For some, the idea of trying a new gym or studio can be terrifying. While I thrive in this type of environment, I completely understand how the wall-to-wall mirrors, sea of spandex, and typical gym crowd can be intimidating.
The best advice I have ever received in regards to trying something new is to remember that even the experts started somewhere. They all had their first group fitness class experience just like you, and they didn’t go into it knowing what they were doing!
Since I love trying out boutique fitness studios and gyms on the regular, I thought I would share a handful of things that I’ve learned along the way.
Below are tips to take to your first group fitness class and how to handle the uncertainties. If you’ve been weary of trying something new, I hope this helps you gets past the nervousness and into the studio!
• do some research and sign up online
If you are planning on attending a popular studio, especially during peak workout times (early morning, lunch, or after work), you might want to sign up for at least a single class online. Most studios use MindBodyOnline, and it’s pretty easy to find a link to register for an account and then a class to sign up for when you access the studio’s website.
If you’re not sure what to wear, bring, or expect, give the studio a call and ask for general information. It’s also helpful to skim Yelp reviews and read advice from other first-time visitors.
• arrive early
It’s extremely stressful when you’re running late to a new fitness class. It’s best to plan to arrive 15 minutes early and allow extra time to be able to find the gym, a parking spot, and sign a waiver/paperwork. If it is your first time visiting the gym or studio, you will most likely get a tour of the facility from a staff member, and you never know how long the line for the restroom will be in between classes.
I feel so calm when I am early and in my spot waiting for a group fitness class to begin.
I take the extra time to stretch, unplug from the day, and focus my mind on what is happening in the room.
• let the instructor know that you’re new to class
Most (good) instructors will make sure that they introduce themselves to anyone new, and they should also ask if there are any injuries you’re working through. If there’s enough time, they’ll give you a quick run down of what you’re in for along with equipment and weight suggestions.
• start light and select a variety of weights
Some classes require you to get your own equipment to your station before it begins. You can take cues from what people around you are grabbing, but it’s always best to ask the instructor what they recommend you start with.
It’s perfectly fine to start light and bump up your weight if the exercise set is too easy. It’s also a good idea to place a variety of weights at your station, if there is enough equipment to go around.
• pay attention to your form
It might take awhile to get into the swing of things, so a great place to start is by watching the instructor or other people who look like they know what they are doing if the instructor is walking around. Make sure to listen for form tips and cues throughout the exercises, and stand in a spot where you can see yourself in the mirror.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are unsure about a position or exercise.
• have fun, but don’t talk to the point of distraction
It’s fun to work out out with friends, and I have been known to crack a joke here and there when I take classes with them, but please don’t talk often (and especially loudly) during class. Not only will you miss out on what the instructor is telling you, but you could also be a major distraction to someone else.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been frustrated at people laughing or talking in an inappropriate way during a yoga or barre class. I like to enjoy myself too, but when you’re trying to hold a balance or work hard on your concentration to complete an exercise, it can affect the entire class experience of those around you. You don’t want to be that person.
• take breaks when you need to, and do what you can
I always tell clients to try their best, but modify and rest when needed. If it is your first time taking this style of class, it probably isn’t going to come easy … at least right away. Most of the people around you have been taking a lot longer than you, so they are expected to hold movements longer, challenge their balance, and up their weights.
You will build up an endurance for that style of workout before you know it! Until then, listen to your body and just do what you can.
• come hydrated and bring your own water
While some gyms provide water fountains, or even water bottles, not all of them do. Come prepared with your own (full) water bottle and maybe even your own sweat towel, just in case.
Again, sometimes these workout must-haves are provided, but the last thing you want to do during your first class is to leave in the middle of it in search of a hydration station.
Since we’re on the subject of water, make sure you drink enough of it to get you through your workout feeling energized. I always encourage my clients to drink at least half of their bodyweight in ounces of water (example: if you weigh 150 pounds, aim for at least 75 daily ounces) per day, on top of hydrating before, during, and after exercise. Check out some of my easy tips on staying hydrated for more info!
• don’t forget that this is your first time
Give yourself some slack! It can be discouraging to see what seems like everyone knowing exactly what they are doing except for you. It’s important to remember that everyone there had their first class at some point, too. And, I would guess that it took most of them at least a few attempts to get the hang of things.
(I felt completely out of my comfort zone during my first BODYPUMP class, but I pushed myself to keep up with the weight and movement changes!)
Just like anything else, the more you take class, the more you will feel comfortable with the workout program and exercises. You’ll begin to see improvements and catch on to more and more every time you go.
I hope these tips help those who are reluctant to try something new, and maybe even give a push in the right direction to get out there and do it!
I’d love to hear suggestions for first-timers from you, too.
Questions of the Day
• What advice can you give to someone who is nervous to try a new style of workout?
• What is your favorite group fitness class, and how long did it take you to get the hang of it?
Happy Hump Day!