yoga can stretch muscles and improve flexibility. Share your experiences and stories. Please leave a comment or post a link.

Why do some HR and IT departments hate social media marketing?

It’s a great time to be a marketer. The Internet and social media have changed the game completely in less than a decade. TV advertising, although still restricted to those with big budgets, is no longer as effective as it was when there were only two commercial channels. Now there are hundreds, and in addition the web offers other types of entertainment. So grabbing people’s attention is much harder.

Back before video and TiVo/Sky+ the only way to escape an advert was to mute, or turn off, or go and make a cup of tea. Now you can flash through it. Consumers are no longer interrupted by marketing communications. They can ignore us. They are in control.

IT departments hate social media marketing

But whilst they can shut the adverts out, consumers still have an insatiable thirst for knowledge. If they want to buy a new pair of shoes they’ll most likely Google the brand. Looking for a hotel in Spain, they’ll go online and look for reviews on TripAdviser. And they’ll ask specific questions like, “What’s the best Indian Restaurant in Preston?” Or, “Where can I find a Personal Trainer in Luton?”

Businesses who provide content that answers these specific questions will find their customers coming to them. Actually seeking them out. Social media and the web means that marketers can create a fine mesh of links from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIin, Pinterest to their own content of web pages, blogs, Q&As, videos, podcasts, white papers, and info-graphics. Interruption marketing (TV adverts, Billboards, posters) is giving way to content marketing. And whilst the former will never disappear, the advertisers have to work harder to successfully interrupt their customers and get them to react.

IT departments hate social media marketing

The great thing about this is that really powerful marketing is now much more accessible to smaller businesses with tighter budgets. And another advantage a small company is that they won’t be constrained by their own departments. In some places there is so much resistance to social media and online content that they create their own barriers to taking advantage of technology.

Social media is often blocked from employees. The HR department don’t want their staff on Facebook when they should be working now do they? But here’s the thing. This is no different to when individual phones started to appear on people’s desks. In those days, HR’s argument was that staff would spend all their time on the phone talking to friends. It didn’t happen.

It’s never been about the technology? It wasn’t back then and it isn’t now. It’s always been about managing the staff. Don’t block social media, because in reality your staff might be able to help promote the company or create good content for you.

Then there is the IT departments. Why do some IT departments hate social media marketing?

Why to they never phone you up and say, “Listen we’ve just seen this new App, and the marketing opportunities for you are amazing”? No, it’s me that phones them and says, “I’ve just seen this new App and the marketing opportunities are amazing?”

IT departments hate social media marketing

And they say, “We can’t let you use that we haven’t the bandwidth.”

Or, “We’ll leave ourselves open to infection with nasty viruses.”

Or, “We can’t take the risk of data leakage.”

You can’t fight against innovation you need to embrace it. No doubt some people resisted in introduction of mobile phones and of the Internet itself. But now it’s impossible to imagine life without these. But HR and IT resistance can hinder big businesses and give smaller players the advantage.

Social media and content are changing the way we engage with consumers, and unlike traditional marketing communications channels they are not restricted to those with huge advertising budgets.

The smallest business can take advantage of these wonderful innovations and make themselves visible. And when you are visible and you give people answers they want, they will want to do business with you.

Over to you: Have you experienced resistance to using social media from your own HR and IT departments? How have you addressed their concerns. Have you got them on board? Please leave a comment by clicking on “leave a reply” below here.