Find it hard to stay motivated when you work out on your own? Or to push yourself enough to break into a real sweat? Group exercise classes may be the answer. But it's not always easy to get started. Exercise classes can be intimidating, for one thing. And it can be a challenge to find a class - and instructor - right for you. Here's one aspiring exerciser's story, from a Weight Watchers Member:
"I once took a kickboxing-type class and, not being very co-ordinated, was having a hard time keeping up with the group. I was very self-conscious. I left that class about halfway through the session and never returned ... [Then] I took a belly dancing class for a while. However, when I realised that my body just will never move that way, I started to give up. The instructor made things worse by pointing out my failure to everyone - I was horrified and decided to drop the class ... Then I took a yoga class for months and loved it. The instructor was great and very patient. Unfortunately, she took a job at another gym."
Sound familiar? If you're one of many serial exercise-class starters - or if you've always been too scared to start - look below for some dos and don'ts that will help make a new class stick.
Ready, set, go
Exercise classes can be an extremely beneficial part of your plan. First of all, there's the schedule factor - if you treat a 10 am class as an appointment, at 10 am, you have to go. Also, in a group setting there are no distractions. Everyone's there to do the same thing.
Sold? Here are some tips on what it takes to stick with an exercise class:
DO pick a class you'll like. There's no need to trudge through exercise classes if you're completely miserable. Look around for a class that truly suits your personality - and state of mind. Always been interested in self-defence? Take boxing. Stressed? Try relaxing yoga. Want a well-rounded aerobic workout? Take a step class. Love to dance? Do it!
DO bring a friend. Try going with a friend to a class he or she loves. Once you make a commitment to someone else to be there, it's harder to make excuses not to go.
DO be prepared. Check out the class ahead of time and case out whether you need to get there early. See if you'll want to bring a towel. See what people are wearing.
DO wear something comfortable. Make sure you have something you feel as proud as you can in. If you have to splurge on a new outfit, do. It will make a big difference when you have one less thing to feel self-conscious about.
DON'T psych yourself out. It's common for new people to think everyone else is staring at them. In fact, those other people are usually too busy staring at themselves!
DON'T compare yourself to others, thinking about how much slower or older you are than the others in the class, or how much thinner than you they all are. Keep an open mind and go into it with the attitude of having fun.
DO consider location. Stand or sit either off to the side or a bit behind everyone (instead of front and centre), so you can have some room for error while you learn the techniques.
DON'T think you have to work as hard as the instructor. He or she is working hard enough to work out the most advanced person in the class and if you're new, that's not you (and that's nothing to feel bad about). Work at a level that's comfortable for you.
DO laugh at your mistakes. Group exercise is basically a grand case of follow the leader, and nobody gets it right the first time. But after a while, it's like riding a bike. The brain gets used to matching the terminology with the moves, and your body takes over on its own.
DO try variety and try again. If you've tried a class a few times and you're still just not getting into it, try something else - it's important that you find a class you really like. Also, after a while, you may start to get bored. Find the class you want to take next, then apply the dos and don'ts above to that class, too.