03/03/2013 09:47 am ET Updated May 03, 2013

Your Group Fitness Checklist

I am a big believer in the power of group fitness. Whether it's the energy of hundreds of yogis sweating together at an outdoor festival or a group of 40 spinners rocking out to Kanye remixes, group fitness inspires healthy camaraderie and shines a bright light on the world of wellness.

People working hard together to better their minds and bodies can be incredible, but with this great potential comes great responsibility. If that responsibility is taken lightly, injuries of both the body and mind can occur. And no one wants a pulled back or to feel intimidated in class.

Imagine you enroll in a course at a local university. Whether you need the course for credit or simply have interest in the subject, the expectations are the same: an environment conducive to learning, a teacher who checks class comprehension, and lessons that promote understanding rather than rote memorization. These same expectations should apply to group fitness. You have the right to safety, understanding and effectiveness. Based on my experience as a fitness instructor and group class-goer, below are a couple checklists that outline my personal and professional expectations for both a class and its instructor.

Instructor Checklist/Your Instructor Should:

  • Know your injuries, exercise history, and goals
  • Look at the people in the room, not themselves
  • Give detailed, bite-sized instructions
  • Make verbal or, preferably, hands-on adjustments
  • Modify exercises that are too advanced (or not advanced enough)

I'd venture to say that you wouldn't want your university teacher to be oblivious to different learning styles and to stare at the chalkboard the whole class. By the same token, an instructor who knows nothing about you and stares at themselves in the mirror is not going to be able to help you improve.

If you're choosing to spend your money and time with a teacher, make sure you learn. Instructors should break down exercises and explain where you should feel them. If you still have confusion, talk to them about it before or after class. As opposed to mindlessly following the movements of your instructor, the goal of a fitness class should be to learn how to truly engage your muscles and tap into your mind/body connection.

But it's not that easy -- you have a checklist, too. Just as there are things you might make sure to do the day of a presentation or on a day you are traveling, there are things you can do to prepare yourself for a successful group fitness class.

Prepare Yourself:

  • Come a couple of minutes early to class.
  • Make sure you are hydrated and have had something small to eat.
  • Let go. Leave personal and professional worries at the door.
  • Bring your attention to your posture, breath, and feeling of presence.
  • Set short-term goals -- e.g., "I will do 10 pushups in a row." "During the next 15 minutes, I will fully engage my mind and body." "Today, I will focus on my abs."
  • Realize that the toughest part of exercise is during a plateau, but that it is also the most important time for improvement.

Bottom line -- taking a fitness class can put your body and mind in a vulnerable space, you should set yourself up for success and own up to clear goals and expectations for both yourself and your teacher.

When you do, you will feel such a sense of strength, freedom, confidence and accomplishment as you relish in the right, smart group environment.

So there it is, something else to remember on your emotional diet for 2013 -- keep your group fitness class emotionally light and physically effective. And, get brownie points by manifesting your one word into your fitness plan!

For more by Rupa Mehta, click here.

For more on fitness and exercise, click here.