Gym Guide 101: Yoga and Cardio

I love going to the gym. I love working out in general. And I love all the pretty workout clothes you get to buy when you actually become a regular gymie! …Pretty sure that’s a made up word, but whatever. Going to the gym for me is a stress reliever, a way for me to unwind, and to treat my body good (as well as work off that blueberry blondie bar I ate two days ago…SO good!)

I have always been active and athletic, ever since I was a baby. I’m a natural in the water, really good at knowing what work out to do for what muscle group I want to tone, and I love working up my heartrate during a killer cardio session. But having an active lifestyle isn’t everyone’s niche, and some of you may not even know where to start when it comes to getting an actual workout in — and by actual, I mean targeting key muscle groups, switching up your routine, and mixing in at least two types of cross training per week. And not knowing exactly what to do is totally fine! No need to know EVERY thing in order to burn some calories or get in shape.  Trying out a new workout regime can be fun and daunting at the same time, especially when you’re surrounded by people who seem to know what they’re doing (key word: seem).

From a fitness instructor perspective, I always wanted to make sure my class peeps were A) doing the workout properly and safely, B) Challenging themselves to step it up a notch if they felt comfortable doing so, and C) having FUN! That being said, here’s your beginner’s workout guide to my three favorite workouts (Barre, Yoga, and Cardio Classes) and how to get your best workout when doing them:

BARRE. I LOVE Barre classes. They’re amazing and incorporate a mix of pilates and ballet moves to strength the core and lower body. You will also be working on your upper body as well by using light weights. When I first told John I was doing “Barre Classes,” he thought I meant learning to bartend at a bar. Oh, men. ❤

Question: What clothing or equipment will I need to bring?
Answer: Typically Barre classes are done either barefoot or with no-slip socks. I wear my Nike Studio Wraps, which have a non-stick surface on the sole and are overall pretty. You’ll want to wear tight fitting clothing such as leggings and a tank, or spandex shorts and a tank, and bring a water bottle. The class will provide any extra equipment you’ll need (such as weights, a mat, resistance bands, etc.).
Question: What if I can’t keep up?
Answer: Barre is a pretty intense mix of Pilates and weighted repetition work. Try to push through, and before you know it you will be onto the next set of repetitions. If you need to, take a water break or pause during a set.
Question: Any special Barre lingo I should know about?
Answer: If you are familiar with ballet terms (such as point, plié, relevé) then you will be fine. If you are not familiar with these terms, a plié is bending the knees and straightening them again while standing. A Relevé is doing a movement on tip toes. Don’t worry though, the instructor will guide the class through every move and will call out instructions. If all else fails, look to the person next to you!


YOGA. I have been practicing yoga (daily and/or weekly) since 2007, and is the greatest thing known to man for relaxation, improving flexibility, and getting in tune with your body. I taught aqua yoga classes while I was living in Washington and absolutely loved the challenge of manipulating movements for water.

Question: What clothing or equipment will I need to bring?
Answer: I usually wear a light/loose tank and some vibrant yoga capris like these. Once again, I once again swear by my Nike studio wraps. For yoga, they’re perfect for not slipping on the mat and allow your toes to breathe and move like yogi toes should. It’s also best to bring your own yoga mat. I use a Giaim Yoga Mat and it does a fine job of keeping me steady not slippery, and the price is great too. Check out my post on How to Find the Perfect Yoga Mat for more details on yoga mat decisions 🙂 You may also want to bring a towel and a water bottle (for a complete list of what I usually bring to the gym, take a peek at what’s in my gym bag).
Question: What if I can’t keep up?
Answer: You should look up the description of your yoga class first, before attending. There are a variety of yoga classes that offer different benefits for various levels of practice. If you cannot keep up with the movements, you can always rest in child’s pose or pause for a drink of water. Make sure to check out my post on Picking the Best Yoga Class based on your abilities.
Question: Any special terminology I should know?
Answer: In every yoga class, the instructor will almost always give the proper name for a movement as well as the common term for it. For example, he or she will say something like, “now let’s transition into utkata konasana, sun goddess pose.” If you’re still confused, just watch the instructor for how to correctly get into the pose. Other terms used may be Sun Salutation (a popular flow of a series of 8 postures), Flow (a sequence of positions repeated a few times), Savasana (one of my favorites, the final relaxation pose done at the end of class), and Namaste (a phrase used in the yogi world that means the light in me bows to the light in you).
Question: The person next to me is super flexible and better than I am. When can I be as good as them!
Answer: First, slap yourself for comparing! Second, keep practicing. Yoga is a continuous practice, and many poses take years to master which means it’s something you will always be improving upon. Even the best yoga instructors still attend classes as students to become better in their own practice (hello Kino Macgregor). The point is, yoga is not something that anyone can “be the best at.” It is a personal journey you are taking with your body to a higher form of self-intuition. Your muscles need time to be stretched and to become flexible, usually this takes weeks if not months or a couple years. Be patient, and all is coming!


CARDIO CLASSES. Boy there’s nothing like a great cardio workout to sizzle calories and get your heart pumping. When I taught my HIIT and power cardio classes in Washington, I would yell out motivational things to my class, clap my hands, smile like crazy, and was known for shouting out “woo! yeah! Let’s go!” every 5 minutes, and everyone in my classes loved it. You see, if you’re not pumped up for a workout, your class won’t be either! And even if you’re nowhere near being an instructor, being excited for your own workout can make all the difference in how effective and fun it will be.

Question: What should I wear to my cardio class?
Answer: Definitely wear something you can move around in and not have to tug at every 10 seconds. Cardio classes require a lot of movement, jumping, dancing, turning and twisting (depending on the class type). I usually wear tight running pants with a workout tank, or running shorts with a breathable tee (not cotton!) and comfy running shoes like these. Cardio needs you to be free to move and squat and run and jump and do things that baggy clothes aren’t that great for.
Question: What if I can’t keep up?
Answer: TOTALLY fine, unless you’re taking an Insanity class, in which case I would say good luck trying to take a break! Bring lots of water to stay hydrated (my personal favorite hydration drink is this one that I buy from Target). If you need to, take a step back from the group so no one runs into you and catch your breath. Cardio instructors are aware of how intense their classes can be and do not mind if personal breaks are taken.
Question: How do I know which cardio class is most effective for me?
Answer: First, ask yourself what you want to get out of your workout. Is it to burn calories? Up your heart rate? Tone all over? To give you an ides, here are a few popular classes: Insanity classes use a mix of longer cardio intervals with short rest breaks, and works you at max potential for the duration of the class. Careful, this is not for the faint of heart! PiYo classes incorporate intense choreography designed to increase stability and improve core strength and are easier than Insanity but still tough. Bootcamp classes are designed to condition the body using battle ropes, kettlebells, sandbags, and BoSU balls and are better for an all over toned workout. And Zumba is just a huge choreographed, calorie-burning dance party everyone can do which incorporates moves from salsa, merengue, and mambo dances!

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So there you have it! Your gymie guide 101 to my favorite and most effective workout classes. Just remember, always challenge yourself to do more than you did before. Test your limits! And, know when to take it easy. Being in tune with your body and muscle groups is the best way to understand your strength and abilities. SO, now that you have the perfect guide to starting your own gym class routine, you should totally check out these other stay-fit posts on The Mini Apartment:

1. Take a peek at what’s in my gym bag
2. My favorite yoga stretches post-run
3. Tips on how to pick the right yoga mat
4. Tips for running your best 5k plus how to train for a mud run
5. Thoughts about my first half marathon
6. How to find the best yoga style for your body
7. thoughts that go through my mind while running
8. How to be a natural at the gym
9. For good measure, how to say NOPE to off days
10. And since you’re an all-around wonder woman who works out, kicks butt, and knows how to #hustle…a list of productive things to do to make getting through your week feel like cake. Xo

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