As January comes to a close and we look back at our 2013 health goals, this simple set of tips from writer Katie Horwitch from The Chalkboard caught our eye. Read on for some great advice on getting the most out of a group fitness class—one of our favorite ways to stay healthy and have fun this time of year.
Whether it's a Pilates studio or a spin room, a big gym or a boot camp, walking into an unfamiliar group fitness class can be daunting. A whole new group of people, a whole new set of exercises … and what the heck are those half-rubber-ball thingies? It’s enough to get you up and running—towards the nearest exit. Yet for many people, group fitness is the most effective way to sweat: unparalleled energy, group support, killer music, and inspirational teachers. With so many options, finding your group fitness groove can take a minute. But once you’ve settled on your class de jour, here are some tips to set you up for success:
Ask About Music
Music can make or break a class. When you are the new kid on the block, there is enough to think about as is. How is my form? What are we doing? Let's say you despise 80's bands. You don't want to make things harder on yourself by cringing through an hour of such deal-breakers as "We Built This City On Rock And Roll." Call the front desk of the studio or gym and inquire about the different teachers and their taste. Some classes might not even be set to music. While you probably have an idea about the kind of class you've chosen to attend, make sure you know what to expect musically as well.
Get There Early
Arrive at least 5-10 minutes early, depending on your class. Introduce yourself to your teacher and let them know you're new. Group fitness teachers love new faces and are just honored to have you in the room. If the class requires equipment (a spin bike, a step, weights, etc), make sure you ask to be set up properly. If you have any injuries or concerns, voice them at this time. Your teacher will be more than happy to give you modifications, words of wisdom, and simply keep an eye out for you. It's their job to do so. Don't feel shy asking.
Stand in the Middle of the Room
When you're new, you want to make sure you can see the teacher and check your form in the mirror. At the same time, placing yourself front-and-center can not only be nerve-wracking but counter-productive. You want to be able to take cues from the regulars around you, especially if the teacher doesn't demo (perform the moves along with the class) each and every second. But don't hide in the back, even if you're feeling trepidation. Being a row or two back will allow you visibility, but without the pressure of center stage.
Wear the Right Clothes
Do your research. Is the class bootcamp-style? You are going to need sneakers that can take you from weights to sprints to jumps seamlessly. Jumping into spin for the first time? You might want to rethink those short-shorts (just trust me on this one). Ladies, the correct style of sports bra is essential. Essential. I have horror stories. Call the studio/gym and look online to see what people usually wear to your class of choice. Because the only thing worse than an hour of "We Built This City On Rock And Roll" is a wardrobe malfunction.
Chances are, you are going to sweat—a lot. And lack of hydration can cause way more than poor performance: dizziness, disorientation, and nausea, to name a few. Bring a water bottle or two with you, depending on the sweat-factor. A good rule of thumb: if your throat feels dry, you are way overdue for a sip.
Have An Open Mind
Above all, keep in mind that this is an entirely new experience for you: it's not supposed to be easy, and it's not supposed to feel normal. You might feel awkward. You might feel sore in places you never knew existed. Try a type of class at least two or three times before you form a concrete yay or nay. Be kind to yourself and don't beat yourself up if you had to modify throughout every single set. Everyone in that room has been there: even the teacher. Know that you will become more confident each and every time you step into the room. Pat yourself on the back, recognize that you just tried something new. That takes courage. And then keep going.
For more tips and insights on healthy, balanced living, check out thechalkboardmag.com.