Mary Bauer of Fitness Connection for Women uses kettlebells. photo by Julie Ridge

Perhaps your exercise regimen has grown as stale as yesterday’s croissant. (You know, the one you ate anyway?) Or maybe you’re considering an exercise class, but you don’t know where to begin. The secret, according to local fitness experts, is to find a class that you actually enjoy, taught by professionals who understand your goals and have the expertise to keep you motivated and safe.

The most popular classes combine strength training with a cardiovascular workout, says Joe Olivastro, owner of J.O.E. Exercise Studio. “Look for a class that provides an entire body workout, with personal attention to your fitness level,” he advises. “Overall conditioning will improve your performance at your favorite sport or any physical demands you encounter everyday.” One of the most popular classes at his studio, says Olivastro, is called ‘J.O.E.’ “It’s a fusion of body isolation exercise, functional movement and strength work, utilizing just your own body weight. J.O.E. is designed to accommodate people of different fitness levels in the same class, while providing a workout that is challenging, safe and effective for everyone.” While learning proper technique and alignment is critical, Olivastro emphasizes that the movements are not difficult to follow. “This is not a class made up of choreographed routines but rather presented in an easy-to-follow, logical sequence. It’s great cross-training for almost any sport.”

Proper technique is particularly important if you are incorporating new equipment into your routine, says Mary Bauer of Fitness Connection for Women. “Everyone wants to try kettlebells because the results are so incredible, but no one at our facility is permitted to even pick one up until they’ve taken Kettlebell 101,” she says. “The kettlebell workout, a longtime training tool of the Russian army, is a form of ‘functional training’ that is changing the fitness industry, according to Bauer. “Sitting at a machine or doing repetitive movements with free weights does not have a practical application. In real life, we’re always moving, and that’s the philosophy behind functional training. It works the core and the other muscles, so you grow stronger very quickly.” In addition to the kettlebells, Bauer also recommends TRX suspension training. Developed by a Navy SEAL, TRX utilizes a system of ropes that relieves joint pressure during exercise. “It’s ideal for obese individuals, especially those with bad knees who can’t do traditional weight-bearing exercises.”

If you’re looking for a workout that emphasizes the fun, consider the fast-paced Latin rhythm of zumba. “It’s almost impossible to come to a zumba class and not feel joy,” says Maria Rivera, a certified instructor at St. Anthony’s Medical Center.

“The music is so uplifting! No one notices how hard they are working, because they are having such a good time.” Rivera, who was certified in Puerto Rico by zumba creator Alberto ‘Beto’ Perez, explains that a zumba workout incorporate four basic rhythms: merengue, salsa, cumbia and reggaeton. “But my classes are not tightly choreographed. I grew up with these rhythms and I encourage people to just respond intuitively to the music, without being concerned if they are ‘doing it right.’”

Choreography is often an important element of Turbo Kick® , a popular class at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) that combines kickboxing and dance moves set to high-energy music.

“Turbo Kick® classes can have a martial arts or a dance emphasis, depending on who’s teaching,” explains James Pedersen, JCC director of fitness. “Our instructor takes a very rhythmic approach.” The aquatic version is especially popular with older adults, says Pedersen, because it’s a low-impact cardiovascular workout that also improves balance and strength.

Improved balance is the focus of ‘Beaming,’ another JCC class with fans of all ages, adds Pedersen. “The equipment looks like a traditional balance beam, but it’s only a few inches off the ground, so there’s no fear of falling. The workout integrates upper body carriage with lower body gait while working the core muscles—a great whole-body workout.”