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  • Writer's pictureDoreen @ UnfancyFitness

4 No-Nonsense Tips for Finding a Great Fitness Class

Updated: Mar 29, 2023

Before we talk about exercise let's talk about food! Think about your fave restaurant. You love it for many reasons, right? The atmosphere is inviting. The staff makes sure that you get the best experience during your stay. Your meal is well and safely prepared, served in a timely manner and utterly delicious. Remember the times when you went out to eat, had a not-so-friendly server, the food was cold, late or just not prepared well? Did you return?

Now go back to your fitness classes? Are the classes that you participate in well-prepared? Is your instructor on-time and sincerely interested in your fitness experience? Is your teacher prepared to give modifications and point out alignment cues. Are all participants offered a class that varies movements? When you leave are you satisfied with your workout? Do you just take it for granted that all fitness instructors are experts in their field.

When it comes to exercise, your well-being, safety and health will need some research and information. I know there are lots of freebies out there. Tons of on-line videos. A slew of free classes. Try them all. Of course have fun. Daily exercise is such an enjoyable way to connect with yourself and others. Know what to look for in any fitness class.

  1. Is the instructor on-time, prepared and gets to know you?

  2. Are you taught proper execution and key forms of alignment?

  3. Are you offered modifications, and non-intimidating feedback?

  4. Does your class include movements from all planes of movement?

Your time is precious. It doesn’t make any sense to get psyched about a class and then have to wait for the instructor to get there either right at the start time or even a bit late. I’ve seen this happen many times. If your instructor gets to class early, prepares the room and has time to chat with participants, the mood is set for an enjoyable and effective workout experience. Your awesome fitness instructor spent time in preparation for your very own health and fitness experience.

Is the Class for You or for the Instructor?

Does your instructor chat with your before or after class? Exercise class is a social setting as much as it is a time to get your workout in for the day.

How about the class itself? During warm-up, did you get the lowdown so you have an idea of what to expect? When you get a picture of what you'll be doing and how the class is structured, your mind starts to focus on your workout.

Does your teacher give you some rehearsal cues; exercises broken down that you will perform fully during the main part of your class? Warming up is the most important part of class. Your muscles become warmer and adapt to more vigorous movement. Warming up and reviewing the exercises performed in class is also a good way to get your mind to focus on the movement.

Whether in-person or live stream - does the instructor chat a bit before class and welcome new participants? Very important. Even now, I get a little nervous heading into a new class. But my reservations are settled once I get a smile and welcoming intro from the teacher. The little things mean a lot!

Proper Execution Means Safer Exercise

It's important to receive cues for proper execution. If it's ok with you, an instructor can give hands-on adjustments.

There are so, so many ways to move. Exercise encompasses a vast array of movements organized within a certain format. That’s great! Why? We often gravitate toward a certain kind of movement and then stick to it. But then we get used to it we stay set in a plateau.

When you are instructed during a class, it’s important to receive cues on how to execute each exercise. For example, when performing a plank, it's imperative that you shift to align your shoulders over your wrists instead of shifting too far forward or back. In general, it’s a good idea to “stack the joints.” In plank think, “wrists, elbows, shoulders” in one straight line. That visual is easy to cue and sets you up for proper alignment. But what if you cannot perform a plank or push-up one way?

Modifications and Non-Intimidating Feedback

Modifications for every exercise will give you the benefits specifically suited for your body.

Photo by Elly Fairytale on

Maybe you're taking care of your shoulder or like me, you just don’t have the upper body strength to perform a push-up on your toes. HOW you perform an exercise is what makes it beneficial to your body. So please, don’t feel bad if you are unable to perform the instructed exercise. An all-inclusive class is filled with alternative ways to make every exercise beneficial to you. Look for that in every class that you take. You'll be able to exercise longer and stronger.

There's always a modification or alternative exercise. So if it's not offered; ask. You'd be surprised at the array of exercises that can be used instead of that one exercise that just doesn't work for your body.

I’ve been to classes that offer no modifications and that’s when you see dangerous reps due to bad form. Of course, we all want to push a little harder as we exercise because that's how we make fitness gains. Instructors sometimes push us in ways that seem intimidating instead of supportive. “Come on, you can do better!” instead of "Let's see if we can find a bit more intensity by moving just a bit faster", or my favorite - “Give me 10 more reps!” instead of "Let's keep up the energy for 10 more reps.". You shouldn’t have to give your instructor anything - those reps are all yours!!! And using inclusive words like "let's" makes everyone feel like we're in this workout together including the instructor.

So never feel bad about asking an instructor for modifications and hopefully as part of your introduction, he or she has asked if there are any conditions that might affect your participation in class? If not, do speak up. The more your teacher knows about your health and fitness, the better experience it will be for the both of you!

Planes of Movement: A Beneficial and Essential Component of Group Fitness

Your body moves in a multitude of directions. Using Planes of Movement as a guide is how I design my classes from Cardio Barre to Strength Intervals. By the end of class, all my participants know that they have completely moved through space. Learning the planes of movement is a benefit to your kinesthetic sense. Your body will exercise in a balanced multitude of directions that will increase mobility, overall strength and flexibility.

The three planes of motion are:

  1. Sagittal - Right and left halves of body

  2. Coronal (Frontal)- Divides front and back sections of the body

  3. Transverse (Horizontal) - Top and bottom halves of body

Exercise Examples in each Plane of Motion

When describing the planes of motion, think about how the joints move in relation to the planes. Think of how your hips hinge and knees bend moving forward and back.

Squats are in The Sagittal plane. The hips and knees move in flexion and extension.

Sagittal Plane

  • Sagittal - Hip, shoulder and knee flexion and extension.

Movement examples:

  • Squats

  • Front & back lunges

  • Biceps curls

  • Seated Leg (knee) Extensions

Shoulder overhead press places the weights inward toward the midline and outward away from the midline.

Coronal (Frontal) Plane

  • Coronal (Frontal) - hip adduction,abduction (moves in/out sideways away/toward midline)

Movement examples:

  • Leg lifts to side (abduction)

  • Leg adduction machine

  • Lat Pull downs

  • Shoulder Press

Twisting from the waist works in the Transverse Plane

Transverse Plane

  • Transverse (Horizontal) - Twisting from the waist Left/right, wrist/elbow rotation, shoulder movements across the body to/from midline, scapulae away/toward spine

  • Seated or Standing Twist

  • Seated Cable Rows

  • Flat Back Flyes/Reverse Flyes


Exercise is essential to our well-being. PERIOD. It's a plus in the safe direction to know what to look for in high-quality instruction. As your instructor, I’m your guide. I offer the tools to set you on your way. But ultimately, the effort, understanding and dedication to your exercise time is up to you. Be informed about what constitutes good instruction. Don’t take it for granted that an instructor is an expert. Many fitness certifications can be completed in a weekend! Understand that exercise is a stress on your body in a good way and repetitions must be performed correctly in order for your body to continue to function properly. If you have any questions, please reach out to me. Try out my classes live and videos.

Let's continue the discussion.

Be Well,



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