Amber Long by Amber Long

The start of New Year means many people will begin an exercise program. Unfortunately, fewer than half will continue after two months. Group fitness can be a great way to stay on track because people who exercise in groups are more likely to adhere to a consistent routine due to the accountability provided by social connections. If you are thinking of trying group fitness, here are five tips to help you get started off on the right foot:

1. Introduce yourself.

Let the instructor know that you are trying the class for the first time., and make sure to mention any injuries, aches or pains that you may be experiencing. This will allow the instructor to be prepared to provide options if the class outline presents something that may not suit you; he or she can also keep an eye on your technique during class. It can be helpful to engage with others in the class, because they can provide insight on what to expect as a participant. Most are eager to share their excitement and opinions with new members.

2. Buddy up.

Take a class with a friend. Rather than meeting for a cocktail or coffee, meet up for class instead. Social support is important to assist you in beginning a new exercise program. The buddy system can make a new a new class less intimidating and much more fun.

3. Stand in the middle.

You don’t have stand in the front, but you should definitely not stand in the back. Stand in the middle so you can see and be seen by the instructor. This also gives you the opportunity to watch participants in the front row who likely attend class regularly. The instructor will usually face you and provide a mirror image, while the front row crowd will provide a view of the exercise from your perspective. Group fitness rooms are often lined with mirrors, which might feel intimidating at first. Don’t worry, most people are focused entirely on themselves for the duration of the class. You would be hard pressed to find anyone in a typical class looking at anyone other than him or herself or the instructor.

4. Listen to your body.

Each day you exercise, you will feel different. If a certain exercise feels uncomfortable or unsafe for your body, feel free to do another exercise, omit part of the exercise or just skip it all together. If you are uncertain, ask your instructor to clarify or watch your technique after class. Form and technique are more important than the intensity of the exercise. Overall, mindfulness during exercise can help you lower your risk of injury and get the most out of each session.

5. Try, try and try again.

Try each class at least three times before you make a decision to stop attending. Explore taking classes from different instructors if possible. Each instructor offers a unique experience based on his or her personality and background. Once you feel comfortable with a particular class, challenge yourself to try a different modality. If you like yoga, try strength training. If you like indoor cycling, try Zumba. Cross training helps ensure you have a balanced fitness program, while also lowering your chances of hitting progress plateaus and feeling bored.

Exercising in the group setting is social and fun. These factors alone suggest group fitness participants will find it easier to maintain a consistent routine. In addition, many people will work harder when in the presence of others than they would on their own, making group exercise even more beneficial. As you begin your group fitness journey keep these tips in mind and, in no time, you will be considered a regular.