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The Pros & Cons of Group Exercise

11/04/2015, 5:00am PST
By Kelvin Cech

“Just join in, it will be fun!”

I’ve heard this request a lot in the past few months. As the fitness centre at the North Shore Winter Club fills up leading up to the holidays, it’s more common to come across people you know who enjoy exercising as part of a group. 

It’s funny, the line dividing those who enjoy group work and those who’d rather go solo is a thin one. I enjoy playing sports with a group - there’s nothing on earth that duplicates the sensation of competing with a group of individuals all pulling for the same result, but when it comes to exercise, I’d rather lose myself in my own thoughts. 

Do you know where you sit on this argument? Here’s a couple pros and cons to help you decide. 

Cardio

Cardio sucks. If you claim you love cardio then you are lying or you’re my dad, who cools down from a 25km run with a 50km bike ride. 

Pro: cardio is as much mental as it is physical, so a group setting can give you an extra boost

Con: if you’re hell-bent on competition then getting slaughtered by your peers might not sit too well with you

Weight-Lifting

There’s nothing better than successfully executing a lift when you have a group of fans cheering you on. But there’s nothing worse than failing that lift while everyone rolls their eyes and calls you a loser. It could happen!

Pro: getting tips from non-professionals can sometimes go a long way

Con: getting tips from non-professionals can sometimes go a long way

The Atmosphere

Some of my favourite memories involve pushing my body weight over my head in the basement of a school in Edmonton that was converted into an all-purpose olympic weight-lifting centre. It was gritty and intense down there, but I didn’t care, because I was a gritty and intense guy. 

Pro: a crowded gym can motivate you and give you external energy

Con: space is limited

Boot Camps

Often the delivery of an exercise regime is just as important as the regime itself. Boot camps have enjoyed increased popularity over the past decade because they focus on functional, full-body activity with a group of people who share the same goals. Plus they’re effing hard.

Pro: everyone will notice if you don’t show up, so there’s built-in accountability

Con: like a goat, you’re herded together at the whim of the instructor. I’m looking at you, Romeo. 

Naw, I’m Good

I’m trying really hard not to let my personal bias interfere with this post, but I’m finding it impossible. Can you tell? I’ve uttered the phrase naw, I’m good plenty of times over the past few months but I’ve never quite understood why. 

Until now. 

As a writer/hockey coach, I get to deal with a lot of people over the course of the week. Which is great, but there’s a certain amount of stress involved with my career. Deadlines, hockey parents, man my life is hard. Who among you can’t say the same? So, when I’m in the gym, often the last thing I want to do is communicate with anyone other than myself. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing people and waving a quick hello or even stopping to chat for a minute or two, but normally I’m too caught up in the ultra-aggressive metal pumping through my headphones to remember my own name let alone someone else’s. 

So, training alone:

Pro: you’re free to work on whatever you think you need and whatever it is that brings the greatest release of tension

Con: you’ll find yourself repeating the exercises you enjoy instead of being pushed to work on other things

I combine my solo efforts with regular 1on1 training sessions with Steph St. Laurent, so I’ve found a regime that works for me. I hope. 

What about you? What type of setting do you prefer? On your own or in a group? Tell me about it next time we’re in the gym, but please don’t be offended if I stare back at you with a dazed look in my eyes before passing out on the floor. 

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