The “Goldilocks” Workout: Small Group Classes

Posted on March 5, 2024

The Goldilocks Workout: How the unique personal and social benefits of small group exercise hits the sweet spot between privates and group workouts

It’s the perfect blend of ‘not too little, not too much’, just like the fairy tale character prefers it.

We are talking about the Goldilocks Rule, which states people experience peak motivation when working on tasks with the right level of resistance, challenge, and complication. In other words: if you take on new tasks that are too easy or too hard, that’s when motivation, focus, and consistency fall apart.

As long-time Classical Pilates professionals, we at Flex have often found that small group classes are the perfect example of the Goldilocks Rule in action, increasingly seen as the perfect balance between a group/social dynamic, financial output, and personalized support.

“There is nothing better during any exercise class than a trainer who is well versed in any current or previous injuries, physical limitations and personal goals,” says Flex Founder Heather Thomas.

“Some people may put up their hand and explain briefly in a large group class what they have going on, but for many, this can also feel like we’re taking up other’s precious class time, over or understating an issue, or not want to speak in a large group setting. Not speaking out, though, can lead to injury because the trainer can’t give a personalized effort to every member of a large group.

“This is where smaller group classes can tick a lot of boxes for both trainer and trainee.”

Flex Singapore client and former dancer Gail Mae Ferguson is a keen Pilates practitioner who has seen huge benefits from private classes.

“I prefer private sessions and small group classes because I can work on specific issues that I need to address for my particular body, strengthening areas that are weak or injured,” says Gail.

“My Pilates practice has progressed a lot and I’ve gained muscle strength. Heather is an exceptional teacher who has helped me correct imbalances and bad habits from years of dance.”

The social network

But if paying for private sessions is out of reach, it may come as no surprise that – increasingly – small group training is being considered a more cost-effective way to experience the benefits of close access to a professional, therefore gaining the most from your work outs.

“As well as being more financially attractive,” Heather adds, “smaller group sessions are proven to act like a motivational glue – a combination of social interactions forged during the process, personal goals being reached together and the shared obligation of adhering to a schedule, one from which you gain on both a physical and mental level.”

And in a post-Covid world, a recent survey by mindbody found that 89 per cent of Singaporeans preferred to schedule appointments to limit the number of people in the business, while 83 per cent said it was important there was a physical layout that facilitated social distancing, meaning smaller class sizes are definitely in demand.

Let’s also not forget about your body’s unique needs. In a small group setting, professionally trained instructors such as those at Flex always ensure they know the most appropriate modifications to help you stay motivated without pushing too hard and then progress to the next level.

This concept is not just anecdotal. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning reported that small group workouts – while a recent innovation, and relatively uncommon in the personal fitness industry – are the way to go.

“Our results provide some preliminary evidence that providing tailored personal exercise plans in a small group setting provides a context for social ties, and may positively impact adults’ commitment to exercise,” said Heidi A Wayment, from Northern Arizona University’s department of psychological sciences.

“Specifically, we suggest that trainers consider implementing exercise programs and protocols that not only address individualistic goals (level of fitness, mastery, and competence, self-efficacy) but also social ones, such as the need for relatedness and human connection.”

According to the study, small groups can be anywhere from six to twelve participants, but Flex Studio whittles that number down to three or four participants (trios or quartets) to get the session as close to private training as possible.

Virtual workouts to small group workouts

Other research surveyed participants in their forties and early fifties, who reported greater energy and health, and were less likely to endorse self-image goals as a motivation for working out. According to Andrea Murillo, Classical Pilates instructor at Flex HK, her clients are more motivated to exercise and reported better health and energy individually.

“During Covid people had to work out alone at home,” says Andrea, who previously taught large classes at F45 with up to 26 students per class. “My clients tell me it’s a much more comfortable transition from solo exercise to training in threes and fours than jumping to a class of twenty or more people, which can be overwhelming. It’s definitely motivating to be with a trainer and a few others, and I see that they enjoy sharing the experience in a more intimate setting.”

How to make it work for you

Not sure where to start? Flex always recommends starting with an assessment, in which your personal trainer recommends a programme. You can then figure out which classes you should sign up for, the ideal frequency being two to three times a week to quickly but safely get results.

Flex Studio offers Group Pilates classes unlike any other – train with only 3 or 4 people in class and leapfrog your practice. At Flex, each client receives personalized attention from certified instructors of the highest calibre. 

Interested? Book your session now

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