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Local YMCA readies to teach a new barbell class

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Freestyle classes

One of fitness instructor Ann Angell’s freestyle classes at the Oxford YMCA.

If you are a fitness class junkie, you have probably already seen how the trend toward pre-choreographed classes has really grown over the last 20 years. (Choreographed, that is, by someone other than yourself.)

Back in the olden days, there was really no such thing as a pre-choreographed fitness class until Les Mills (Body Pump) and Zumba came along in the mid-’90s. Before that, we just winged it.

Some of us are still winging it. This is called freestyle fitness. In this type of class, the instructor picks the music and does the choreography and class design. An instructor can take a lot of time to plan out each class, or just turn on the music and teach what comes to mind.

This is the type of class I am most comfortable teaching. I have taught pre-choreographed classes before, but frankly it takes a lot of time to learn. And for me, it took the fun out of the class knowing how much I had to prepare.

We offer quite a few pre-choreographed classes at the YMCA: Zumba, Aqua Zumba, Cize, R.I.P.P.E.D. and Turbokick, with more to come.

These types of classes are popular. But a drawback for the instructor is that with the pre-choreographed classes, you have to pay a fee to get the music and the choreography. Sometimes the facility where you teach has to pay a fee as well. But because our fitness class members like lots of choices, we do it.

The debate has been going around for a while. Which is better? In my opinion, the one you will attend is the best one for you!

With a pre-choreographed class, the question is, "Will our members get bored doing the same workout for 4-8 weeks in a row?" As an instructor, I would think so, but studies have shown that is not true. Many people LIKE knowing what to expect.

As a fitness director, I can tell you that an instructor who can teach both types of classes is very valuable, because our members like both types of classes.

All my classes are freestyle, but I am about to step off into the pre-choreographed world with both feet in a few weeks, and I am kind of hesitant.

The YMCA is about to offer a new barbell class, and we are all working hard for it. It is called Strength Train Together (Group Power) by Mossa. I know I can do it, but the time that I will have to spend preparing is not something I am used to.

What I do see is real commitment to perfecting this style of teaching in many of my instructors. This is a great thing. You have to be dedicated to learn all this choreography, and by the time you learn it to perfection it will be time to learn a new season!

We will be offering this new class very soon, and I am super-excited to see eight of our YMCA instructors take on this beast. Hopefully the old adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks is not true!

Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer and manager of the Oxford YMCA. Her fitness column appears the third Sunday of each month.