How to get into any of these hot fitness routines — even if they seem scary

Four trainers are here to guide us through some of the most popular fitness classes and trends today.

Four trainers are here to guide us through some of the most popular fitness classes and trends today

(Source, left: Instagram/@sfm_fitness; right: Instagram/@justgetfit)

Starting a new fitness program or going back to the gym after some time away can be intimidating. When you're trying something new, you want to know what to expect from the class and from your body (without having to draw attention to your lack of expertise). We spoke with four different trainers about how to approach some of the most popular fitness classes and trends: bootcamp, barre, spin and weight training. Read on for their advice on what exercises to expect, how often to go and how to make it easier on yourself. 

Weight training

We talked to Saman Munir, a certified personal trainer and Under Armour brand ambassador. 

What to know before you go:

Weight lifting is a type of strength training that uses weights for resistance. Weight training provides a stress to the muscles that causes them to adapt and get stronger. You don't have to be a bodybuilder to benefit from weight training. Using weights not only helps strengthen your bones and muscles, but it can also help you tone up. It doesn't take a long session in the gym to get results. Just 20 to 30 minutes of weight training, two to three times a week will help you reach your goals.

I got into weight lifting this last year in December. I wasn't seeing much results with functional training so I decided to change my workout routine. By weight lifting and [following a] proper diet, I dropped from 25 percent body fat to 18 percent.

Advice for getting started or returning from an injury or hiatus: 

When I am working out at a new gym then I do feel that I will be judged because I am fully covered. [Munir is Muslim and choses to wear a hijab]. To ignore the looks or judgment I put my headphones on and focus on my workout. It can be intimidating when you don't know what you are doing. I always go with a plan so I am not confused or wasting time. 

The best approach to weight lifting as a beginner is to start with a combination of functional exercises that mimic movements you use in everyday life, and compound lifts, which are exercises that engage multiple large muscle groups at once. 

When you're just starting, choose a weight you can lift 10 to 12 times for 2 to 3 sets. This is generally 5 to 15 pounds, depending on the muscle group. As a beginner, you will quickly outgrow these weights and will know it's time to move up when the last 2 to 3 repetitions feel easy to lift.

[Editor's note — if you're not sure what to do, check out Munir's routines on her instagram]

If [an] injury stopped you from training for two weeks, it should take two weeks to get back into your normal format. When I fractured my ankle, I didn't completely stop training. I focused more on my upper body. Once my ankle was healed I started training my lower body.

Once [a] physiotherapist has confirmed you can return to training, you should move ahead without hesitation. You should start simple and make small, manageable increases over time, without putting excess strain on your body otherwise you will risk more injuries and downtime. Figure out what body parts you can safely work in the meantime. Take things slow, and use this opportunity to build a strong foundation so you can avoid future injuries down the road.

What to know for after your session:

When you work your muscles you actually create little tears in your muscle fibres and it's the rebuilding process that makes them stronger. However, this recovery can leave you feeling achy and sore. You might notice your energy levels increase over time. You might feel more hungry as your energy levels increases. You feel more confident and feel less stress.

How often should you go:

Take at least a day off between sessions. Work the major muscle groups of your arms, legs, and core (abdominal muscles, back, and buttocks). The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you should train each muscle group as a set (arms, chest, shoulders and legs) two or three times per week at light intensity if you're a senior or just starting out. You should rest and allow your muscles to recover for at least 48 hours. On days when you're not lifting weights, aim for more aerobic activity. I love doing Muay Thai as my cardio.

High intensity interval training

We talked to: Brendan Sorichetti, instructor at Barry's Bootcamp in Toronto.

What to know before you go:

A typical Barry's class consists of two tried and tested methods of exercise: high-intensity interval training and strength-based resistance training. We accomplish that at Barry's by creating unique and purposeful treadmill workouts to increase clients' cardiovascular abilities as well as strength-focused movements on the floor with dumbbells, resistance bands, and sand balls.

Each day of the week has a different area of focus (i.e. arms and abs, chest and back, total body, etc.) We take pride in making the best workout in the world approachable for all fitness levels. First timers will be given a private introduction into the studio by the instructor who will break down the format of the class, how the treadmills work, what equipment will be used on the floor, as well as any personal modifications needed for injuries.

Taking a Barry's class isn't a competition, it's a team sport where the energy you bring translates to those around you and it creates this euphoric feeling. All while loud music is playing in a red lit room full of sweaty incredible people... it's the best.

Advice for getting started or returning from an injury or hiatus: 

Show up early! Not only is there a stretch lab full of equipment to make sure [you] are adequately warmed up but [you] will also get the chance to chat with the instructor before class, walk through the studio, understand the treadmill, and be prepared for the equipment needed on the floor. 

Those who work out more regularly become more aware of what their limits are and are often more comfortable with pushing themselves in a fitness class. It can be daunting for someone returning after a hiatus or after some physical changes to their body, but if you don't feel confident in your running ability, we give ranges on the treadmill for a reason. If you can't maintain the ranges we call out, that is totally fine. The best thing to do is follow along with the pattern the instructor is calling out to make sure you receive the metabolic benefits of the interval style training on the treadmill. If you can't add 2 full points to your speed, try to add 1 or 0.5. Every bit counts!

Practice makes perfect so don't put unnecessary pressure on yourself, take the class 30 seconds at a time and before you know it, you'll be done.

If anyone has any injuries that they are worried about, TELL US! We are fitness professionals for a reason, we will give you modifications and make sure to check up on you during class to ensure everything is ok. If you have an injury that prevents you from running, you can perform the strength-based training on the floor for the entire class. Strength training has [been] shown to be one of the few fitness methods which prevent future injury due to its ability to strengthen the muscles, cardiovascular system and skeletal system. I've seen many clients with injuries end up running after a few weeks of taking class because of their renewed strength and overall improved fitness. 

What to know for after the class is done:

Often times people are nervous [that] they'll be "too sore". Immediately after class you'll be sweaty, but right away you'll get that rush of endorphins because our bodies were built to move and exercise is something our body craves, even if in the moment it never feels that way. 

If it has been a while since you've exercised, you'll likely feel a lactic acid buildup which, is your body's response to the stress a workout causes on the muscles... it's your body's way of making sure your muscles have the adequate energy during your workout. I like to think of it as workout tax, and this feeling will dissipate the more frequently you exercise as your body becomes much more efficient at flushing lactic acid out of your muscles. Some tips to help speed that process along? Water. Water is your best friend, before, during, and after a Barry's class. 

How often should you go?

Realistically... I would recommend that first-timers start with 1-2 classes a week to ensure adequate recovery as well as choosing days of the week that complement one another. 

Every fitness journey starts somewhere and the journey you're on is a marathon, and not a sprint. 

Barre class

We talked to Aimee Ostrander, owner of 2 barre3 locations in Toronto. 

What to know before you go:

Barre3 is a full-body workout designed with our signature approach of sustained holds, micro-movements, and cardio bursts. Every barre3 class works strategically to build strength and flexibility for optimal body balance and improved posture. 

Life takes us out of balance. Sitting, driving, spending hours typing on a keyboard — all of this creates an imbalance in the body, giving us slumped shoulders, a rounded spine, and a lopsided stance. When our body is shaped this way it can't function properly, and everything we do — including exercise — exacerbates the problem. That's why finding balance is at the core of everything we do at barre.

Each class is 1 hour long, has great music and a knowledgeable instructor that can help guide clients and accommodate with modifications for injuries and all fitness levels. Many of the postures are similar to things you'd see in a yoga or pilates class — like lunges, planks, squats and bridge lifts. It's a low impact class but we move in an athletic and dynamic way that will deliver that satisfying endorphin high. 

Advice for getting started or returning from an injury or hiatus: 

No matter where you are in your fitness journey, it's a great idea to come in early for your first visit. We like to talk to all clients before class so we can learn about where they are today. Our bodies are different from day-to-day. It's important to take stock before class so you can tailor your workout for the day. Some days are for going 100 percent, and others are more about stretching and finding your breath.

Every posture can be modified to suit the client's individual needs. For example, clients with knee issues may choose not to sink all the way down in their squats, keeping their movements smaller to protect their joints. Clients with shoulder injuries or bad tension can choose to work with light weights or no weights at all, and clients that are coming back to exercise after a break are encouraged to move at a pace that works for them. Oftentimes that means they're moving slower than the rest of the group or taking breaks when they need, and that's okay! 

It's important to ease-in to new workouts. It's a marathon not a sprint mentality. If you really want something to become a lifestyle then you're going to have to respect the downtime as just as important as going strong.

What to know for after the class is done: 

I want people to leave my studios feeling energized; proud of themselves for taking an hour to breathe, move, and be apart of a healthy community. Yes, you may be sore the next day or two but you shouldn't feel beat up. We mix in a lot of stretching and breath work in so you work hard but also take moments to loosen up and build flexibility.

How often should you go?

I think it depends on what you are trying to achieve on a daily basis. The great thing about barre3 is that we encourage you to make it your own. So if you want to come every day, great! Just don't go turbo every day. Focus more on balance and flexibility one day then building strength the next. Most of our clients come three or four times a week which is a nice balance.

We work out for all kinds of reasons but the most important one should be your mental health — to feel good, energized, and motivated. Listening to your body and meeting it where it is today, will help build a sustainable practice that will ultimately help you achieve your fitness goals.


We talked toJustine Keyserlingk, instructor Torqride in Toronto.

What to know before you go: 

Our classes at Torq consist of a 50-minute workout with our Stages bikes. We start with a warm-up, followed by a 40 minute ride that includes interval training, endurance, and steady drills. All of this is accompanied by high energy music that complements the type of drill. 

Expect to be challenged.  Both your cardio and leg muscles will be worked in a Torq class. We always finish with a light cool down. 

Our rides are very data driven. We rely on the console to coach our riders and post-ride each rider receives an email with a detailed summary of their results. This is a key motivator for our participants, which keeps them coming back as they can literally see (and not just feel) themselves progressively getting stronger and fitter over time. 

Advice for getting started or returning from an injury or hiatus: 

The best part of spinning is anyone can do it and work at their own pace. You control how hard you work, and we will always motivate you in the class no matter your level or ability. We also encourage people to take breaks if they feel they need to. We all work at different intensity. It's a very individual workout in that sense. 

We typically encourage those who have injuries to chat with the instructor before the class begins. We want to make sure that your bike is right for you. There are ways to set up your bike to help you along the ride. This also helps to prevent future injuries and make the ride as comfortable and enjoyable for you.

Make sure you take breaks whenever you need to and only follow along if you can. New riders can always opt out of getting their metrics if that seem intimidating at first. Know that everyone has had their first ride and you can only grow from there. 

What to know for after the class is done: 

Immediately after class you should feel high energy, sweaty and accomplished! Your endorphins will be pumping and you'll feel proud of your ride. We always like to enforce proper hydration — so make sure you drink a lot of water — and fuel post workout with high protein foods. A day or two out, you might feel sore and tight, but this is completely normal. We recommend stretching during this time, but we also recommend coming back for another ride. Allowing your body to adapt and adjust to the newer style of training will only get easier the more you ride!

How often should you go? 

We recommend 2-3 times a week for beginners so they can adapt and improve but also give themselves more time to recover between rides. They can ride up to four times a week as their cardiovascular system gets stronger and their bodies can take on more. With consistency and hard work in each class you attend, you will definitely start to improve in multiple ways. Your aerobic levels will increase, you'll start to feel stronger and believe it or not, it will start to get easier.

Interviews have been condensed and edited for space and clarity.

Eva Voinigescu is a freelance journalist and producer. She writes about health and science, careers, and culture.


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