The Beat Goes On – Too Fast

May 5, 2014 by Michelle

I’ve talked a ton about how I’m a class kind of girl when it comes to the gym. I need the comaraderie of the class to keep me going when I want to stop. I need the discipline of the class being offered at a specific time to ensure I show up at the gym each day. And of course, I need the instructor there telling me what to do and keeping me from getting bored.

The classes aren’t always easy. Every time there is a new instructor, there is a learning curve. I have to learn the cues and prompts of the instructor, what they like to do, and how their routines go. New classes may take up to three weeks before I’m completely comfortable in them, and even introducing new songs to a class from a current instructor means I’m working on catching up to get with it.

What makes it a little easier at least is that I tend to go through classes counting in my head. 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. The beats are constant, and I know that moves will happen on the beat. The right foot gets the odd beats, and the left gets the even – most of the time. We’ll stay doing the same move at least until the end of the 8 count in Zumba and in a pattern of 32 for step, so I know where I’m staying once I get there. It helps, though of course it isn’t perfect.

Yes, the music in your fitness class can be too fast

Fortunately, class isn’t about being perfect. It’s about enjoying yourself and getting fit. By going regularly, I’m getting there.

When in an aerobics type class – and my Zumba and step classes both count – the music has a consistent beat. It’s the only way that we can all stay together (not that it happens that way anyway, of course), and it usually has between 118 and 128 beats per minute. That’s pretty much the accepted standard for classes like these.

Sometimes, we’ll have a faster song and then a slower song to change things up, especially in Zumba. That said, in Zumba, we also tend to have breaks between our songs. It may only be 5 or 10 seconds before the next song or as long as 30 seconds if the instructor is taking a water break with us. A faster song doesn’t kill us because we can breathe for a moment once the song is over.

In step, we don’t have that luxury. The step instructor has her music so that each song bleeds into the next one. We never stop.

Right there is a challenge. Granted, some of us will take a water break – whether sanctioned or not, since our instructor discourages people from taking anything but her single approved water break sometime after the half hour mark – which allows us to take a bit of a break, but doing a solid hour of step is a challenge.

We can always tell when our instructor is having an off day because she makes the routines more complicated. That and she complains about the pizza or tacos she ate. We pay for her eating regrets. Lately, however, she’s changed up the music. And apparently she’s eaten a whole lot of ice cream.

The music is fast. And I mean fast.

Instead of 118-128 beats per minute, it is at a bare minimum 150 beats per minute. For a solid hour. You wouldn’t think that it would make a huge difference, but it’s amazing the difference. As we approach the end of the class, I’m going through the motions because I can’t physically lift my knee all the way anymore. I can’t do 8 knee lifts, 8 hamstring curls, and 8 kicks on my step on each leg, then a series of 6, then 4, then 2, then 1. One day, maybe I will, but that day is a ways off.

And people in the class aren’t happy. People are walking out at the halfway mark. Others have brought it up to the instructor, but she blows them off. And fewer and fewer people are coming to the classes at all. That’s not good for anyone, and given the limited number of fitness classes offered by my gym, it isn’t good for membership in general either.

So I’m begging you. If you’re an instructor, have mercy on those of us who don’t work out quite as often or as intensely as you. I’m all for a song that’s a higher tempo and gets our heart rate up. But then you need to bring it back down again. It isn’t fun to feel like you’re always behind, like you’re always about to miss a beat, while you feel your body slowly losing momentum.

And I exercise not just because I want to be fit but because I enjoy it. Enjoying my workout is a big part of what keeps me coming back tomorrow and the day after. And if you can’t find a way for it to be fun for me and the rest of the class, I won’t be the only one looking for some other way to spend my mornings. Even though I’d rather spend them where I’m at now.

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  • Angel The Alien

    I definitely wouldn’t be able to keep up in a class like that! I’d collapse on the floor! Actually I’ve heard that it is better to pause or at least slow down multiple times during your workout, because it sort of tricks your heart into keeping on exercising even while you are resting. In other words, it helps you bring your heart rate up! Tell your instructor that. Tell her Angel The Alien said so.

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