A fitness class is like any other group setting; anything new and unfamiliar can be so intimidating that your feelings are a barrier to your participation. Years ago, I was admiring an aerobic step class from afar; the class participants looked like they were having a blast, the music was great, and the workout looked fantastic. However, I felt that the class was too much for me, as the movements were intricate and heavily choreographed. As I watched, I continued walking across the gym; the next thing I knew, I was tripping over a dumbbell.
At the time, my trip just reinforced my fears. So, like a coward, I left and never did try out the step class. However, I did decide afterward to broaden my opportunities for fitness, despite my fears. Since then, I have tried many different sports, classes, and fitness modalities, some with great success, and others were another hilarious disaster.
Life is full of adventures and incredible new experiences, and finding a new way to stay fit and healthy can be a part of a fun, rewarding lifestyle. Don’t let your anxiety and discomfort keep you from trying something new; you might discover a new passion. Try these five easy tips to help ease you into being the new kid in class.
Learn what’s out there:
This is a time to explore your community and find out what physical fitness opportunities are available to you and which ones are of interest. It is likely that you will find fitness classes that can be done outdoors, in the water, climbing a wall, or dancing the night away! By finding something that ignites your spirit, your comfort level, and thus your enjoyment, will be enhanced.
Take some time to observe the class; watching an entire class will ease any fears about the unknown and teach you what to expect. Be sure to clear your interest with the facility staff before your observation! Use this time to note the types of exercises and intensity; knowing these elements will give you a good idea if the class is appropriate for you. Ask the participants what they love about the class and why they keep coming back!
Bring a friend:
Sharing a new experience, especially one that you find a bit difficult to take on, is always easier when shared with someone that cares about you, supports you, and will encourage your new adventure. In addition, a friend will help you find your way in an unfamiliar environment. You may find it helpful to create an arrangement where you both keep each other on track when it comes to attendance. Even better, bring a friend who is already physically active or has attended the same class before; they will be a wealth of information and guidance.
Talk to the Instructor:
Any class instructor does their work because they have a passion for wellness, and that includes the whole person. Talk to the instructor; fitness experts love to share their knowledge and expertise! Your mind and spirit are just as important at keeping well as your muscles, and a great fitness leader takes this to heart. In addition, they know how hard it can be to try something new and that exercise classes can be daunting places. Fitness leaders will do their best to ease your fears and make you welcome.
Be kind to yourself:
Whether it’s yoga, kickboxing, or learning to swim, you must be kind to yourself at all times. Beating yourself up about not holding a pose or completing an entire set of repetitions defeats the purpose of getting well. Class leaders and participants will more than likely welcome you into the class with open arms, and your experience will be judgment-free. Missing a move or needing to take a break are all completely normal, expected, and are just a part of your learning. So take your time, be patient, laugh, and enjoy!