First Time Fitness Class Tips

Katie Jenkins

If you are attending a fitness class for the first time, it can be pretty frickin’ nerve wracking, whether you’re just new to a specific format or new to workout classes PERIOD! I want you to know, I understand. It’s intimidating walking into a class where you have no clue what to really expect, you don’t know a soul and then on top of that, you have the regulars who are chatting away like they’re BFF’s. However, that’s merely temporary. Get the first time or two out of the way and pretty soon you’ll be the regular talking it up with your classmates.

1) Who Cares 

As a dancer, I would take dance class after dance class, and for years I’d be intimidated to go into those classes simply because I thought people would judge me. I figured they would think that I sucked or I was overweight, but I tell you what, nobody cares! 

If you’re not happy with the way your body looks and are worried your classmates will judge you, PLEASE DO NOT let that be the thing to stop you from joining a fitness class. As you know, exercise plays a major role in helping you feel better about your physique. And if anything, people will be inspired to see that YOU are committed to creating healthier habits, YOU are going out and making it happen, and YOU are not letting anything stand in the way of your goals! Basically, you’re pretty flipping amazing and you should realize this:-)

Besides, most of the people in class are wrapped up in themselves and too concerned with what they look like to give two poo-poos about what you’re doing. And anybody who does look around to judge others has low self-esteem and does that crap to make themselves feel better. 

So the point I’m trying to make is do not care what anybody else thinks about you, because chances are, they’re not!

2) Wear Comfortable Clothing

It’s a pretty craptastic feeling going to a class for the first time, intending to stay focused on what you’re learning, yet being completely preoccupied by your workout top not wanting to stay down, the muffin top your pants are choking out of you or the awesome case of crack sweat you’re sporting. 

What you are wearing should be forgotten about during class!

If it’s been awhile since you’ve worn your workout clothes, try those suckers on at home and really move around in them. Wave your arms, kick your legs, squat, bend over, etc. to ensure the duds pretty much stay where they are. 

If you are purchasing new workout clothes, try them on before you buy them! Do a little dance in the dressing room to make sure nothing rides up, binds or clings in the wrong spots. 

3) Arrive to Class Early

Try to arrive 10 to 15 minutes before your class begins. That way, you can snag your favorite spot and you won’t be feeling frazzled by rushing in right as the instructor is starting. Now that you are there nice and early, what do you do? Warm up! Since it’s your first class with the instructor, you have no idea how thorough their warm up is, so do what your body needs to get your blood pumping and the joints lubed up. If you don’t know what the heck that is exactly, I suggest performing exercises until you work up just a little bit of sweat.

Here’s a variation of what I do:

Perform 1-2 sets of this circuit

  • Step Touch Together (1 minute)- Step to the side, touch together with the second foot; repeat to other side and continue going left to right at a brisk pace. Pump your arms at a 90° angle.
  • Jumping Jacks (1 minute)
  • Hamstring Curls (1 minute)- Step to the side and bend other leg at the knee to bring heel up towards butt; repeat to other side and continue going left to right at a brisk pace. Pump your arms at a 90° angle.
  • Jumping Rope (1 minute)- Simply pretend you have a jump rope.
  • 8 Lunges on each leg

If there’s a class right before yours and you’re at a gym, hop on a stationary bike, an elliptical or another cardio machine for 5 to 10 minutes to get your body nice and warm. If you are attending class in more of a studio setting where you are waiting in a small lobby, take a brisk walk around the block a time or two. 

4) Stand in the Middle

When you are standing in a group of people waiting for class to begin, not only do you want to aim to be in the center between front and back, but also in the middle of the two sides. This is considered “center center.”

Center center is a terrific place to be when you’re new because when you turn to face the back, you will have people in the last few rows to watch (who are now in front of you) and you won’t have to crank your head all the way around to see what the instructor is doing. 

More than likely, there will be some people in those rows who have attended the class before and they will be familiar with the moves. If not, those dames will be the ones who have to strain their necks to catch the choreography, and you’ll just be comfortably following them.

5) It’s Okay to Modify

When you are in a fitness class, don’t feel as though you have to do everything exactly the way the instructor does it. For instance, if she/he performs squats and your quadriceps (your front thigh muscles) are ready to fall off your body, don’t go down as deep. 

And you aren’t anything less than awesome if you have to modify movements. Keep in mind many fitness classes are catering to a wide variety of levels so there will be some exercises that are more challenging than others. Listen to your body and modify when necessary.

6) Ask Questions

If there’s a particular move you don’t quite understand during the class, ask the instructor. They are there to help you. There’s usually time built in between classes for that exact purpose. 

So after class, don’t be afraid to go up, introduce yourself and ask for help. When I teach, I love it when students come up to me with a question after class. It shows they care and they are truly wanting to get better. In addition to that, when you begin building a relationship with the instructor, they are more likely to give you individual feedback, which never hurts. 

Even if you don’t have a question afterward, it’s always a nice touch to go up to the instructor and thank them for class.

7) Don’t Beat Up On Yourself

Attending a fitness class for the first time means you’re going to make some mistakes. That’s just all there is to it. You know that chick in the front who rocked it out like nobody’s business? She started out as a beginner just like you at some point, and I bet she messed up quite a bit as well. So do yourself a favor and cut yourself some slack already!




Katie is a wife, dog mom, certified pilates, fitness and dance instructor, award winning choreographer and professional dancer of over 14 years. As someone who has struggled with her weight for most of her adult life, she has finally been able to put that battle to bed (most of the time anyway!), and wants to share the inside scoop on how to get healthy and fit.