DePaul group fitness classes offer a more comfortable environment to work out


Courtesy of Ray Meyer Fitness Center

A fitness instructor leads a class in Zumba at the Ray Meyer Fitness Center.

From what to wear to how much weight you should be lifting, you’re not the only one feeling worried about being out of place at the gym, especially in group classes. 

Getting past this mentality is the first hurdle on the journey to getting fit, as well as one that is often overlooked. Maggie Smith, a freshman at DePaul, feels like one of the pressures of going to the gym, in general, is just what to wear.

“I don’t have any workout gear, I don’t have anything that would like, fit in at the gym,” Smith said. 

While this may seem trivial to some, this feeling manifests itself in many ways when it comes to summoning up the courage to try a class you have never taken before or even go to the gym in the first place.

Carlie Goodlet, a freshman at DePaul, has been working out since the middle of last quarter. 

“I started going around the middle of first quarter,” she said. “I noticed I was getting really tired and I figured out that it was because I wasn’t exercising enough.”

However, she’s still hesitant to try group classes.

Some students at DePaul feel like this self-consciousness will only be amplified in taking the fitness classes.

“You’re already in the gym around a bunch of people,” said Casey O’Sullivan, a freshman who tends to gravitate towards more solo workouts than group lessons. “Classes would just make everyone more close.” 

Goodlet, who is a theatre student that is used to being in front of a crowd, feels the same pressure.

“I went to an arts school in high school so I did a lot of exercises in acting in front of other people but like I don’t know why but now that I’m here, I’m like ‘Oh no, no one can see me in a workout outfit,’” she said.

Like the others, for Chris O’Neil, this keeps him from stepping out of his comfort zone. 

“I’m in this vicious cycle where I don’t like going to the gym because I’m self-conscious about the way I look, but I’m self-conscious about the way I look because I don’t go to the gym,” he said. 

However, sticking out in group classes is a lot harder to do than it may seem. 

According to Stephanie Punda, assistant director at the Ray Meyer Fitness Center, classes in the evening range from 20 to 40 people. In some of the most popular classes, like Body Pump, yoga and Zumba, the number is closer to sixty.

If you would be in a smaller class size with a lighter workout, Punda suggests going during the day. 

“Daytime classes around lunch hour are geared towards being a little bit more low-impact so you will feel it, but you may not have that cardio aspect,” she said. “This so that people, if they have to go back to work or to class, they don’t have to be super sweaty.”

These classes usually contain 10-15 people, according to Punda. 

In addition to the pressures of being seen by peers, taking classes also could mean the instructors are judging you as well. 

“I’m more scared of the teachers,” Goodlet said. “Like who they are. I feel like, in order to work out, I need to be motivated and would like a teacher who is someone that would motivate me, and I’m scared that they are going to yell at me. I know they won’t but it’s just that fear in the back of my head.”

As an assistant director, Punda is in charge of running the group fitness classes. She also teaches some of them.  

“I like to walk around my classes and adjust form as we go,” Punda said. “No one is ever criticized.”

Classes are run so that they can accommodate everyone from frequent class-goers to beginners, according to Punda.

“There will be levels, there will be adjustments, there will be anything that you need in order to be supported,” Punda said. We talk about taking breaks as much as you need, listening to your body. It’s your workout.” 

At the end of the day, working out is something very personal, whether you find yourself in a class or not. Just showing up is a success in itself, regardless of what everyone around you thinks. 

“It is a challenge by choice,” Punda said. “It doesn’t matter what your neighbors are doing. It matters what you’re doing. I care more that you come in and that you’re willing to move for the 45 minutes that you’re there rather than going all out or all of that. If you’re able just to have movement in your day, I’m a happy camper.”