How to Prep for Your First Group Fitness Class
Trying a group fitness class for the first time can be daunting if you don't know what to expect—but don't let the fear of something new stop you from having an amazing workout.
We're breaking down exactly what to expect from some of the most popular types of group exercise classes so you can go into your sweat session with confidence.
What to expect: While there are different types of yoga classes, your standard gym class will likely be a Vinyasa flow class. Classes typically begin with breathing and stretching exercises. The most common type of stretch is cat-cow, in which you are on all fours and stretch your back up and down along with your breath.
Next you'll move through some Vinyasa flows, which are series of yoga moves done in repetition (check out a breakdown of a typical Vinyasa flow HERE). Even if you're not sure what a move or pose is, you can just follow along with the instructor or other students. And if you ever get lost or tired during a flow, it's perfectly acceptable to rest in child's pose. The class will end with additional stretches and a final resting pose called Shavasana.
What to bring: Many gyms and yoga studios will provide mats that can be used for the class, though some charge a small rental fee. Others may ask that you provide your own mat, so be sure to check your studio's policy. You are always welcome to bring your own mat if you so choose. You should also bring water and a small towel with you to class.
What to wear: Wear clothes that you feel comfortable moving and stretching in. I personally prefer wearing a form-fitting top because looser tops tend to move around, especially during inverted poses such as downward dog, which can be distracting during your practice. Yoga is typically performed barefoot, so wear something like flip-flops that you can easily take on and off.
What to expect: While a mat Pilates class will be similar to a yoga class, traditional Pilates classes utilize a reformer machine. While these machines look intimidating, they are actually not as complex as they appear! The reformer consists of a sliding carriage attached to springs that add resistance to all the moves you do. If it's your first class, aim to arrive a few minutes early so the instructor can explain to you how to use the reformer machine.
During the class, you will lie down, kneel, stand and sit on the carriage depending on which part of the body you are focusing. Most classes are full-body, so you will do different exercises to work out each of the major muscle groups. If a move is too difficult or too easy, you can always adjust the resistance by adding or removing springs to the carriage (or ask the instructor to do so for you).
What to bring: A water bottle and towel if desired.
What to wear: Wear clothes you're comfortable moving around in as you will be in many different poses throughout the class. Many studios recommend or require wearing grip socks to class. If you don't have a pair, you will likely be able to purchase some before class at the studio. Even if they are not required, it's a good idea to wear grip socks as they help stabilize your body during moves that require balancing on your feet.
What to expect: While yoga and Pilates focus on toning, spinning is a cardio-focused exercise, class so be prepared to sweat—a lot. Arrive early so you can adjust your bike to your height and size (or have someone who works at your studio help you adjust it). While the entire class usually takes place on a stationary bike, the instructor will have you constantly changing your resistance and pace to challenge your muscles and endurance the whole time.
The class will consist of slow rides with high resistance, fast rides with lower resistance, spinning while sitting, spinning while standing and "jumps," which require you to switch from sitting to standing at a rapid pace. If you're a beginner, don't go crazy with resistance—just add on what you feel your body can handle, and don't be afraid to turn it down if you need to at any point. The great thing about spin classes is that everyone can choose their own resistance and pace, so you can create a workout that is best for you and your own fitness level. If you ever need a break during class, turn down the resistance and pedal your feet out until you feel ready to join back in.
What to bring: Lots of water! Most studios provide towels, but if yours does not, be sure to bring one.
What to wear: Wear clothes you don't mind sweating in! While some gyms allow you to attend class in regular gym shoes, studios often require you to wear shoes that are designed specifically to fit into the pedals so that your feet don't slip off during the class. Most studios offer spinning shoes to borrow, though some charge a small fee.
What to expect: Barre studios often resemble dance studios, as the class is based on ballet poses—but don't worry, you don't have to be a good dancer to reap the benefits of barre! Barre classes use small, isometric movements to sculpt and tone your muscles. A typical class starts on the floor with a series of ab exercises such as planks and crunches. Next is an arm series, which can be done using your body weight or a set of light dumbbells.
The bar along the walls is used for balance while you work out your legs and glutes for the next part of class. The class typically ends with a final set of core exercises followed by stretching. Some classes use an exercise ball or resistance bands to increase intensity of the moves and stretches, but the use of this equipment is always optional. All the moves you will be doing require only a small range of motion, but you'll be surprised at how challenging they can be! Don't be afraid to ask your instructor to adjust your body movements if you believe you are doing a move incorrectly or if you are not feeling a move in the targeted muscle group—that's what they are there for!
What to bring: Some studios will ask you to bring a towel for floor work, but all other equipment is provided by the studio.
What to wear: Many barre studios have a dress code that requires you to wear capris or leggings (no shorts) and have your midriff covered, so keep that in mind when picking out your workout outfit. They may also require you to wear socks for class. If so, grip socks are recommended as they will help you stay balanced, especially during plank exercises. Most studios will have grip socks available for purchase if you do not have your own.
Need more inspiration to try something new? Read about how trying unique fitness classes can boost your body confidence HERE.