Zumba, Body Pump, group cycling, cardio kickboxing — these are just a few of the dozens of group fitness classes that have exploded in popularity over the last few years, and for good reason. They are incredible workouts. But if you're used to fitness being a solitary activity, or if you're just starting to make your way to the gym, you may be feeling pretty nervous about being in a class with more experienced people.
And that's OK! It's absolutely normal to feel apprehensive about your first group fitness class. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to ensure that your first time at a new class goes well and sets the stage for future visits. Here are six tips to help you hit the ground running at your new group fitness class.
1. Get there early and meet the instructor
If you're a total newbie to a particular class, it's important to get to the first session 15 to 20 minutes early. Chances are you'll have to fill out some forms, and if it's a popular class, spots will fill up quickly, so you'll want get there early to ensure you get a good spot.
It's also a good idea to introduce yourself to the instructor so he or she knows you're new to the class. Even in a smaller class, the instructor might not be able to get to everyone to give more individualized attention. Letting whoever is leading the class know that you're a rookie and might need some extra help will give you a better chance of getting off on the right foot.
2. Meet the advanced members
Every group class is going to have a few diehards who know every move and might as well be instructors themselves, and that can be intimidating for a first-timer. But as Fox News Health pointed out, these people may actually be a great asset to you as you learn.
The thing is, these super dedicated members likely remember what it was like to be starting from scratch. Rather than shut you out, most of them will be more than willing to give you some extra guidance.
"They'll take you in, show you where things are located, even cheer you on during the workout," celebrity trainer Astrid Swan told Fox News Health.
3. Eat before you go
Whether you're going into a beginners' class or something more advanced, you need to fuel up before you go. According to Daily Burn, one of the most common mistakes newcomers make when going to a group class is neglecting their nutrition.
"It makes me crazy when someone shows up to class and has to stop multiple times because they're feeling faint. It signals to me that they are not taking care of themselves," Marcy Modica, instructor at SLT NYC, a Pilates studio in New York City, told Daily Burn. "You can't move nonstop for an hour without fueling your body."
4. Ensure you have the right gear
Just like showing up to a university lecture without a pen and a notebook, it's hard to get the most out of a class when you don't have the right equipment. Many fitness classes require you to have at least some gear, whether it's a yoga mat, hand wraps or anything else needed to successfully do the workouts.
If you're not sure of what to bring, check the class's website for a FAQ section or email the instructor a few days in advance of the session.
"There is going to be some variation in the skill levels of the participants."
5. Pick the right class
Group classes are generally divided into different difficulties so that people can join one that's appropriate for their skills and fitness level. Before you select a class to join, be absolutely sure that it's one that matches your skill level, or you could end up with more frustration than results.
Glamour Magazine wrote that the best way to know if a class is right for you is to seek videos of similar sessions online. These will give you an up-close look at what you would be doing during the class and give you a better idea if it's something you can handle.
6. Understand that it's a process
In any group class, there is going to be some variation in the skill levels of the participants. It's easy to get impatient in the early going because you can't keep up with some of the other people or the instructor.
You have to go into the class knowing that it's designed to be hard and that you might not even be able to make it through the whole workout for your first few sessions. The people who look as though they're doing it effortlessly have likely been practicing for a long time.
It's bound to be an uphill climb, but the most important thing for your fitness and overall confidence is to keep going and not quit just because it's tough.
A group class is a rewarding experience if you go into it with the right mindset and prepare for what's in store. Not only will you get an amazing workout, you'll also forge common bonds with the other participants and be a part of a great social circle that pushes you to consistently improve.