Because themes are fun, here we honor Labor Day with a tribute to all working people with fun songs and theming ideas for your group fitness class.
I’m never one to turn down the opportunity to create a theme-based group fitness workout, so with Labor Day right around the corner it seemed like the perfect opportunity to have a little fun with theming and music selections.
As I was pondering how to incorporate the idea of Labor Day, work, and the need for work/life balance into my classes I wanted to see if I could manipulate different components of a group fitness class to allow for multiple different variations on the theme. In doing this, I found myself gravitating towards these 4 different components to apply theming to.
- Exercise Selection
- Programming Methods
Each one allows me to use the idea of Labor Day in a different manner. I will be able to go the entire month of September honoring Labor Day by making slight tweaks to my theme.
Before we dive into creating a group fitness class around the Labor Day holiday, let’s first take a look at what Labor Day is all about.
First, Let’s Think About Labor Day
For most, Labor Day marks the end of the summer season. Pools close. School kicks into full swing. And white is no longer a good fashion statement (see the ‘fun facts below to learn why this is)!
However, before we made the day about parties and sales, it was a day to honor and celebrate the working man.
Labor Day originated during the labor movement of the 19th century to pay tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. This was a period when the average American (including kids as young as 5-years-old) worked 12-hours a day, 7-days a week in factories, mines, and mills in order to make a living wage.
On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers decided enough was enough. They took unpaid time and marched from City Hall to Union Square in New York City in protest of poor working conditions and hours. This marked the first Labor Day Parade and the “workingmen’s holiday” celebration on the first Monday in September.
Labor Day officially became a national holiday in 1884 by President Grover Cleveland.
Use this history as an inspiration for your class.
What Does Labor Day Mean to You?
Before you jump into creating a Labor Day class, take a few moments to reflect on what the holiday means to you.
While it may sound silly, when you take a few minutes to dig deeper into the meaning of the holiday you will find some solid connections for your class plans.
- To me, Labor Day is about celebrating the balance between work and recovery. It’s about looking at life as a balance of effort and ease.
- It’s the idea that time away from work isn’t just about resting, but about finding balance in other aspects of our lives. When we find balance we have more time to spend with family or pursue different interests and hobbies.
- This is simply my thoughts behind Labor Day. It could have a very different meaning for you. Take the time to really brainstorm your definition.
Celebrate Labor Day in Group Fitness
Today, cities around the country still honor the day with parades, parties, and celebrations. So why not bring the celebration to your group fitness class?!
Once you’ve decided what Labor Day means to you, then you can pick 1 or 2 of the following ways to link that theme into your class design.
- (Music) Create a playlist
- (Exercise Selection) Match and build exercises to peak
- (Programming) Play with work:rest ratios
- (Coaching) Stories, quotes, trivia facts, etc.
If theming is new to you, start with the method that feels most natural for your teaching style. Over time, you’ll start to get a grasp on how and why creating a theme to your class is actually the easiest way to plan your class (and creates lasting experiences).
For now, here are tips on how to use the above 4 theming methods to create a great Labor Day inspired workout for your group fitness classes!
Tips for Creating a Labor Day Themed Group Fitness Class
It’s easy to brainstorm and come up with lots of different ideas, but the true art of a well-designed themed class is to have cohesion from start to finish. The following are simply suggestions for ways to incorporate the Labor Day theme into a group fitness class. Use what feels good to you, and ditch anything that doesn’t.
1. MUSIC | Create a Labor Day Playlist
Music is an epic part of any group fitness class – from cycle to bootcamp, and even yoga classes. It can inspire us to push harder and move easier. So why not use your Labor Day theme to create a playlist that fits the needs of your class?
When thinking about our theme of Labor Day, you can definitely start off with the obvious, songs about work. But you can also go deeper and find songs that speak to the ideas of…
- Work-life balance
- Spending time with family
- Living for the moment
Find song suggestions by looking at lyrics, song titles, and what artists stated as the meaning behind songs. The more you get to know the story behind the song or the lyrics, the more you can use them as connection points in class.
Here are our suggestions for songs but use your meaning of Labor Day to create a playlist you love!
*Important reminder: While we’re sharing Spotify playlists, don’t forget all the important music licensing laws surrounding rights to play music in group fitness classes.
Labor Day Song List | High Intensity Songs
These songs are more upbeat, have a stronger base, and will help pump your class up. They would be great on a playlist for a cycle, bootcamp, strength, or HIIT class.
Labor Day Song List | Low Intensity Songs
These songs are more melodic, have a slower tempo, and will allow for a calmer feel in your class. They would be great on a playlist for a yoga, pilates, or barre class. You could also easily fit these songs into a high intensity workout during a recovery period.
(Follow us on Spotify for more song suggestions).
2. EXERCISE SELECTION | Exercises for the Working Person
Exercise selection is super important for your group fitness class. It’s your opportunity to work participants in many different ways. So why not think about what the average American needs as part of their work days.
There are many different directions you could go when thinking about the needs of workers and the types of exercises we can do in classes. Here are a few suggestions.
Posture and Range of Motion
Let’s be real. Our posture sucks because most of us sit behind computers all day. Our shoulders are tight. Our neck alignment is insane. And our hips don’t move well. So why not use this as an opportunity to address our “corporate America posture” through dynamic postural exercises and range of motion work.
- Example 1: Dynamic shoulder mobility drill + isometric band scapular retraction pull
- Example 2: Resting position squat + sit to stand from a bench
While the majority of jobs these days are computer bound, there are still people who are on their feet and working their body in awkward positions. Honor these professions with exercises that highlight their needs.
- Example 1: Postal Worker who walks around a lot. Swinging your arms (getting opposition when doing lunges and step-ups)
- Example 2: Gardner who digs. Functional lunge (front leg forward while back leg turned out – as if you were going to shovel)
- Example 3: Wait staff at a restaurant carrying trays. Unilateral overhead carry
- Example 4: Bulder who crawls under houses into small spaces. Beast crawl forward & backward
To me balance exercises are the perfect example of effort and ease (my definition of Labor Day). They challenge our body to be uncomfortable through dynamic postures, while also making us quite our mind in moments of ease. The work comes in trying to maintain the posture, and the ease comes when we settle in and find the moment of balance.
- Example 1: Single-Leg Deadlift to Isometric SL Standing Shoulder Press
- Example 2: Single-Leg Bench Step-Up to SL hold with head movement
- For another example, check out the flow in this article about making a yogi out of everyone
3. PROGRAMMING | Play with Work:Rest Ratios
Work-to-rest ratios were the first thing to pop into my head when I was brainstorming a Labor Day inspired class. The concept of how hard you work to the amount of rest is perfectly analogous to our daily lives of time at work and time at home. Our days are either a sprint to finish, a slow and steady effort, or a time when you just have to get through to the end!
Take these ideas and apply them to your work:rest ratios in the following ways. (Before you dive in, use this article as a resource for creating scientifically sound intervals (based on NSCA guidelines)).
In for the long-haul = endurance
- Some days work just feels like it’s never going to stop…these are the days that we have to endure and push through it all. Connect to this idea with endurance work.
- Work efforts are going to be longer (but less intense) with short periods of recovery.
Sprint to the end = anaerobic
- You know those days when you have a ton to do and a short amount of time to do it – these are your sprint efforts. Use shorter sets of work with longer recovery times.
Just get through it = Tabata
- Then there are the days when you just have to get through it. This is how Tabata training feels!
- Use the standard protocol of 20 seconds on / 10 seconds off for 8 rounds. Challenge your participants by doing the exact same exercise for all 8-rounds. This will challenge their physical and mental strength to get through on those days when you just want it to be over!
4. COACHING | Build Connections to Labor Day
This is where the magic happens. When you can effortlessly connect the idea of Labor Day and your theme through your coaching the class becomes this powerful experience. Whether it’s through a good story, a strong quote, or a few fun facts, creating a solid script will ensure your theme comes through from beginning to end.
Stories to Share
Whether it’s the history of Labor Day or a personal connection you make to your first job, stories have a way of building rapport and creating strong connections with people. Don’t go overboard on personal stories, but maybe find an antidote to use that ties in with your work-to-rest ratio or the exercise you are doing.
Another powerful idea is to build connection with students by finding ways they could get to know each other through this theme. Example: Have individuals find a partner who works in the same field or had a similar first job.
Quotes to Inspire
Everyone loves a good motivational quote. Here are a few that inspired me and felt appropriate to my meaning of Labor Day.
- “Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” -H. Jackson Brown Jr.
- “Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls—family, health, friends, and integrity—are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.” –Gary Keller, real estate entrepreneur
Labor Day Fun Facts
Everyone loves a good random fact here or there. Use the holiday to share some little-known facts about our US history. I was amused by these but see if you can find more that inspires you.
- Oregon was the first to declare Labor Day an official holiday in 1887.
- Labor Day is considered the ‘unofficial NFL season kickoff.’ 99.44 percent of the time, the NFL plays its first official season game the Thursday after Labor Day.
- The first Waffle house opened on Labor Day. In 1955, in Avondale Estates, GA, the very first Waffle House opened its doors to the public.
- Historians say the expression “no white after Labor Day” comes from when the upper class would return from their summer vacations and stow away their lightweight, white summer clothes as they returned back to school and work.
Have fun with your Labor Day Class!
Using Labor Day as a source of inspiration can create a wealth of amazing classes. Head over to our Facebook group and share your Labor Day inspired class with everyone!
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BS: Exercise & Sports Science
NSCA: Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
ACSM: Certified Exercise Physiologist (EP-C)
Yoga Alliance: 200-hr RYT
ACE: Group Fitness Instructor
Balanced Body: Reformer Level 1 Coach
Schwinn: Indoor Cycle Instructor
RRCA: Running Coach