I first started teaching group fitness back 1996. Since that time I’ve taught pretty much every kind of group fitness class there is, including step, spin, yoga, pilates, kickboxing, sculpting, toning, abs and more. Yes I’ve pretty much seen all the trends come, and go. Plus I’ve seen come back around… rebounders and slides anyone?
6 tips for your first group fitness class
January is the busiest time of year for gyms and if you are starting back at the gym this January you might be thinking about trying a group fitness class. So I thought I’d share 6 tips for those of you venturing to a group fitness class for the first time. It’s also a great reminder for class regulars to remember that first class, and the jitters on entering the fitness studio. It can be pretty intimidating for a newbie. So if you are a regular, introduce yourself and make a new friend.
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Check the schedule
Some classes simply aren’t suitable for beginners. At this time of year most gyms put on extra classes but make sure the level is appropriate for your fitness level. This is especially important for “choreographed” classes like step or zumba. A good rule of thumb is that if the schedule doesn’t say what level the class is aimed at then its suitable for ALL levels. However if you aren’t sure, ask! Any qualified instructor should be able to offer modifications for beginners, but there are a few specific classes on gym scheduled specifically aimed at those people with higher fitness levels. So make sure you choose an appropriate class.
Things to take:
- Water! Get a reusable bottle to refill. Most gyms have water fountains so if you run out during class you can quickly pop out and refill. The trick too is remember to hydrate throughout the class. Also remember if you are working out longer than 60 minutes then use an electrolyte replacement.
- Towel – Some gyms provide them but I advise taking your own. Not a necessity, but you may find it easier than wiping sweat off with the bottom of your t-shirt. Or worse, dripping sweat all over the floor.
- Workout clothes – double check you have everything, and sneakers! Plus if you are showering at the gym then check you have all your post-workout clothes too! Double check ahead of time if you need to take toiletries and towels also, or does the gym provide them.
- Hair ties/headband. As a group fitness instructor I keep a few hair ties in my bag for class participants. Keep a few extra in your gym bag. They come in handy. Alternatively wrap a couple around your water bottle, then they are on hand.
- Enthusiasm and a smile. Make it fun, bring it to the next level!
This should go for ANY participant but is especially important for beginners. If you are new to group fitness (or any gym) arrive early. It’s good etiquette but this gives you an opportunity to explore before class. During this time you can look round at the gym, find the lockers (do you need a lock or $), use the bathroom, grab a water etc. Arriving early is also is important for the next point below:
Not talking about a big song and dance here, but say hello to the instructor and inform them of any health issues or injuries you may have. A good instructor will see new faces and ask, but if you have certain health issues it’s good to take those moments before a class and say hi. This is so that if the instructor offers a modification later in the class, she may make eye contact with you and say “this is your modification” for XYZ injuries or health issues. Plus the instructor can keep an eye on you throughout class, check you are performing the exercises correctly and advise you on other classes that you might find interesting.
Don’t stand at the back
I know, trust me I know, beginners feel ‘safe’ at the back. Really though the back isn’t the best place for beginners to go! Firstly you are new. The instructor will want to keep an eye on you so she can offer modifications, and check you aren’t overdoing it your first time. It’s also harder to see what the instructor is doing if you are languishing in the back. You paid for the instruction and if you stand at the back unable to see anything then you aren’t getting value for money! I understand the front is intimidating, but if you really can’t be at the front at least go somewhere in the middle. Chances are if the instructor is like me, you’ll end up at the front at some point.
Do the modifications!
If you are struggling there is no defeat in adapting to the lower intensity/impact modifications. If you go balls to the wall on the first class I guarantee you’ll hate it the next day and the desire to return will decrease. Make it fun, and workout but for beginners too much too soon is a common mistake. Go slow and finish the class. You can increase the movement and intensity the next class!
Take these tips to heart, and you should be set for a fun group fitness class!
Remember to share any other tips you have for class beginners in the comments 🙂