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How to prepare for your first fitness class

Lifelong habits start early. Some studies show that global warming may limit outdoor activity in children, which can lead to obesity. To combat less than healthy lifestyles, you need to create new routines.

Taking an exercise class is an excellent way to break the cycle and put yourself on a path to better overall health and fitness. However, if you’ve never been to a gym before, taking that first class may feel intimidating. Luckily, Judd NeSmith, founder of Serious Fitness and BestReviews’ fitness expert, is here to help. We asked him for insight on how to make that first-exercise-class anxiety disappear. 

In this article: Manduka Pro Yoga Mat, Apple Watch SE and Adidas Team Issue 2 Medium Duffel Bag

8 reasons you might feel apprehensive about taking an exercise class

Before getting started on proven ways NeSmith details to reduce apprehension of taking that first exercise class, it’s important to understand some of the reasons why you might be feeling a little uneasy about signing up. It is even more important to realize that these feelings are normal.

  • It’s a new experience.
  • You’re not sure you can keep up.
  • You are self-conscious.
  • You are doing it alone.
  • You aren’t good at following directions.
  • You are afraid you aren’t coordinated enough.
  • You think you might be too old.
  • You are afraid you might fail.

These are all valid reasons to feel apprehensive about working out. However, a quality exercise class with a top-notch instructor will address these concerns to make you feel more comfortable. To immediately address these concerns, and to reframe your thoughts, here are eight things to remember.

  • It’s a new experience for everyone taking the class. You will have community support.
  • Fitness is a journey. It’s okay to not be able to keep up in the beginning. In fact, that’s a great way to measure your progress.
  • Everyone starts off feeling self-conscious, but by the end, they become self-confident.
  • You can bring friends with you to the class or make new ones while there.
  • Your muscles will learn to do the exercises, not your brain. Eventually, all the motions will become second nature.
  • Coordination is not a gift, it’s a skill. An exercise class will help you develop better coordination.
  • The older you are, the more important it is to exercise.
  • You can only truly fail when you stop trying.

4 strategies that guarantee success before taking your first exercise class

Get a physical

Before you consider taking an exercise class, the first thing NeSmith says you need to do is get your doctor’s okay.

“Right off the bat, I would recommend getting a physical from your doctor to make sure you have the adequate health to participate in a fitness class, especially for the older population.”

Increase your fitness level

While NeSmith emphasizes that it all depends on what kind of exercise class you are taking, he also points out you may need to do a little work before taking classes to get the results you are after.

“If it’s a straight up yoga class, you’ll be introduced to yoga, and the instructor will walk you through the poses. In most spin cycle classes, anybody can walk in there, hop on a bike and modify their intensity level so they can go at their own pace. But if it’s an expert level group fitness class with weights, like a BODYPUMP class or CrossFit class, you might want to consider establishing some kind of baseline fitness.”

Talk to the club manager

NeSmith was very adamant about having a conversation with health club management or the person at the front desk to express your goals and learn about the classes that are best for your current fitness level.

“Any gym that has a fitness class has a front desk person and a manager. They will have a handout or post information on their website showing their weekly schedule. It should list every class they have created by skill level: a level one yoga class for beginners, a level one spin class for beginners, etc. Ask the management or the gym owner what they would recommend for you based on your concerns about being new to fitness.”

Go early and introduce yourself

Communication doesn’t begin and end with management. NeSmith recommends getting to class early to get things started on the right foot.

“Get there early, find the instructor and go up to them and introduce yourself. ‘Hi, I’m new to this class and I’m excited, but I’m also a little nervous. Let me know if you think I need more help.’ Instructors love when newcomers come to their class and introduce themselves. It allows the instructor to keep an eye on them.”

A word about eating and drinking before working out

If you’ve never taken an exercise class before, it is important to understand a little about eating and drinking before and during a workout.


“I always recommend that your last meal should be 90 minutes before the class. You should never have even a moderately intense class with food that is still being digested in your stomach. However, there’s nothing wrong with having a light snack like an energy bar before the class.”


“I’d recommend you finish a 24-ounce water bottle throughout your workout.”

In closing

NeSmith concluded, “I’m a coach and I’ve done this for a long time. What is my advice for people who are fearful of going to a fitness class? After the first class, you’ll be fine. You’ll make great friends and become part of a community. The beauty of group fitness is the motivation, camaraderie and support you get from the rest of the class. Everyone supports each other.”

Items you may need for your first exercise class

Best Manduka Pro Yoga Mat

Manduka Pro Yoga Mat

Depending on the class you take, you may need to bring a high-quality yoga mat. This option is 0.23 inches thick and suitable for home or gym use.

Sold by Amazon

Best Gatorade Contour Squeeze Bottle

Gatorade Contour Squeeze Bottle

This 32-ounce water bottle is large enough to get you through the toughest exercise class. It is contoured for a comfortable grip and can be squeezed for a quick shot of water.

Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Best Fit-Flip Travel Towel

Fit-Flip Travel Towel

A lightweight towel is essential for keeping sweat out of your eyes. This fast-drying model is super-absorbent, making it perfect for gym workouts.

Sold by Amazon

Best Apple Watch SE

Apple Watch SE

If you want to see how hard you are pushing your body, you need a fitness tracker. This stylish new Apple Watch SE can be worn in and out of the gym.

Sold by Amazon

Best Fila Men's Strada Disruptor

Fila Men’s Strada Disruptor

You need the right footwear if you want to have a solid base. This option from Fila is lightweight but durable and features a removable insole for additional comfort.

Sold by Amazon

Best Fila Women's Training Shoe

Fila Women’s Training Shoe

This versatile training shoe is designed for athletic use both in and out of the gym. It offers stability, cushioning and traction with a colorful flair.

Sold by Amazon

Best Lululemon Full-Length Yoga Pants

Lululemon Full-Length Yoga Pants

These popular high rise workout pants are lightweight, buttery soft, sweat-wicking and move with you to let you have a luxury exercise session.

Sold by Amazon

Best DSG Women's Aspire Sports Bra

DSG Women’s Aspire Sports Bra

If you’re going to move about, you need support. This compression-fit sports bra has crossed back straps with a keyhole cutout and removable cups.

Sold by Dick’s Sporting Goods

Best Adidas Team Issue 2 Medium Duffel Bag

Adidas Team Issue 2 Medium Duffel Bag

To carry the gear to and from your exercise class, you’ll want a durable gym bag. This rugged offering from Adidas is an excellent medium-sized choice.

Sold by Amazon


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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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