Every single time I teach a class, I have the opportunity to shed much needed light on one of the many myths about group fitness.
“I’ve never done this before”
“I’m not sure I’m strong enough”
“I don’t know anyone”
“I don’t like people watching me”
“I don’t know what to wear?”
“I don’t know the moves”
“I am too fat”
“I’m afraid I won’t be able to keep up”
“I need to impress the instructor”
“I’m not into leotards and Jane Fonda”
If you are a person that takes classes regularly, think back to when you first started. Did you not think at least one of these? I know I did.
And, if you are someone that peeks in the studio door enviously, what’s holding you back? If it is any of the above statements, I have three words for you:
GET OVER IT!
I took my first class EVER with Jen Ryan at Life Time Fitness, Bloomington North. It was a crazy-packed MIXX class. I didn’t know a soul and felt like everyone else was there with 75 of their closest friends. I felt out of place and awkward. Jen seemed so effortless and funky while I felt like each of my limbs weighed 10,000 pounds. I remember sitting in the studio before class thinking, “What if I screw up, everyone will wonder why I’m here.” I was certain that 75 sets of eyes were on me, waiting for me to screw up so I could be their entertainment. I didn’t look like the girls in the front row – they were strong and comfortable. I used to imagine how much fun that must be – to have a group of people to take class with; to feel strong and exude confidence; to know the moves and execute perfectly.
All I can say in reflecting on that is,
I’VE COME A LOOOOONG WAY BABY!!!
That was over ten years ago now, and I’ve learned so much since then. If I can save someone from a little apprehension, or, encourage someone to try something they might feel too intimidated to go for, I will consider it a huge success.
My group fitness friends are like family to me. It’s worth it to go through the awkward stage – I promise!
Lesson #1. You Don’t Have to Be An Expert.
Seriously, that’s our job as group fitness instructors. Let us lead you and stop thinking everyone else in the room knows what they are doing – I promise you they don’t. We love it when people show up and TRY.
Lesson #2. A Certain Physical Ability Is Not a Pre-Requisite.
There is not a code that says you need to be able to do 25 push-ups and sit-ups in a minute or run an 8 minute mile to partake in a fitness class. It is truly an honor to watch people build strength and endurance. It is our job as instructors to help you do that. Think of your instructor as your trainer, and let them help you push your physical limits.
Lesson #3. It’s Not An Exclusive Club.
Trust me on this one. The community that you may witness in the group fitness studio takes years and years to build. Yes, some people know each other. BUT, the MAJORITY, do not. We G-FIT peeps are kind of weird in that way. We like to work out in a “group” but don’t necessarily want to talk to the people around us, or, if you are like I used to be, you might be too shy and insecure to strike up a conversation with the person next to you. (Those of you who know me now might find that hard to believe, but I can assure you, it is so very true ;-). Bottom line, it’s not a club. We WANT YOU there!!
Lesson #4. Nobody is watching you.
Honestly, they aren’t. People that look in the mirror are looking at themselves. If they aren’t looking in the mirror, they usually are looking at the instructor or at the ground – for real. If you are really insecure about this one, stand in the back. Trust me, you will be safe there 😉
Lesson #5. It’s not a fashion contest.
There are many awesome options for style at the gym these days. I say, wear what you feel most comfortable in. Personally, I like the way my Margarita pants instantly make me feel fit & fabulous. I am super comfortable in them because they make me feel good about myself. If your style is sweats and a t-shirt, go for it! Sometimes a cute hat can make you feel tough and a little bit dangerous. Whatever it is, find what works for you and rock it with confidence. You don’t need to show up looking like everyone else…so boring and so not worth the hassle.
Lesson #6. You don’t need to know “the moves”.
Really, what fun would group fitness be if everyone showed up knowing what was going to happen? I am a big fan of variety. By coming to a certain instructor on a regular basis, you will get comfortable with their style. This will make you more comfortable with the class overall. However, it takes a few classes (approx. 4-5) to really start to feel comfortable. Don’t worry about the unknown. If the instructor is doing their job, they will be able to lead you and help you reach a comfort level. If not, find a new instructor. It’s not YOU, it’s them.
Lesson #7. Size Doesn’t Matter.
Ug, hate this one, but must address it because too many people think they need to fit a certain mold in order to show up to a class. It’s simply not true. All shapes, sizes and abilities are welcome. If an instructor EVER makes you feel unwelcome or uncomfortable due to your size, find another instructor. There is nothing better than starting a class not feeling the best about yourself, making it through, and ending class knowing you are strong and feeling buff. I’ve personally been here many times – as recently as today 😉 Sometimes you have to push the negative thoughts out of your head and just do it. Just go. You will feel better after you get a GIANT group fitness hug.
Lesson #8. Just Keep Moving!
People often say “I’m afraid I won’t be able to keep up”. That’s ok! You don’t have to do the entire 60 minutes exactly as the instructor says. No one knows your body better than you. All we ask is that you do your best to just keep moving – even if that means taking a minute to march in place, etc. IT’S OK!! Always remember that it is YOUR CLASS and no one else’s. We will push you and offer encouragement to help you break through plateau’s, but you are always in control. The best thing you can do is listen to your body, do your best, and just keep moving. 😉
Lesson #9. That Don’t Impress Me Much.
It’s NOT about trying to impress the instructor. We don’t walk around the class looking for the best of the best. If you want to impress us, smile and work hard. Beyond that, we are all in it together. I recently took a group fitness pledge that includes the following statement:
I will keep one eye on the FRONT ROW, one eye towards the MIDDLE, and my heart and head with the BACK and BEYOND
This is so true. Enough said.
Lesson #10. Group Fitness Is Not Just For Girls!
Really?! Do I even need to explain this? Unfortunately yes. I grew up doing “Sweatin’ To The Oldies” in the living room with my mom and my brother (yes, Benny did aerobics when he was 8 – ha!) I still love some good ole fashioned hi/lo and combos, but group EXERCISE is so much more than that. You can train for a marathon or triathlon, build strength and endurance, box, climb, run, jump, swim – it’s all there! You can dance, shimmy and shake if that’s your style ; or you can grunt and powerlift. You can find a little zen and some peace in the yoga studio; maybe even grow an inch (I did!) with Pilates. The choice is yours – there really is something for everyone. You just have to search, try, and have an open mind.
I think the bottom line is this: release your fear and let go of expectations.
If you are on the quest for fitness, if your heart needs you to get healthy, if you have always wanted to TRY this type of excercise, run, don’t walk, to your local gym or fitness studio! Check the schedule, find something that looks interesting, and go. It’s ok to smile, it’s ok to not be where you think you should be; it’s ok to say hello to the person next to you. Introduce yourself to the instructor, tell them you are new. It’s OK to ask for help.
I’m so glad I did all those things. I’ve crossed over to the fabulous world of group exercise, and I’m never turning back. I plan on teaching yoga when I’m 90 on a beach somewhere in California. Who wants to join me?
Peace and love always,