Stepping into a new fitness class can be a lot. It can seem like everyone else already has their “spot” in the room, and like they all already know each other—and what to do. So it’s no surprise that most of us have some fear of trying new workouts. We might enter shyly, feeling like an outsider, nervous to put down our towel or roll out our mat. And while others are busy chatting to each other or pointedly warming up, we’ll try to look busy on our phone or setting up our workout space.
Breathe. You’re not alone. Starting a new fitness class can be intimidating, but remember that everyone in the class was once a beginner and everyone is welcome to join in. You belong.
Keisa Parrish, a certified yoga, Pilates, and TRX fitness instructor, and the founder of Luebirta & Kaleonani Inc, who has taught fitness classes for more than 14 years, says it’s totally worth pushing yourself to try new types exercise.
For starters, doing different workouts can help you discover new types of movement and prevent overuse injuries. “If you are looking for cardio to help build stamina, you don’t only have to do the treadmill. Try a HIIT class, vinyasa yoga, swimming laps,” Parrish suggests. “If you tried a certain exercise and found yourself dragging your feet to do it again, try another, and then another until you find something that works for you.”
Since your body gets used to any type of physical activity you perform habitually, trying a new fitness class is a good way to change up your routine.
“In the beginning, you may feel the aftermath of the workout, but eventually after doing the same thing repeatedly, you’ll need to up the level, incorporate weights, change the momentum, or add a twist,” she says. “You’ll want to keep challenging your muscles not only in order to reach but also keep your fitness goals.”
Parrish says having multiple ways of exercising makes you more likely to stay active. “When you switch it up, it helps you not get bored,” she says.
But it’s not just the body that benefits; trying new things also works the brain. “Challenging your brain in its critical thinking of body movement teaches you to be more agile, and not just for exercise, but for everyday life,” explains Parrish. Rather than going on autopilot, a new challenge will force you to stay present.
So how can you push past your nerves as a newbie to reap all these benefits?
Get more comfortable trying a new workout
Parrish shares a few helpful tips to help overcome your fears of stepping into a new fitness class.
1. Try workouts that actually appeal to you
There are nearly endless ways to exercise your body, so pick what appeals to you. “Don’t pigeonhole yourself to a style of workout because it’s trending, or your coworker swears by it or your best friend is the instructor. Our bodies are different, what they respond to is different, and our fitness goals are different,” says Parrish. “Your exercise regimen should be focused on your goals, not the goal of everyone in your Instagram timeline.”
2. Wear something that gives you confidence
Parrish says if you feel physically comfortable, you’ll feel mentally comfortable. “There’s nothing worse than kicking ass in class only for your leggings to roll down or you realize they are see-through with every squat, or your shirt is too restricting, or the colors make you feel blah,” she says. “I’m in no way saying you need to head to the gym fully glammed up, but when you’re not worried about constantly adjusting your clothes, you are more inclined to try something new, push yourself, work hard, and believe in your ability to do the movement.”
3. Read the class description ahead of time
There may be unfamiliar terms on a fitness class schedule, such as “Dance Cardio” or “Pilates Fusion,” so reading the descriptions ahead of time can give you an idea of what the class might include. You can even call and ask or stop by the front desk. The staff members will be more than happy to answer your questions.
4. Look at the level
Parrish suggests starting with classes that are open level or geared for beginners. “Even if you are used to working out, group fitness classes tend to have a curriculum they follow and the advanced classes usually are filled with clients who’ve been taking the class for a long while,” she explains. “As a first-timer, it can feel a little isolating and intimidating watching everyone know what to do even before the instructor tells them. Start slow and build yourself up to the more challenging classes over time.”
5. Try it at home first
There are lots of free videos on YouTube that will let you sample a new workout in the comfort of your living room before trying to do it in the company of others. Parrish says this can help you “get yourself familiar with some of the movements and terminology, and you won’t feel any guilt about closing your laptop if the class turns out not to be your cup of tea.”
6. Talk to the instructor beforehand
If you’re not sure if a class is a good fit, chat with the teacher before it starts. “Tell them about any preexisting conditions or injuries that you have to be careful about. That’s the quickest way to know if that particular class will help you on your fitness goals or hurt you,” says Parrish. “Not every class is for every person or body type.”
7. Remember that you aren’t alone
“Remind yourself that everyone in that class is doing the same mental gymnastics you are: ‘Is this right?’ ‘Am I feeling it in the right place?’ ‘This is hard!’ ‘I can’t do another rep!’,” notes Parrish. “No one is competing to be the best or look the best. Everyone is just trying to make it through, so just focus on you and your goals.”
You’ve got this!