The thought of going to a group fitness class can be scary and is not appealing to most people. Visions of fit young people who all know what they’re doing…. except you! You can’t move and bend like that. You feel fat and maybe older than everyone else. You have no idea what to do. And it all seems silly…. this couldn’t be serious exercise!

Maybe you’re remembering exercise videos you’ve seen or maybe you’ve had an actual experience. If you’ve had that experience or think it will be like that, I empathize! No one should go through that as it can be humiliating! I’ve felt it myself… and I’m an experienced teacher!

If you haven’t been to a club or studio lately, you might not know that much has changed in group classes. Many instructors have been trained to teach to all levels and to give options in class for people with back trouble, knee pain, shoulder trouble or other problems which are very common these days. Gone are the days of high impact jumping with leg warmers and fancy choreography. You’ll find a more health oriented approach in group exercise classes than in the past (but still fun!!)

Here is what you should expect if you attend a well run group fitness class:

  1. The instructor should ask your name and welcome you to the class. Maybe even introduce you to another class member. The instructor should ask if you have any physical difficulties that the class would impact… then give you brief directions for how to handle that.
  2. The other class members should appear friendly and welcoming. This is a direct result from how the club or studio is run. The studio management should be fostering an inclusive environment and you’ll pick up on that right away. If it’s there, it will feel good to you. If you feel left out and lonely, something is not right. It’s not you.
  3. Once the class starts, you should feel like you can follow what’s happening. The instructor’s voice should be pleasing and easy to hear and understand what they are saying. If you are completely confused through the whole class, it’s not you. It’s the instructor.
  4. You should feel like the intensity and difficulty of the exercises is just right for you, whether you are very fit or a beginner. It’s the instructor’s job to assure that beginner to advanced people are doing the right options for their abilities.
  5. You should feel challenged physically, but also feel some fun and excitement. It should feel like the time goes by quickly and you never get bored.
  6. As you leave, you should feel a sense of success…”I did it!”

I often hear people say that they need to get in better shape before they show up at a class. Realize that the reason for the class is to get into shape. Don’t wait. If you don’t want to see yourself in the mirror, choose a spot where you can’t see yourself. People are much more supportive than you may think. People get inspired to see a new person in class. They remember their own first class and remember how hard it was for them to walk into that room.

A group fitness class may seem like a big social event, but it’s really a time for you. No need to be all social and extraverted… most people are not. They’re normal, regular people with the same issues you have. During class, you can go internal and challenge yourself. The instructor’s voice is just there to guide. But it’s really about you and your own awareness of your body and what it can do.

The beauty about being in a group is the motivation. The group format gives you a structure and you’ll do far more in a group than on your own…. you simply feel more motivated.

The key is to find the right gym, fitness center or studio that offers classes with the above points. If you land at one that doesn’t work, try another.