10 must-know things for your first exercise class
As a certified group fitness instructor, one of my biggest joys is welcoming a new person to the class. Typically, they arrive a little nervous and say something like, “I’m not sure if I can do this or not, but I heard it was good so I thought I’d try.” And then at the end, they leave beaming with a big smile — they were able to do it, and had a great time!
I absolutely love introducing new people to exercise and seeing the amazing improvements in their confidence, health, and fitness that go along with making it a regular part of their life.
Sure, you can work out solo. But most people just don’t do it on their own, or they aren’t sure what to do or how. That’s why group fitness is so popular.
There are many benefits of group fitness classes
- You’ll learn from a professional.
- With an endless variety of programs to choose from, you can try new and different things.
- It’s an appointment to work out, which keeps you motivated and on track.
- You’ll make new friends, and enjoy the support and energy of a community. For many, the social aspect is as beneficial as the physical.
- It’s fun!
Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your first class.
Know what to wear
Wear the right clothes and proper shoes for the particular class you’re doing. If unsure, ask an instructor or another participant ahead of time. Never wear flip-flops to an exercise class; this is more dangerous than being barefooted.
Gym temperatures can vary, so dress in layers. Moisture-wicking fabrics are better than cotton, which stays wet when you sweat. Bring hair elastics and a towel for a sweaty class.
See if you need to bring any gear
Do you need to bring your own yoga mat or weights? Check the class description or with the facility ahead of time so that you’re prepared.
Fuel up for energy
Don’t arrive on an empty — or overly full —stomach. Have a light, nutritious snack about 30 minutes before class to help power your workout; ideally a combination of carbohydrates and protein. This will help prevent feeling sluggish or lightheaded when you exercise. On the other hand, if you arrive stuffed from a large meal you could end up with stomach discomfort during your workout. Do what feels best for you.
If I could circle this one with a big red marker, I would! For your health, safety, and comfort, it’s very important to stay hydrated during your workout. Please, bring water.
In one hour of exercise, the body can lose more than a quart of water, depending on exercise intensity and air temperature. If there is not enough water for the body to cool itself through perspiration, the body enters a state of dehydration.
Learn exactly how much water you need when you exercise, in my blog post here.
Get there early
On your first day, arrive at class 10-15 minutes before the start time.
Arriving early gives you a chance to talk with the instructor, get familiar with the room, meet those around you, find a spot that isn’t already taken (regulars usually have their favorites staked out), and select your weights or other supplies needed.
I can’t stress enough how important this is! It’s a challenging situation when a new person comes in after class has already started, for both the participant and the instructor. At that point the instructor is already on mic at the front of the room, busy leading a large group in choreography. They are not able to just stop the music and everyone else’s workout in order to meet and properly assist someone new and unprepared who walks in late. It can be confusing or even unsafe for the late participant who certainly would have benefitted from the important pre-class instructions and demonstrations.
If it’s your first visit to the facility, plan on adding even more time. You’ll need to find parking, fill out paperwork at the front desk, sign a liability waiver, and get your pass card.
Tell the instructor you’re new
Don’t be shy or embarrassed — your instructor really wants to meet you and to chat one-on-one for a few moments before class. This is not to single you out or judge you in any way, but to help you safely get the most out of your class.
They may ask what your current level of exercise experience is, and if you have any health or physical concerns. This is in order to suggest modifications that will work for you. If they forget to ask, please be sure to let them know about any limitations; recent surgeries or injuries; and if you are diabetic, hypertensive, pregnant, or taking medications that could affect you physically.
Your instructor will also assist you in finding a spot, getting the gear you’ll need, provide an overview of what to expect in that day’s program, and answer any questions you may have.
Mute your phone and put it away
Not only is a ringing or texting phone disruptive to others, but it is also a distraction for you. Your class time is your “me” time. Guard that precious hour for yourself. If you must make a call, step out of the room.
It’s natural to be nervous at first
It can feel a little daunting to walk into a new class for the first time. But remember, everyone else there was new once, too. There’s no need to feel overly self-conscious. No one is watching you during class, except the instructor.
Go at your own pace
Do what you can, and modify movements where you need to. Don’t try to go too hard too soon. Listen to your body. Do what works for you at that moment. Take breaks if needed.
Pay attention to the instructor, not the mirror or the person in front of you. Listen closely to the instructions and guidance. Focus on learning the movement and on achieving proper form. That’s more important than how many reps you can do or how fast you are.
Resist the urge to compare yourself to others. Even the most experienced person there was once a beginner. Be patient, keep going, and you’ll be amazed at the progress you’ll make over time.
If it’s not for you, try a different class or instructor
It’s important to find a class you enjoy and feel that you are benefitting from, so that you will stick with it. And there’s no way to truly know if you’ll like it or not, until you try it. So, try all the classes you can.
Most gyms offer a wide variety of programming. Each class and instructor is unique. If the last class wasn’t for you, try a different one or another instructor. There truly is something for everybody!
Looking for ideas on some new things to try? See my post on “2020’s hottest fitness trends: Which is right for you?”