workin’ it out!

Joining a gym or starting an exercise program can be challenging and intimidating. The benefits of exercising are well known, but a lack of motivation or boring workouts will quickly derail your fitness goals. Rather than quitting, consider a group fitness class. It keeps you motivated and holds you accountable. From beginners to advanced, group classes are fun, effective workouts in a high energy atmosphere with like-minded individuals who will encourage and push you.

“Group fitness provides social and group support, and helps with long-term compliance,” says David DeCarlucci, a clinical exercise physiologist with St. Clair Hospital. “If someone is expecting you to be there, you’re more likely to attend. Also, intrinsic motivation—actual enjoyment of doing the activity—is more important than external rewards such as weight loss. Another benefit is instructors who ensure you’re maintaining proper form and technique.”

Before beginning any exercise program, DeCarlucci recommends talking with your physician, particularly if you are obese or have any form of cardiovascular, lung, or metabolic disease. You can also take the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q), a one-page self-assessment tool, to see if you should check with your doctor.

No matter your experience or fitness level, an injury slows your progress and momentum. Two common overuse injuries are plantar fasciitis—the symptom is typically heel pain—and shin splints, inflammation of the muscles on the front of your lower leg. One way to prevent these injuries is by wearing proper footwear. Footwear retailer Fleet Feet Sports in Norman Centre ll, offers educational clinics and seminars for walkers, runners and fitness enthusiasts.

“Don’t work through the pain,” says DeCarlucci. “If it’s not the footwear causing the discomfort, modify the activity or take a break until your inflammation improves. These injuries often improve if you catch them quickly. Safety is your responsibility so use common sense and work within your own means.”

Although there are a variety of group fitness programs in the area, the key is finding a class you enjoy and will return to, says DeCarlucci. “Exercise is generally safe. It’s more risky to be sedentary and not exercise than it is to be active.”

Some local classes are listed below. They accommodate all fitness levels and are available at local boutique fitness studios or gyms. Prices and membership fees vary.

Strength Training

Strength training classes are performed with weights, bands, machines, or your own body weight. This training increases your muscle mass, strengthens bones, decreases fat, and boosts metabolism.

At left: Crossfit. At right: TRX
At left: CrossFit. At right: TRX

CrossFit An intense fitness regimen, CrossFit builds strength and conditioning through challenging workouts such as plyometric jumps and Olympic lifts using kettle bells, sandbags, or suspension systems. Focusing on the whole body, the goal is to build a body capable of enduring any strenuous activity. CrossFit Mt. Lebanon, 427 Washington Road.

Boot Camp  is a high intensity training program combining vigorous cardio exercise with strength training. With drills designed to improve agility, speed, power, strength, and quickness, most boot camps push participants harder than they would push themselves. CrossFit Mt. Lebanon; Body Balance Personal Training Studio, 20 Cedar Boulevard; Training by Tami, 455 Cochran Road or Community & Recreation Center at Boyce Mayview Park.

TRX This total-body training system allows you to do a variety of exercises using your body weight. With core stabilizers, TRX builds your core, strength, balance, agility, and power. PHI Pilates Studio of Pittsburgh, 4158 Library Road.

Mind & Body

Mind & Body classes improve your flexibility, strength, and balance while enhancing your posture, coordination and mental focus.


Pilates is a form of mind-body conditioning focused on developing the core muscles of your body. It builds strength, flexibility, coordination, stability and good posture. PHI Pilates; Mt. Lebanon Recreation Center, 900 Cedar Boulevard; Simple Sol, 520 Washington Road; The Pilates Center of Pittsburgh, 1665 Washington Road; Touchstone Pilates, 250 Mt. Lebanon Blvd.

Yoga reduces stress levels and allows you to focus by using breath control, simple meditation and body postures. Not only does it enhance your balance and stability, but yoga leaves you feeling stronger and more centered. South Hills Power Yoga, 3045 West Liberty Avenue; Himalayan Institute of Pittsburgh , 300 Beverly Road; Bikram Yoga Mt. Lebanon, 704 Washington Road; Mt. Lebanon Recreation Center; Body Balance Personal Training Studio; or The Yoga Whole, 360 Broadmoor Ave.

Tai Chi Originally created for self defense, Tai Chi involves a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner and accompanied by deep breathing. Since it offers low impact and puts minimal stress on your muscles and joints, it is safe for all ages and fitness levels. JCC Pittsburgh South Hills, 345 Kane Boulevard.

Barre By using the ballet barre to perform small, low-impact isometric movements, this total body workout lifts your seat, tones your thighs, abs and arms. You can burn calories and gain lean muscle. Pure Barre Mt. Lebanon, 1612 Cochran Road or Training by Tami.

Dance Fitness

Dance fitness classes are fun ways to get aerobic exercise that burns calories to keep your weight under control.


Zumba  is a blend of Latin dance movement and an intense cardio workout. This workout incorporates interval training—alternating fast and slow rhythms—and resistance training to help you lose weight and increase muscle tone. Mt. Lebanon Recreation Center; Body Balance Personal Training Studio or Body Effort, 306 Beverly Rd.

Pole Fitness  improves cardiorespiratory endurance and flexibility by incorporating dance moves around and using a pole. This workout combines gymnastics moves, dance styles and strength holds for a full body workout. Class sizes are typically small which gives you a more individualized, intimate class experience with personalized instruction. Fullbody Fitness Club, 4070 Brownsville Road


Cardiovascular exercise accelerates your heart rate to improve your oxygen consumption. It can help you lose weight and build endurance so you remain active for longer periods of time.

At left: Spinning; at right: Water Aerobics
At left: Spinning; at right: Water Fitness

Spinning, a type of indoor cycling on specialized bikes, raises your heart rate and gives you a thorough cardio workout. This low impact exercise burns calories, builds muscle tones and increases your cardio endurance. Club Cycle, 300 Mt. Lebanon Blvd.; Healthtrax Fitness & Wellness, 1000 Higbee Drive in Bethel Park; Body Balance Personal Training Studio; Mecka Fitness, 439 Washington Rd. or Revolution Cycle, 1910 Cochran Rd.

Kickboxing  is a martial art that increases your agility and coordination through a combination of punches, jabs and kicks. Based on intense aerobic moves, kickboxing strengthens and sculpts your arms and legs while improving your aerobic fitness, speed, and flexibility. Warriors Fitness in Scott Township, 100 Roessler Road.


Aqua Fitness Aqua fitness gives you a no-impact cardio workout in shallow or deeper water, depending on the class. Classes combine strength training and cardiovascular conditioning to challenge your muscles and increase strength. Healthtrax or Mt. Lebanon Recreation Center.

Thanks to local fitness experts, Tom Duer and Holly Mascaro, and fitness boutique owner Melissa Dellovade for sharing their expertise for this story.