3. Your exercise program will be designed by experts.
Even if you’ve been working out for a while, you can benefit from a program designed by experts. And if you’re new to working out, walking into a gym filled with flashing cardio machines and heavy-looking doo-dads can be quite intimidating. But a class will be designed with a specific workout goal in mind to be accomplished within a specific timeframe (no need to dedicate more than 30-60 minutes to get in a great workout). The instructor will show you what equipment you need, how to use it, and offer technique cues during the class.
Think about this: if a class doesn’t deliver a fun experience and actual results, people will stop coming. So the class will be designed to deliver. A fitness instructor will at least have a certification in the program that they teach and will often have a personal training certification and years of experience. Take advantage of the expertise offered in classes! Oh, and if you do find yourself in a class where you feel the instructor is unqualified or unsafe, don’t feel obligated to stick around.
4. You seriously do not need to be fit before you walk in for the first time.
You’d be surprised how many people in group exercise classes were once nervous first-time exercisers. Everyone has a story, so don’t be afraid to start yours! Most classes are designed so that the exerciser can work at their pace, and no one will think anything of it if you take breaks or even leave early. For your first class, be sure to arrive a few minutes early to introduce yourself to the instructor. They will give you an overview of the class and help you get set up. You can ask any questions and share any concerns about injuries you have or modifications you may need.
If you’re nervous, let the instructor know that you plan to try out only part of the class to start (that’s completely okay). After a quick chat with the instructor or some other participants, you’ll feel welcomed and more confident. Remember that the purpose of the class is to help you get fitter; it’s not your job to get fit before taking the class. If you aren’t welcomed by the instructor or get a bad vibe, go ahead and walk on out.
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5. You will be challenged! (In the best way).
If you’re working out or thinking about doing so, you likely want to be more fit, gain muscle, lose weight, or just feel great. You can achieve that on your own, but people have a natural tendency to do the same thing over and over. Doing the same workout on the elliptical each time will not only be boring, but eventually your body will become more efficient and burn fewer calories. In order to gain fitness and make real progress toward your goals, you have to keep yourself challenged. Group classes offer new challenges that you can conquer each week or even each day, and as you crush each one, you’ll feel like you’ve achieved something great and look forward to the next class.
And let’s be honest—there will be some positive peer pressure going on. It’s true that most classes are designed to help you to go at your own pace, but having someone next to you, even if they say nothing, sparks a sense of challenge even in the most uncompetitive person. And everyone working together is incredibly powerful and motivating. If someone next to you is working hard to succeed, you’ll be prone to do the same. It’s the positive side of group mentality!
6. You will make friends.
Who couldn’t use a few more friends? The group mentality is strong when you’re all overcoming challenges together, and you’ll build camaraderie even before you start to know people’s names. And it’s not hard to strike up conversations after class. A simple, “What did you think of that new move?” or, “My buns will be sore tomorrow!” can start an affirming conversation with the fitness buddy you didn’t even know you needed.
Usually it takes several weeks to form a habit, and it may take you a few classes to get your bearings. I strongly recommend trying a class at least two or three times before writing it off. If you’ve given it a chance and you’re still not into it, by all means keep looking. There are classes designed for everyone, and you should have a mix of cardiovascular, resistance, and flexibility training in your workout routine. Some classes offer a little of each while others focus on just one aspect, so be sure that you aren’t putting 100% of your fitness eggs into one basket.
It will serve you well to arrive just a bit early to your first class so that you can introduce yourself to the instructor and/or other participants, and even if you’re not ready for the front row, find a spot where you have a clear view of the instructor so that you can see the movements. And finally, remember that it’s your workout. Breaks are allowed. Leaving early is allowed. Groaning, cheering, huffing, puffing, and exclamations (family-friendly) are all allowed!