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I really love cardio exercise. There is something satisfying about leaving the gym or, better yet, finishing outdoor exercise drenched with sweat.

My love for cardio sometimes means that I neglect other very important parts of a fitness regimen, particularly strength training. While cardio is great, strength training defines your muscles and makes you stronger so you can perform your favorite cardio exercises better. In order for weight training to be most effective though, proper form is key.

It can be intimidating to walk into a weight room. Without hiring a personal trainer, it is difficult to know the best exercises, how many reps to do and how to set up the machines.

Fortunately, for cardio lovers like me, many gyms offer strength training classes.

“Group strength training is a great way to get started,” said Jessica Rhoads, group fitness director at Caine Halter and Verdae YMCA branches.

Their Group RX Rip classes combine strength and endurance training and change choreography quarterly to allow participants to increase weight. Many gyms offer similar classes.

I tried Body Pump at the Spartanburg YMCA and Group Power at 10 Star Fitness. I found that the fast pace of the classes kept my heart rate up, but the deliberate weighted exercises really targeted trouble spots. Be warned: There were a lot of squats and lunges.

The instructors gave instructions on form during the classes and helped me determine how much weight to put on the bar. Unlike traditional weight lifting, these classes rely on light weight and a lot of repetitions. In the beginning, the exercises felt easy, but by the end of each set, my muscles were burning. The next day, I could definitely feel the muscles I had worked.

The social aspect of the class was great, too. Having a friend in class definitely kept me on task. If you are intimidated by the weight room, find a class and start lifting!

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