Six tips for taking your first group fitness class

If you’re thinking about taking your first group fitness class, I think you should do it. Group fitness changed my life many years ago, and I’ve been an instructor of multiple programs for years and years. My favorite way to work out is to do it in the group fitness studio, and I’ve seen so many success stories of people who have improved their lives, fitness and entire well-being by finding a good group fitness routine. There’s a reason why people become obsessed, and maybe you should find why out for yourself!

Not only does going to group fitness classes give you the opportunity to learn from a professional, but it also gives you the chance to become part of a community and soak up as much enjoyment from sweating next to other people as you can. #BetterTogether

Six tips for taking your first group fitness class

If you know someone who wants to get into group fitness, but is scared to do it, then please, please, please, pass this post along to them. You’ll be doing them a solid. Let’s get to those tips …

Six tips for taking your first group fitness class by A Lady Goes West

1. Research the class online and look for YouTube videos of what to expect.

While you can’t believe everything you see online, if you are planning to go to a branded classes, like Les Mills BODYPUMP or Bootybarre (two formats that I teach each week), then you may be able to see some preview moves and get a tiny snapshot of the moves and essence of the class. You may also find an article detailing the break-down of the moves and tracks, much like I do for classes like BODYATTACK, CorePower Yoga Flow, FlyBarre, SoulCycle and more. If you are totally turned off by what you find online, remember that the added in-person element of having a real-life instructor and participants in front of you will be a major benefit, so don’t write it off. You will get to see at least a taste of what you may be in for and then know better what to expect. You can even try to go through some of the moves on your own to get the feel for them, preparing yourself for your big debut.

2. Go to the studio and watch the class from the window.

This may sound silly, but I’ve had multiple people ask if they can stand at the window or door to the group fitness studio and watch my class to get an idea of what it entails. Once again, I must tell you that a workout may look harder or easier than it really is if you aren’t trying the moves on your own body. But checking out the format of the class, the set-up and the scene from afar may ease you into being comfortable. You will notice that nearly every class has people of varying fitness abilities, and that there will be plenty of options for you. You will also see that standing in the very back corner may not be ideal for watching the instructor, so hopefully when it comes time for your first class you at least start in the middle of the room. Hiding in the back is never the answer, even for a first-timer.

3. Arrive at least five minutes before class and tell the instructor that you are new.

Do NOT be embarrassed to be new to a class. It’s absolutely essential that you tell the instructor that you are a first-timer, because they will not only tell you if there is any set-up for class, but they will also keep an eye on you during class. They will not single you out and call you out for being new, (if they are good!), they will merely assist you and help you get more out of your workout. Take it from this instructor, who has been doing it for a long time, we instructors do NOT judge you and your performance, we merely try to help you get the best workout you can while keeping you safe. Let them know if you have any injuries or limitations as well, and they can suggest alternatives and options before the rush of the class starts. No one else in the room may need to know you are new, but the instructor surely does.

4. Listen to the words, rather than focusing on what you see in the mirror.

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make in the group fitness room is to stare at themselves in the mirror so intently during class that they neglect to take cues from the instructor — they go into some strange non-listening zone. If you are new, you should almost AVOID the mirror, and instead try to listen to every single tip the instructor gives you and make those changes to your body. People seem to have a deafness to certain cues in the group fitness room at times, and then they develop bad habits with their form. Do yourself a favor, and learn the RIGHT way to move from the beginning. The instructor’s form, the instructor’s voice, and the instructor’s cues are more important than watching your own guns flex in the mirror. Truth.

5. Just do you. Don’t play the comparison game. And take breaks when you need to.

Perhaps the most important tip that I can give you is to not go too hard, too soon. Even the most fit superstars in the front of the group fitness room were one day beginners. In fact, there’s nothing WRONG with being a beginner. It means you have an open mind, a clean slate and have so much growth and progress in front of you. Instead of looking around at everyone else’s bodies, abilities and confidence, spend time congratulating yourself for taking the first step into getting into group fitness and stand tall and happy to be trying something new. If you feel pain, stop the movement. If you are unable to perform a move, don’t do it. While I don’t recommend quitting, by any means, I do recommend listening to your body. When given the option to jump into the sky or stay grounded, do what seems smart for your body at that moment. 

6. Appreciate the community and become a part of it.

While you don’t have to talk to anyone in a class, if you do decide to open up and introduce yourself to someone, you are statistically more likely to stick with that class and feel like you are part of something bigger than you. And guess what — most of the time — if you tell a “regular” that you are new, they will look after you, because they’ve been there. That’s what is so awesome about doing a group workout rather than a solo workout in your own home or at the gym — those other people will motivate you to be better, stronger and more accountable. Soak it up!

If you are considering adding group fitness to your workout routine or even beginning your workout routine with group fitness, remember that most classes have a lot of levels. I wouldn’t recommend that you launch into something as hard-core as Barry’s Bootcamp right off the bat, but you could definitely dabble in cardio formats, barre classes, yoga flow and much more as a novice.

I’m here for you, friends! If you have any questions, please leave them as a comment below or email me. This request came about from some reader emails I’ve received, and I’m sure a follow-up segment will happen soon! And please, please, please share this post with someone who needs it.

6 tips for taking your FIRST #GroupFitness class by instructor @apstyle ... #Fitness #Workouts Click To Tweet

Questions of the day

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  1. I started taking group fitness classes about a year and a half ago but really got into it last year when I switched to a gym that offers more class options, including Les Mills. My favorite class is probably Body Pump because it’s so different from most other group fitness classes and was really my first experience with strength training.

    I’ve been wanting to try Pure Barre and Orangetheory. I think they both offer one trial class for free, but I would sort of feel bad doing that knowing that I have no intention to join since they are both very pricey.

    1. Hi Julie! YAY for you and for BODYPUMP (it’s my favorite too!). And how much better does your body feel now that you do strength training? As far as the first free class for Pure Barre or Orangetheory — DO NOT feel bad about going to the free trial with no intentions to buy. Because if you like the workout, then when you are in the position to pay for it, you will go back. You’ll also be able to tell other people if you liked it — and all of that is good for the studio. Give them a try. πŸ™‚

  2. Love this post! I am a massive fan of Les Mills group classes, especially Body Pump. In fact, I originally found your blog around 2 years ago when I was doing research before my first class πŸ™‚ I loved your release reviews, will you be doing one of the new Body Pump 100?

    1. Hi Iona! I know, I haven’t done release reviews in forever! BODYPUMP 100 is so monumental, I will probably write something about it. Thank you for reading! πŸ™‚ Are you excited to take the class? Going on Saturday?? πŸ™‚

      1. Yes I am excited, but bad timing as I am away this Saturday so I won’t get to try it until next Thursday! Look forward to your review πŸ™‚

  3. Hey Ashley! I’ve been following your blog for awhile but I have never commented because I don’t have a blog myself and I almost feel weird commenting without one haha. I just wanted to say that I tried BODYPUMP solely because of what I’ve read on your blog and I love it. Thank you so much!! πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Caroline! Oh my goodness, I LOVE that you have commented. And of course you can if you don’t have a blog hahah. And you have MADE my day that you tried BODYPUMP because of what you read here. Don’t you love the workout? I hope you are going to do BODYPUMP 100 this weekend! I am!! πŸ™‚ Reach out any time lady, and thanks again for saying hi!

      1. YES!! Absolutely doing BODYPUMP 100 this weekend and I’m bringing my friend to show her how awesome it is πŸ™‚ I owe it all to you!

  4. Great tips! I’ve done pilates, yoga, and boot camp workouts in a group setting. Although I do my workouts at home, it’s always amazing to do a group class every once in a while. I find it so motivating and I can often push myself harder in the group setting.
    I’m hoping to try a bodypump class sometime–Ive heard great things!

    1. Hi Heather! Yes, you’ve got to try BODYPUMP one day. And I know not everyone can get to a group class all the time, but it’s nice to pop in when you have the chance. Keep up the good routine, lady! πŸ™‚

  5. Great tips! I always get a little nervous my first time trying a class or at a new studio. Having a friend with me always helps a bit, but I’ve done plenty of classes alone. I’m taking a reformer class this weekend and have only done it once before so I def feel like a newbie. Have a great weekend!

  6. I LOVE these tips! Coming to class early is so important. I love being able to meet new participants before class starts and welcome them. Comparison and listening to the words is key too! Especially if the participant is new to working out – they might not be at the same fitness level as others. Sharing this!!

    1. Yes, totally need to get there early. I hate it when a new person comes in late, goes to the back of the room, then ends up feeling lost and unsuccessful!

  7. Love this! Being an introvert, I always dread going to something for the first time, especially alone. I have participated in several group fitness classes, but haven’t in a while. Maybe after baby comes I’ll be able to find something.

    1. Hi Jenn! Totally understand that you may be nervous to be in the group setting – but the good thing is that you don’t HAVE to talk to anyone if you don’t want to. πŸ™‚ And the benefits of having others around you is awesome!

  8. Hi Ashley, These tips are really great ! …. I was looking forward to join a fitness group & this really help me in choosing the One. I am glad to find your thoughts on this πŸ™‚ Thank you so much !!

  9. I think one of the biggest thing that has kept me from participating in group fitness classes is the “comparison game” you mentioned. It’s a good idea to focus on myself and to listen to my body. I can also relate to your point about focusing on the mirror more than the instructor. Thanks for all of the useful tips!

  10. Thank you, Ashley, for this very inspirational post. I want to start my fitness class. Before starting class, this post gives me some great ideas. I should follow these tips. Cheers:)

  11. I like that you mention that it’s important to focus on yourself and your own journey when it comes to taking a fitness class because it doesn’t do you any good to compare yourself with others. You’re there to better your health, so it’s good to remember to just worry about yourself because everyone else is probably doing the same and worrying about what other people think when they don’t need to worry. I just moved to a new city and I’ve been looking for a fitness studio that I can feel comfortable in that will push me to be better.

    1. Hi Cameron! Exactly — even though group fitness means you take a class with others, it doesn’t mean you have to worry about those others — everyone is worrying about themselves!

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