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Charles Allen: Group training isn't always what's best for the individual

Charles Allen wants people to think carefully about how they plan to make progress with their running. Picture: Mark Hewlett

Charles Allen wants people to think carefully about how they plan to make progress with their running. Picture: Mark Hewlett

© 2013 Mark Hewlett

Are you getting results or just kidding yourself?

Is your training and your lifestyle really bringing you the results you want?

As we are all different just how much of that is designed or specific to your goals?

Perhaps attending classes and groups for everyone in fact means you miss hitting the exact levels you need to gain from the experience.

Often exercise classes such a yoga, pilates, aerobics and muscle conditioning often will have many movements in the class which are not specific to a runner's needs but more for general fitness and application to health.

Yes, group exercises can be and so often is brilliant fun. I will never say it doesn't have a place in training. Whether it be for motivation or the ability to share practice there are so many benefits, but we have to ask ourselves when going to the next level whether training with the same group will only limit us. Results and reviews will tell you this, if you have consistency in improvements why change, but if you are noticing a failure to move to your desired goal then it is probably time to take stock of your actions and amend them to ensure success.

We recently stopped our group exercise muscle conditioning class. Summer is a great time to get outside, we use this time now to redesign the format. What was our aim? Our aim was to provide a class which is going to be an education as well as an exercise session.

It will teach people ways to assess what is best for them and also help them understand the true reasoning behind the movement limitations they may be finding holds them back.

When we start up again on September 4 we will be able to deliver a group class session confident that each person's individual needs are answered.

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It will also have more of a workshop feel so people understand why we are doing the exercise thus allow us to have more informed discussion within the group.

I have been wrestling with the fact that one person's pelvis might be suited to an exercise whereas another person may in fact be compensating. This extra stress in the incorrect places can often increase risk of further injury in the future.

I am not saying group exercise is unsafe - far from it.

If you are going to have an incident it is always better for an individual that other members of the public and a class instructor are at hand to assist, it is more asking the question is this testing your body at the right level for you?

How can we be sure and test this? Well, it is like most things. You have to review the current practice you are following and see if reducing the number of group sessions and replacing them with individually governed sessions has an effect on your gains.

Hire a PT or coach. These guys are professionally trained to help you find your balance. Most of the group exercise classes you go to the instructor with have the qualifications to monitor you one-to-one.

It might be a good place to start by discussing this with your current exercise providers. Many will be able to give you an extra level of service and combine it with group exercise to find the ratio which ensure you go from strength to strength.

Educate yourself. The internet is awash with information. Okay, not all of this is great but I am often encouraging my clients to educate themselves. Hey, they don't want me in their life forever.

I want them to feel the urge to explore their own path, we not only train the body, the mindset of the individual needs to understand the importance of bedding down specific training principles which will ensure ongoing success without the coach.

Happy running and remember it is not always about how much we do but how we do it.

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