Help me become an exercise class expert!
June 10, 2015 12:07 PM   Subscribe

OK guys after years of beer and strolls instead of water and workouts, I want to get back into the intense exercise game. My goals are to reduce anxiety, improve mood, and overall to feel better, healthier, more flexible, more active. But... how do exercise classes / studios work?

I saw a possible solution recently - Classpass (not buzz marketing!). The possible variety is really appealing - pilates, biking-stuff, climbing-stuff, yoga, etc.

I have NEVER been to an exercise class in my life, so I have some questions:

I have a touch of social anxiety. I can imagine feeling intimidated by all the fit, be-legginged people in these Hollywood classes. Are there any exercise-class-specific strategies to reduce this nervousness? Or are there types of classes or studios that might be less intimidating to a newcomer?

Any general tips to an exercise-class novice? Things to bring? Things to wear/not wear? Unspoken rules or etiquette? (That's also my nervousness talking, but I want to be prepared!)

Any feedback overall on Classpass? I've only had experience with YMCAs in the past. The closest YMCA is not within easy walking distance, but a bunch of Classpass-supported small exercise studios are. Is it worth it? Or would I be better served driving to the Y?
posted by Uncle Glendinning to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
In a group class it is okay to look at your fellow classmates, even if they are in really good shape and attractive/intimidating, to look at their perfect form and to learn from it. Enjoy!
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 12:11 PM on June 10, 2015

I started at the Y because it wasn't intimidating, but as I've branched out I find that most group classes are kind of similar. Bring a water bottle. Check the website to be sure it doesn't ask you to bring anything else (yoga mat or something, but everywhere I've ever gone has equipment for those who didn't bring it). Be willing to get there a little early and admit to someone that you're new - most folks are happy to help a newbie out.

Don't wear anything super revealing or uncomfortable. In yoga it can help to have clothes that will cover you even if you're upside-down. Otherwise, enjoy! You are likely to find something you love!
posted by ldthomps at 12:26 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have and love Classpass (though I'm in a different city from you). The class selection and options are awesome. And really, the way to do it is to just go. Some classes and studios are definitely better than others as far as feeling judgy, but in my experience it has nothing to do with the type of class, just some studio cultures suck.

Wear anything you're comfortable in. Bring a sealable bottle of water (something that won't spill if it tips over) and a small towel if you tend to sweat. Check the studio rules around things like socks being required and whatnot so you know ahead of time.

It's good to arrive a few minutes early, introduce yourself to the instructor, and get any questions answered you might have. You'll almost certainly have to sign a waiver and whatnot at any new studio you go to, and some will give little tours, so be prepared for that time. Add an extra few minutes for classes with equipment you might not be familiar with (e.g. Pilates reformer or spinning - even if you've used another studio's equipment of the same type they all have their own quirks).

But once you've gone a few times you'll be a pro. Everyone is in their own heads and worried about their own stuff during these classes. Don't try to impress anyone but yourself. Soon you will see it is so fun and so worth it.
posted by brainmouse at 12:28 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Almost no matter what you are doing, bring water and a small towel. I would say to try the climbing stuff before the yoga stuff, since it'll be a more straightforward workout, but that's just me.

I've never tried Classpass, but it may also be worthwhile to check the walkable gyms in your area of LA - mine throws in a bunch of classes with the basic membership, which let me try out different things before settling on the instructor I preferred.
posted by tautological at 12:41 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

A long time ago I figured out this sort of non-intuitive thing: If I stand at the back of the class because I'm anxious, it makes me more anxious because I see all these people, people, PEOPLE ALL AROUND ME THEY"RE PROBABLY LOOKING AT ME but if I stand near the very front, I can really concentrate on just the instruction and keep thinking "it's just the instructor and me, just the instructor and me" and I end up having a much better time. (And yeah, there are mirrors so I know there are other people, but somehow that doesn't matter.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:43 PM on June 10, 2015

Depending on where you live, you might be able to take advantage of groupon/living-social/etc to try out classes for cheap. A lot of studios will do a deal for passes for new students. If there are enough studios near you, than you can just jump to a different place when your pass expires.
posted by tinymegalo at 12:52 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty confident but I found this intimidating when I first starting going to gyms to work out, and even now I don't do classes at my current gym (Gold's) unless I really feel I'm in good shape. Gym rats tend to not only look great, but keep going long after I'm exhausted and would have stopped but for the group atmosphere. HOWEVER, it is not intimidating, and works fine, to go to classes at the Y or a local community center. I'd start there.

Another option is to do this with a friend. And promise each other you won't force yourself to do things in class that are just too much for your level.
posted by bearwife at 1:15 PM on June 10, 2015

I've been using classpass for the past 8 or 9 months. I'm in NY, though I have gone to a spin class while I was visiting my sister in LA. I'm a fan of classpass, because there are a lot of studios I like that are close to my home/work or on the route between the two.

When you reserve a class on classpass, you'll get an email confirmation that, depending on the info the studio has provided, tells you things like what to bring (i.e., whether you need sneakers, whether towels/showers are provided) and when to arrive. I have also on occasion called a studio directly to ask about what is provided/needed. Often you have to show up a few minutes earlier for the first time at a studio, because you'll have to fill out a waiver form. I tend to try to show up a few minutes early anyhow, so that I can change (if necessary) or put my things away without stress. (Some studios have big locker rooms, and some have individual changing rooms or bathrooms that make the changing process go a bit slower).

I wear workout capris or shorts, though I'd say my experience is that most women are in workout capris or leggings. I try to wear a fairly fitted top for any boot camp/hiit/yoga/pilates classes, because I'd rather it doesn't fly up while I'm working out. I also try to get wicking material because I am a super sweaty person, and cotton tee shirts (which used to be my preference) get soggy and heavy for me. If you're doing bikram or other hot yoga, wear as little as possible - in my experience, there will be people there in super short shorts and topless (men) or just a sports bra (women), but I usually wear short, breathable shorts and a tank top. If you are at all busty - get a really supportive sports bra for anything that will be impact (boot camp, hiit, running). For barre/pilates/yoga, different studios have different policies regarding socks or bare feet, and most barre studios suggest barre socks (they have grips on the bottom) - the studio usually sells those, but it is probably cheaper to buy a pair at a sporting goods store or online if you're interested in those work outs.

I always bring a big water bottle and, depending on the studio, a small towel. Most studios have towels for your use, but if they don't, having my own is necessary since, as I said, I am a sweaty person.

Many instructors will introduce themselves to each person before the class begins and ask if you're new and if you have any injuries. If they don't, you can introduce yourself in the few minutes before class, particularly if you have injuries that might need modifications, or if you need help setting up equipment. If you haven't gone to a spin class in a while, let them help you set up your bike so that you're comfortable and safe. The instructor should also tell you if you need to grab any equipment and what type - for example, if you should get weights and what weight range. Sometimes they'll say that you need a weight that you can do some exercise with - feel free to say that you haven't done that, or to take two different weights, or to see what other people are doing and judge accordingly.

As for unspoken rules/etiquette, it varies. Some places - particularly spin studios - assign you your sport (or bike), so you can just go there. Other places it is a free for all as to where to stand. I don't do a lot of barre, but apparently people feel strongly about their spots, so if you see a spot with a towel hung over the barre, it is probably taken. Try to give people space both in the studio and in the locker rooms. If you're moving from station to station in a circuit or similar class, wipe your sweat off your equipment before moving to the next station. If you are using the bathroom/water fountain/hair dryer/shower/etc before or after class, be aware of others that are waiting and don't dawdle. Put your equipment away at the end of class, unless your instructor tells you not to do so.

If you want to get some reviews of various classes/instructors/studios, is a website that does precisely that. I think it is a bit more NY based than LA based, but there are reviews for LA classes as well. Sometimes I browse rateyourburn in combination with classpass. Also, if the first class you take isn't awesome, don't give up - I've tried so many classes in the last few months, some of which were very much out of my comfort zone. I've liked most of them, and for the ones I didn't, I still got a work out in, and now I know not to go back there. (If you feel like something is unsafe of course, speak up or leave. I haven't encountered anything like that though.)
posted by Caz721 at 1:18 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I didn't go to an exercise class until I was in my 40s specifically because I didn't want the social anxiety, etc., and once I started going, I realized that no one was looking at me and even if they were, either (i) they were thinking "right on that old lady is getting her exercise on" or (ii) fuck them.

Anyone who is judgy is just as judgy about themselves, though, so they see all their own faults that you don't see.

Breathe out the jive, breathe in the love. Exercise classes are the bomb!
posted by janey47 at 1:21 PM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

Nthing introducing yourself to the instructor, letting them know you're brand-new, and asking if you need to know anything or get anything. I have discovered that a lot of times when class participants are setting up a lot of equipment in their spots before the class starts, and it looks intimidating and confusing, the instructor doesn't actually plan on having the class members use all of that equipment for that session. For me, asking the instructor rather than just trying to copy my classmates cuts down on the "Ack, I don't know what I'm doing!" freak-out.
posted by jaguar at 1:39 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I love exercise classes. I find they are favoured by beginners/intermediate types anyway, as the ultra-fit like to set their own routines. So you don't need to worry about being the odd one out. Just wear something comfortable that won't be too hot. Try looking up the names of the classes on Google/YouTube to get a feel for what you'd like to try. For a first class you could go with something quite conventional like aerobics, bums tums and thighs (like aerobics but with more squats and floor work), body pump (exercising with small weights). Stand near the front so you can see the instructor clearly and near a mirror so you can check you are doing it right. Don't be afraid to tell the instructor that it's your first time or to ask them to explain what the purpose of a move is, or repeat it slowly. They usually love to help!
posted by intensitymultiply at 12:57 PM on June 12, 2015

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