Do You Secretly Hate Your Workout Classes?

by | Apr 13, 2015
Photo by Nottingham Trent University

Photo by Nottingham Trent University

Recently a good friend told me she was struggling to maintain her workout habit. She could force herself to go to a class every now and then, but it wasn’t enough to keep her in the shape she prefers.

She was relying on willpower to get herself to go and it wasn’t working.

“In order to build any habit it has to be rewarding,” I explained. “You need to love it so much that you’re willing to rearrange your day to make sure you can do it.”

I know this firsthand, because it happens to me all the time. Especially when you have a flexible schedule, something my friend and I have in common.

Every week meetings, calls and opportunities come up that conflict with my workout. But skipping workouts makes me miserable, so unless it’s a life or death situation I reschedule everything else before sacrificing my workout time.

There’s no way that would happen if I didn’t love my workouts.

But then she lit up, “I think I feel that way about Pop Physique. Do you know it? It’s with ballet barres.”

I told her I didn’t know it, but that I don’t like workout classes in general.


“I don’t like the group energy as much as my solo workouts or working out with a partner. When I’m alone I put on headphones, I close my eyes and just pump iron. It’s like meditation. I need that to get me through work every day, and don’t get the same feeling from someone yelling at me to pedal harder.”

At this she cut me off. “That sounds AMAZING! I love that feeling too. And now that you mention it, I don’t love the class dynamics either.”

This spurred a deeper dive into how it feels to be in group workout classes.

It turns out there’s an unspoken air of competition in the room. Other women stealing furtive glances at each other in the mirrored walls. A sense of always being looked at and judged for the size of your waistline and the tone of your legs.

As much as she enjoyed the workout, she could still sense an atmosphere of hostility created by the other women in the room.

No wonder it required willpower to go.

Suddenly alternatives to the group classes felt far more appealing. After some reflection we uncovered the barrier that drove her away from solo workouts to begin with.

“You know, the main reason I avoid working out on my own is that I don’t really know what to do in there. I just walk around aimlessly and do stuff at random.”

This was a fantastic insight, because she identified a barrier she can actually do something about.

I proposed a solution: get a trainer.

But not one of those trainers who throws medicine balls at you from weird angles. You don’t want to be dependent on someone else being there for you to get your workout in.

Find someone who will spend a few weeks showing you the ropes. Someone who can teach you about each of the major muscle groups and give you a handful of exercises for each that you can do on your own.

“I think this might be a game changer.”

What are the barriers keeping you from working out?

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19 Responses to “Do You Secretly Hate Your Workout Classes?”

  1. Dina says:

    I’m so sorry that you and your friend have had bad experiences in group ex classes. Group ex is what got me on track. I joined a cardio class with a Groupon with no goal other than to move more than I had been, which was not at all. My goal evolved into becoming fit, and I lost a lot of weight. I never had the goal of making friends, but that happened, too. Knowing that my arrival in class is greeted like the character Norm from “Cheers” is a huge motivator to keep me coming back.

    • Darya Rose says:

      That’s awesome 🙂 It’s sounds like you’ve found a really supportive group. What types of classes are your favorite?

      • Dina says:

        My Groupon was for Jazzercise, which I still do. Despite the images that undoubtedly come to mind, it can be a really great work out and the music is great. I also do some cycling classes which are less social but with the lights out very individual so I don’t get any bad vibes from anyone too competitive. The most competitive classes are yoga, and I hate the mandatory silence in the room – I think it turns what is essentially a stretch and strength class into something elitist. But now I just giggle at the folks who are too into themselves so I enjoy it more. 🙂

  2. JackieJ says:

    I love solo workouts and group classes — yoga and spin classes especially. But, my gym serves an older population, mostly people in their fifties through eighties, so most people in the classes are totally over themselves and are incredibly kind and supportive.

  3. Alina says:

    Hi Darya, this post came to me with perfect timing! This morning I told my husband that today was the day that took every bit of will power I had in order for me to go to the gym. I hate classes! All the screaming and following somebody else’s rhythm and all that, I despise. I am not alone in my struggles..ha! This post was great help, thank you!

    Alina (

    P.S. I skipped the class today and only ran and used the escalator…

  4. summer says:

    I’m the opposite, I love group classes. Bring on the competition!

  5. Amy Ro. says:

    I really love my fitstar app. (no I don’t work for them in anyway shape or form) It is $30 for the year and I can do workouts with a “trainer” who is showing me what to do. They break it down pretty easily and after each exercise you rate it as to how hard it was and then they create your workout based on that. I don’t do it everyday, (as I do like the meditative aspects of rowing, or running, or biking) but it is good for my strength training days (although it does have a bit of cardio mixed in too in the form of jumping jacks etc…) There is a free program which gives you all the same stuff just limits the frequency you can do it.


  6. Dave says:

    I usually work out alone. I really like it. I listen to podcasts or audiobooks or music. Long indoor cardio sessions are for Netflix (for some reason, my gym has great wifi).

    I’ve tried a class here and there, and some I like, but the ones I like are soooo expensive. (Most recently, I tried Orange Theory. It was great, but I can’t afford $20 several times a week.) I’ve thought about trying yoga, but I feel a little weird about the dynamic as a guy. Pop culture has kind of sexualized yoga attire and yoga poses to the extent that I think I’d feel a bit like a creep. (I know this is just a personal neurosis that I should get over. But in my experience, neuroses rarely yield to intellectual arguments.)

    I always have to remind myself any time I’m exercising in public that I’m not doing it for anybody but myself, and everybody else can go [explicit verb] themselves.

    • Dina says:

      Dave, I have seen men and women of all shapes and sizes in yoga classes. Once things get going everyone is just focused on not falling down. This has especially been my experience with Bikram yoga (beware the 105 degree temperature and 90-minute length of class before trying, but definitely try).

  7. Katie says:

    I think a lot of people force themselves to workout in ways they don’t like. I definitely used to drag myself to the gym and use the elliptical until I burned x-amount of calories– I hated every second of it! Sometimes group classes work for me and sometimes they don’t. It all depends on the atmosphere, the teacher and the music.

  8. La says:

    That’s a great tip, Darya, to ask yourself what your barriers to exercise are. The “best” exercise is the one you enjoy, and therefore will actually do. Once you figure that out, you can set yourself up for success by doing something you enjoy, the way you like to do it.
    I generally love being active, but I enjoy the social aspect of going for a long run or bike ride with a friend or two, rather than slogging it out all alone (I enjoy it while I’m doing it, but hard to motivate myself to get out the door). I’m also more likely to push myself harder during a coached bike workout than I am just riding on my own. Knowing those things about myself helps me stick to a workout regime for the long term.

  9. Justine says:

    Past-me can definitely relate to not knowing what to do. I was fortunate enough to find a really cool women’s-only gym with a lot nice older ladies and some really fantastic instructors and personal trainers. Their classes and training sessions taught me how to work out, and now I just work out solo.

    I come in to the gym with a plan, though. I use Evernote to track my work outs (among other things), including strength exercises and how much weight was used and how many reps were performed. If I don’t know what to do I simply look up past work outs to jog my memory.

    Working out is very meditative for me. It’s my favourite excuse to jam out to music, so I’m always adding new songs to my phone to keep it fresh.

  10. Donna says:

    Love reading all the comments here – all so supportive and informative. I’ve found a happy medium between group classes and working out solo – small group exercise. Two friends and I work out with a personal trainer 3x/week. I take yoga the other 2 days, and be sure to get in my 10K steps every day. I’ll echo the sentiments of others – stop beating yourself up – pick an exercise that feels like fun!

  11. Barbara says:

    Mostly I work out alone. Sometimes a friend of mine works out with me. That is a good opportunity to share new exercises or ask for a feedback about the form and look of an exercise. From time to time I take a trainer lesson to become better in my form. At my workplace there are twice a year groupcourses. I can book one a year and at the second I fill out if someone is sick. I like this, because it fits well into my timeplaning and it is cheap. But at the gym I avoid them. The timeframe is never good for me.

  12. I’m a rare bird. Been working out consistently 3-5 x a week for over 35 years, because I found out what I love, and sometimes I mix it up. I LOVE the group classes because I’m social. I’ve been with the same group for over 7 years now. We have a zumba type class 3 days and a smaller intense fitness class (about 8 people) twice a week, very challenging, and my husband joins this. Part of me goes just because I love the instructors and the people. I tried the classpass and while I enjoyed visiting all the boutique studios, I didn’t feel the same motivation or challenge, but I saw in each boutique studio a nice community. As far as the “looks” or competition sometimes that true, but for the most part, I’ve seen women supporting women. It’s really about what’s in your head that you’ll experience. Exercise is such a habit of mine I never even think about not going, unless I’ve overdone it or feel fatigued. I listen to my body because I don’t want injuries that would be a stop on things. I think some people have the personality type that just love exercise and I’m one of them. But I never do things I hate like spin class or the megaformer. I hate being a part of any machine.

  13. Amanda says:

    Personally, I love Pop Physique. I’ve been going to classes in Baltimore for about a year and a half, and I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been. My instructors are fantastic and I love that they push me when I’m not feeling up it myself.

  14. Dorian says:

    My problem is just exercise generally! I really do enjoy it when I’m doing it (well, most of the time. Sometimes I have internal hissy fits if something feels too hard and I feel unfit and gross), and I always feel better afterwards. But even if it’s something I know I enjoy, it’s still an extra effort and it’s the barrier of just forcing myself out of the house that I often don’t overcome. I feel pretty lame admitting that…I feel like I SHOULD be able to overcome it because I have read all the things about ‘just put on your shoes,’ ‘just go out the front door,’ etc. etc. etc. but I still struggle to motivate myself. So my problem I guess isn’t so much about finding something I like doing (unless I have yet to find that activity I just am DYING to do? Maybe, but I have tried and do like a lot of things) but that it seems like no matter what the activity is, I still have to rely on willpower to get myself out to do it in the first place, and I haven’t been able to figure out yet how to overcome that barrier. :-/

  15. Thomas says:

    Nha, never. The reason for my fitness, never be hated.

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