6 Things You MUST Know Before Taking a New Fitness Class

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Recently, I tried out an indoor rowing studio near my apartment called Brooklyn Crew for the first time. I’ve attempted rowing at the gym before—but not only was I mostly guessing on the correct form (I did refer to this article beforehand), but I could barely get myself to stay on the machine for 15 minutes. There’s no ledge for a magazine or an e-reader on a rowing machine, and it doesn’t have an individual TV like some cardio equipment—so I was SO bored. At Brooklyn Crew, the 45-minute workout flew by—and I got way more tips on how to row correctly.

In other words, I’m thrilled that I took the class (and I’ve even taken more at the studio since then!). But while I’ve tried more than a dozen different fitness studios and classes, I still got nervous before I went to this one. There’s something inherently anxiety-provoking about trying something new—it’s basically impossible not to worry that everyone will be able to tell you have no clue what you’re doing.

While you’ll probably never be able to eliminate that feeling entirely, there are certain things you can do to make the experience of trying a new fitness class or studio a little less nerve-wracking:

Change before you get to the studio.
Oftentimes there are only a couple of bathrooms/changing rooms, so the line to use them can get really long before the class starts. To save yourself the stress of worrying you won’t be able to change in time, just come decked out in your workout gear.

Tell the instructor you’re a first-timer.
Yes, I know this feels really lame. But sometimes they’ll need to adjust your equipment—and they will almost always need to give you special instructions so you’re not just confused for most of the class. So unless you want to waste your time (and possibly money) and not get the most of the experience, you should just suck it up and tell the instructor you’re a newb.

Pick a spot (or seat) front and center.
When you’re new and feel uncomfortable, the tendency is to set up camp in an inconspicuous spot in the back of the room. But here’s why you shouldn’t: I don’t know how many classes I’ve sat through where, because of where I was positioned, I couldn’t see what the instructor was doing sometimes. If you take a front-row spot, you won’t have that problem—and you won’t be left guessing if you’re off-beat or doing the move the wrong way.

Don’t assume the place will have showers/towels you can use post-class.
Yes, oftentimes they do. But sometimes they don’t or facilities are limited—like the time I went to a 5:30 p.m. cycling class and then realized after the class was over that the studio was shower-less (oh, and I was supposed to be at a dinner at 6:30!). Or the time that I tried out a new gym in the morning, planned to go straight to work afterward, and discovered that the gym didn’t offer towels after I stepped out of the shower. Learn from my mistakes: If the shower situation matters to you, then call ahead to find out what it is before you get there.

Ask a friend to go with you if you can.
If they’ve taken the class before, great—they’ll be able to show you the ropes. If not, you’ll have moral support as you both try out the class for the first time. Either way, it’s a win-win.

Give the class a few tries before you decide it’s not for you.
Of all the classes I’ve ever tried, there’s only one that completely sold me from day one. Because of the aforementioned anxiety factor that goes along with taking any new class, you’re probably not going to love it the very first time (it’s hard to love something when you feel like you struggled to keep up with the turbo chic next to you the entire time). But I promise that your competence—and confidence—will improve drastically by your second or third class. And when you feel like you’re good at something, you’re much more likely to enjoy it—which is why it’s worth giving new classes a couple of tries before you swear them off forever.

If you’re big on boutique fitness studios or trying new group classes, are there any other tips that I missed? If so, share them in the comments—I’m always looking for more ways to ease that first-fitness-class stress!

Photo via Brooklyn Crew

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