So you want to give a group exercise class a go. There's no need to be scared or nervous about going for the first time. Read on for some tips that will ensure you get the most out of your first visit. I've instructed THOUSANDS of people through classes over the years and welcomed many a beginner to class. Here are some of the common mistakes people make for their first time.
1) Choose a class appropriate to your goals
Some routines are designed for fat loss. Others will get your heart and lungs fitter. There are classes to strengthen and tone your muscles. Some offer the chance to become more flexible and reduce your stress levels.
Do your homework and find a class that’s designed to deliver the results you’re looking for.
2) Wear suitable clothing and footwear
For the most part, you’re likely to be on your feet - running, jumping, squatting or even dancing your way to a fitter body. Wear a pair of comfortable shoes that offer adequate support and cushioning. Flip flops (thongs) and plimsolls may feel comfortable, but they're unlikely to allow you to complete the class safely.
Bear in mind some classes may be carried out in bare feet too. You might just want to make sure your nails and feet are clean if this is the case. Don't rush out for a pedicure and obsess about having immaculate feet - clean and tidy will do just fine. It’s generally best to wear loose fitting, comfortable workout gear that will allow you to move freely and comfortably.
3) Arrive early
Give yourself plenty of time to get to the venue and register for the class. Remember that there may be queues at reception, or you need to fill your drinks bottle etc. Nothing will spoil your first group fitness experience quicker than having to enter a room late once the music's on. If everyone’s already set up and moving, you want to be too!
4) Let the instructor know beforehand that you're new
Introduce yourself to the instructor and let them know this is your first time to the class. This allows them to keep an eye on you throughout the routine. They can offer you options and alternatives that you may want to look out for. A good instructor will let you know what to expect during the class and if you require any equipment. They might also ask about any illness, injuries or pre-existing medical conditions they might need to be aware of.
5) Choose your position carefully
Probably the most common mistake I see new people make is cramming themselves right at the back of the room, behind everyone else. Generally I find the best place to be is in the centre of the room. You'll be in direct line of sight with the instructor with people in front of, behind and at either side.
Throughout the class you should have a perfect view of the instructor. They should be able to see you to check you’re not going to hurt yourself. Another advantage is you'll always have another participant to follow. If there comes a point you need to turn and face a different direction, just follow the person in front.
6) Do you have what you need?
For most classes you’ll want to bring along a bottle of water and small sports towel. Bear in mind for some classes you may need to bring your own mat to lie on. Some classes may need specific exercise equipment but usually this will be advertised. A good gym and instructor will generally have spares you can borrow.
7) Give each class or instructor a few chances before deciding it’s not for you
If you don’t enjoy the class, it may be for any number of reasons. Before giving up completely, consider giving it another go to see if you enjoy it more the second time. Now you know what to expect, you might find your experience is different. Varying instructors teach with different styles and capabilities so consider attending a similar class taught by a different instructor. You might find you respond better to someone else’s instructions.
8) Accept your limitations
In your first time at any class, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to do all of the moves all of the time with perfect technique and form. Accept that others will have done the class before. Many might know the routine inside out and go to the class several times a week.
No matter how hard we try, our brains don’t generally operate at the same speed as our muscles. Accept that some parts of the class you may find difficult to follow. Other parts you may not be fit enough for yet and have to take an option or two. Finally, remember you’re only new the first time and things will get easier with continued practice.
9) Expect some soreness the next day
Any class worth your hard-earned cash will work your muscles to some degree. Bear in mind you’re asking them to do things and perform in positions you’ve probably never asked of them before. As a result, it’s inevitable you’ll experience some stiffness and soreness over the next few days. This is normal and all part of getting fitter and healthier. It's just a sign that your body is having to work differently. It will have to adapt to get fitter and stronger.
10) Bring a buddy
If you don’t feel comfortable going to a new class on your own, consider asking a friend to go with you. A family member or work colleague might also have been considering going? Aim to pick someone who will be supportive and is of a similar fitness level to you. Most importantly, ensure they can be relied upon to turn up!