Getting Involved in Group Exercise

In real life, I’m rather shy in new situations where I don’t know anyone. It always takes me some time to warm up, especially when everyone else seems to know one another. For that reason, I avoided group exercise classes for many years. Simply put, I was intimidated. I was intimidated by the fact that the classes seemed close knit and everyone knew everyone else. I was intimidated that everyone was experienced and I would be the beginner, off count and out of step. I thought I’d feel like a sore thumb, sticking out, obviously out of place.

But last year I donned my big girl panties and did the only thing I needed to do to fall in love with group exercise: I stepped into the classroom.

The first class I took, I took with my husband. It was a spin class at a local gym. The instructor asked if anyone was new before the class began and helped me set up my bike. Throughout the 60 minute class he made sure to call out modifications so I could easily tag loony even if I wasn’t ready to fully keep up yet. He made sure to never call me out though but spoke to the group as a whole. I left the class sore from being pushed in way I wouldn’t be able to push myself and energized by the communal atmosphere. And thus, my love for classes was born.

I know many people who feel as I did, intimidated and scared of the unknown. But honestly, group exercise classes are nothing to fear. Everyone was once the newbie and the fitness community has a strange way of banning together like a family by helping each other out. Fitness instructors are some of the most upbeat and inspiring people you’ll ever meet. Their job is to literally help you out. I’ve found that I love taking classes for a few reasons. On days when I’m not feeling the mojo, the community feel of the class pumps me up and energizes me. When I’d otherwise give up and wimp out, the instructor keeps me going. I’m pushed to try new exercises and moves just I wouldn’t otherwise try on my own. The time flies by and I almost always leave a sweaty mess with a giant grin on my face and a pep in my step.

I do recommend a few things for those who want to make their debut into group exercise or even a new-to-you class:

  1. Show up early. That way you have plenty of time before the class starts to ask the instructor or even other classmates what equipment you need, help setting up your station/bike, etc.
  2. Hang out in the middle/back of the room to start. You don’t want to be too far back where you can’t see the instructor but it’s always nice the first time or two that you take a class to have at least one other person in front of you to watch for cues. Odds are the instructor will be doing everything opposite you, as they’ll be facing the class and if you’re as uncoordinated as I am, you’ll want to copy someone facing the same way you are.
  3. Grab weights that are a little lighter than you’re used to. Especially if you’re not sure what moves to expect, you want to be able to complete all of them without hurting yourself. It’s better to get the moves down correctly and not be as challenged, at first, than to be struggling to keep up because your weight is too heavy. And if your weight is too heavy or too light, feel free to swap it out. Don’t be shy!
  4. Make friends and remember, everyone was once the new kid. I make it a point in new to me classes to ask the person near me if they’ve taken the class before. If so, I ask what I need and they’re almost always extremely helpful and friendly. Some will even help you during the class if they’re really experienced. Bonus: you make a new friend and when you’re a SAHM to two 2 and under, adult interaction is sorely needed. Sometimes I forget how to talk in anything other than toddlerese though.
  5. RELAX and have fun! This is YOUR workout. YOUR time. Enjoy it. That’s what it’s all about. Everyone is there to get their own workout in and despite the feeling like every time you mess up a move or get lost in a sequence, no one is staring at you. I promise.

My favorite classes that I highly recommend to newbies:

  1. Bodypump. My love for this class is fierce. I wouldn’t strength train if this class didn’t exist. A 60 minute class full of music that makes the time fly by and every inch of your body ache in the best possible way, the next day.
  2. Spin. Cycling is a great class for beginners. It’s low impact and you have your own bike. It doesn’t require any rhythm and no one can see you, especially since most classes are dimmed.
  3. Bootcamp. I just took this class for the first time last month and man, I’m sore in places I didn’t know you could be sore. So long, mom butt. I hate burpees with a passion but the class changes every week and incorporates different equipment I’d otherwise shy away from (I’m looking at you Bosu ball). Again, a great class that will challenge you in ways you wouldn’t challenge yourself.
  4. Kickboxing. Holy cardio killer. I used to take this class weekly before I got pregnant with Andrew and it literally killed me off, every week. It’s extremely fast paced and I was always out of step and off beat but still had fun and got a killer workout.

I’ve been taking classes regularly for over a year and a half now and I can say they’re an amazing part of my workout routine, especially on the days I don’t have the energy or desire to push myself. They’re the number one reason I own a gym membership at all. I always leave in a great mood, endorphins running high and ready to take on the rest of my day. Even with months of experience under my belt, I still am often out of step and off beat. I still mess up moves, forget a sequence and have to play around with my weight in bodypump. But the truth is, most everyone else messes up at some point too. Even the instructors do it. We’re human and we’re all there to do the same thing: have fun and sweat it out.

If you’ve been debating taking a class, had your eye on beginning group exercise or trying a new to you class, stop waiting and DO IT ALREADY. You won’t regret it and if you do, what’s 45-60 minutes in a lifetime?


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