The top 5 things to do when you are new to group fitness classes

New Gym Fitness Health

The top 5 things to do when you are new to group fitness classes

So you have joined a new gym and are thinking of participating in your first group fitness class – congratulations. Group fitness is one of the best and most fun ways to get in shape, lose weight or build up your muscles. I remember my first group fitness class around 20 years ago – it opened my eyes to a new world of fitness and fun with my fellow members – a lot who have become life long friends.

But it can be a bit scary and intimidating as well – you don’t know what to do or what to expect, everyone else seems an expert and the last thing you want is to be embarrassed in front of a group of strangers.

So here are my top 5 personal and practical things to do when you want to join a fitness class for the first time.

1. Arrive 10 to 15 minutes early to the class

Now this is my number 1 pet hate – when a new person rocks up right when I am about to start or worse late to the class – especially when it involves equipment.

Not only is this disruptive to the class and to everyone else who has turned up on time but now I don’t have time to go though what weights you should be using or how high your bike seat should be. I may have to start the class late or get off the stage to set you up (and trust me, the other members who did make it on time are not too impressed).

Often if you arrive after the class has started, I won’t let you in at all and though you may be disappointed and a bit upset, this is for your safety – and that is the number one priority for any instructor. So please treat coming to a new class like a job interview – arrive early so you are better prepared and have a more enjoyable and safe experience.

2. Tell the instructor you are new

Before every class I will always ask either is anyone new or how many people are new.

Always let the instructor know it is your first time. It is critical the instructor knows this so they can firstly tell you what to expect and can screen for any injuries. I can ask about your background and how much experience you have and then I know how to set you up properly.

Trust me, I have been in this game a long time and I can spot a newbie within 30 seconds of them entering the room. When I see you get on a bike and start peddling with your knees around your ears or when you don’t use clips to keep your weights in place on a bar, it is a safe bet your are new. Again don’t be afraid to come and chat to us as us instructors are a friendly bunch (plus I still remember my first time and know what you are going through).

3. Get to the front

I know it is hard enough to turn up to a class for the first time, you already feel nervous, apprehensive and think that everyone is staring at you. And this is why nine times out of ten a new person sets up as far away from me as possible (I start to wonder if I should use stronger deodorant).

I recently did a Pilates Reformer class and I was exactly the same – I wanted to go right to the back as I didn’t want to make an idiot of myself in front of everyone.

But trust me, it is really important you get up close and personal with the instructor.

First it means you can see me and what I am doing. And more importantly, the instructor can see you and it makes it a lot easier to correct your form or tell you if you are doing something not quite right. If I have to come off the stage, I don’t have to go very far either.

Plus there are usually mirrors at the front and let me tell you, what you think you are doing and what you are actually doing can be very different. Like me with dancing, I think I look cool and then I take a glance of my moves and I decide then and there it is time to leave the time floor so not to scare anyone else with my Elaine Benis moves.

And let me give you an insider’s tip – no one is looking at you. Half the time members are not even looking at me – they are too busy focusing on their own form and workout to take notice of anyone else in the room.

4. Listen to the instructor

OK if you are new to my Pump class, I am going to ask you to go light in your weights as you need to get your form and posture right before you go too heavy and possibly hurt yourself.

So what on earth possessed one gentleman to decide to double whatever weights I was using for every track because “you know I train with weights so I know exactly what I am doing”.  Imagine his shock when he discovered that we were going longer than 30 seconds in every track, there were hardly any breaks and it is not the same as pumping iron out on the gym floor (even though I had already explained this beforehand to him).

When you do a cycle class, go a bit easy and get used to what indoor cycling is like, get a feel of the resistance, pedal strokes and the different positions.

Otherwise you may end up like one lady in an RPM class I took who as soon as the class was over, went into a corner, curled up in the foetal position and didn’t move for about 20 minutes.

Don’t ever feel like you need to keep up with everyone else – take a break anytime you need it. You need to focus on the most important person in the room and that’s you. You have to get the basics right such as correct form and perfect posture right first before you add the intensity. And always check your ego at the door and listen to your body, it will tell you what to do.

5. Give it a chance

Look like most things in life, the first time is always the hardest but it is important you give any class a decent go. Try the class more than once. Just like it takes time to to settle into a new job, it does take time to get a feel for the class and used to the moves. A class usually grows on you with time – as you get more confident and more proficient with the moves, you will start to enjoy the class more too.

And please don’t leave after only 5 minutes or so – stay for the whole class so you experience the full benefits of the class as well as completing the stretch which is so important to minimise stiffness, soreness and prevent any chance of injury. Sometimes us instructors are a little sensitive and we wonder if we did or said anything wrong when you leave the class before it ends.

And as a final note, never be afraid to ask the instructor any questions you may have. After the class, I always try and catch the first timers before they run away as I want to know how they found it, what their thoughts were and if they had any questions. This is really important because well the first time is hard and I really care about what you think and how you found it. After all, I would love for you to come back as I promise, the next time will be a little easier and not so scary.