Tips for New Group Exercise Participants

Exercise shoppers!  Here are some tips to bring you a successful exercise class experience:

Research in Advance:  Just like buying a car, you don’t want to drive one off the lot with no outside information.  Research class prices and locations by asking friends and coworkers for recommendations.  Read up on various exercises techniques and styles online to help you prepare and find a certified instructor.

Call Ahead:  Often popular classes have waiting lists; call the gym's front desk to ask about advance sign ups.  Also inquire where you can put your belongings during class, if you can bring in a water bottle, the appropriate clothing and if you wear shoes (Zumba/NIA/Yoga), how soon you should arrive before class, and any special concerns such as jumping (high-impact) or if heart rate monitors are recommended (spinning/cycling).  Find out if the class has a beginning or introduction level.  Although physically easier, intro classes teach tips and techniques that aren't reviewed and discussed in more advanced classes.

Arrive Early:  Regular students will often be waiting in line to grab their usual spot on the floor; introduce yourself and ask about the class. Regular students can also tell you if that day’s class was usual for the instructor, or if that instructor was a substitute or not. Tip:  Don’t appear too novice. Regular students often like “adopting” new participants and take it upon themselves to help you throughout class (if this happens, politely move to another spot in the room).

Set Up, Watch and Listen:  The layout is often in windows.  Stand behind and in between the two people in front of you and always watch out for them, the students behind you should do the same.  Put your arms out straight and turn in a full circle; if you bump anyone, you're too close.  Instructors often begin by asking which students are new and if they have any starting questions; otherwise you're ready to start!  I like when new Strength students insert themselves near the middle of the pack.  It puts you close enough to the teacher but leaves regular students on all sides so you can continue to see exercises facing in any direction.  Stick to the sides of a new Aerobics class if you fear bumping into classmates as you learn the steps.

Follow Every Drink and Break:  If the teacher recommends it, take it!  Instructors know new students arrive to improve and grow, and very few instructors will shout or pick on a student that breaks often IF you are not interrupting the class.  All eyes follow the student that moves to the side, greatly dropping the energy the teacher is working to build in the room.

Start Small, Stretch Gently:  For new routines, your body will thank you later that week.  Build your stamina and range of motion over a few months as opposed to testing your current “maximum output” on Day One.  (I'm guilty of this; I get swept up in the energy!)

Ask Quick Questions After Class:  Instructors try to stay after class for this purpose.  The only exception is when another class is waiting outside the door.  In this case, see if the instructor will meet with you outside after this class or before the next session, or possibly swap emails for quick concerns.

Match Your Needs:  If the class and instructor feels like a flop, keep searching for the right match for your mental and physical needs.  Try high-energy classes for motivation and enthusiasm and attend mind-body classes to realign and regroup.  The better you know yourself and your needs, the higher your chances of finding a match.

I wish you inspiration, new workout friends, and fun times in any style you try!

Stay tuned for my post on How To Become an Exercise Instructor if you'd like to BE the teacher!