Looking for some group fitness class tips? Maybe you’re a gym rat who never dreamed of hopping off the machines but is looking for new motivation. Maybe you’ve been working with a personal trainer but need to find a workout that’s a little less pricey.
Whatever the reason, if you’ve never lunged or lifted in a crowded room full of sweaty people, the experience can be intimidating. It can feel like everyone else knows what to do before the instructor says a thing, while you’re flailing in a corner.
Don’t fret, says James Thomas, Les Mills National Trainer and Presenter. Les Mills has been a leader in the industry since as far back as 1968. The brand now has 130,000 certified instructors teaching classes—like long-time favorite Bodypump and cutting-edge cycling class The Trip—in 100 countries around the world.
“With frequent attendance to a class, around twice a week, you’ll feel more comfortable in two to three weeks,” Thomas says, “and I can safely say you’ll have a new friend in that class too.” (Bonus!)
Here are a few more expert tips sourced from Thomas and other Les Mills instructors for newbies. Take these to heart and you’ll be squatting in sync in no time.
5 Group Fitness Class Tips for Newbies
1. Do your research.
“Ask your club for some specific information on the class format you are interested in, or research the format online. You might find some videos of the class or even tutorials to the movement patterns online,” Thomas says. “This can give you a better feel for the movements and formatting of the class.” For example, classes like BodyPump use some consistent sequencing and movement patterns, like squats and clean and presses, which you could practice beforehand. Even better, “Do a drive by while the class is going on. The room may have windows so that you can observe the class through as it’s happening.”
2. Show up early.
Many people like to sneak in late, but a lot of classes require equipment setup and if you don’t allow time for that, it’ll be harder to have a successful session. It’s also a good idea to meet the instructor. “So many new participants don’t talk to the instructor before class! Introducing yourself as new allows us as Instructors to offer options and modifications so you can be successful. Plus it makes the whole group exercise experience more personal,” Thomas says.
3. Don’t stand in the back.
It’s so tempting to hide in the back row, we know. But doing so will make it hard for you to see the instructor and hard for the instructor to notice you if you need help or adjustments.
4. Don’t pick weights that are too heavy.
“My best tip is to lowball your weight selection,” Thomas says. “I know that might sound questionable at first, but as an instructor, my main goal for a first-timer is to feel successful and have fun. I’m not going to try to load you up with heavy weight to be challenged for the entire class. Lowball the weight first so that you can gain familiarity of the class format as well as what your athletic abilities are. Once you feel comfortable in the class, begin to add weight on to feel challenged during some segments of the class. You’ll be doing more harm than good sprinting into the class head-on with heavy weight.”
5. Don’t try to do what everyone else is doing.
Many new participants pick a person (or a few) in the room who have clearly been doing the workout for years and try to follow their lead. But trying to do what everyone else is doing means you may go too fast or too heavy, which can lead to feeling discouraged. Instead, listen to the instructor for cues and modifications and ease your way into plyometric pro status.
(Photos: Les Mills)