Doing anything for the first time can be scary and heading to a new fitness class is no different.
Whether you’ve never completed a push up, or you’re a WOD junkie (just trust me that means you know what you’re doing), going to a new environment and trying a fitness class generally lies somewhere between stressful and downright terrifying.
So your options are to just not go and never do anything… (We’re not really fans of this). Or you can go, embrace the new experience, people and environment and see if it’s something you want to continue to do. But how do we overcome or at least rationalise the fear?
I like to think about absolute worst case scenario’s, what is the absolute worst thing that can happen? Let your imagination run wild – maybe you turn up in your pajamas, or your tights are on inside out, or that bean you ate last night has come back to haunt you. All pretty bad, somewhat unlikely, but let’s say we somehow manage to do all 3.
My rationalization: Pajamas are comfy. A lot of really good yoga / workout gear has seams inside out (again for comfort, so another point for pj’s). Then finally what kind of group is going to blame the new person for a mysterious smell? It’s way more likely to be the guy who thinks he’s “all that”, not the cool, interesting new person in their PJ’s, who’s the indoor crop duster.
Sorry if I got a little sidetracked, but PJ’s are comfy… Now far more likely a worst case, is that the class is too tough and you simply can’t do it.
Even if you’re struggling, do the best you can and when the instructor comes past ask for help, a lot of people take time to “get the hang of it”. If the instructor is impatient, rude or not helpful, just leave, that instructor isn’t for you (or us, or anyone). This isn’t thunder dome or a weird cult (as much as everyone moving in unison makes it feel that way), leave whenever you want, you’re a grown up, you’re in control.
I know you feel like all this is easier said than done, what does this guy know? So here’s a little story about a 6 foot 3, 100kg inflexible, oft injured guy doing yoga for the first time.
I turned up to my first 2 hour Iyengar Yoga class on a beautiful Monday night in April, the sun was just setting, smell of rain in the air, it really was a beautiful night, just gorgeous. But yes, you read that right 2 hours of yoga. To make matters worse Monday’s were still well and truly inside my hobble zone, where my body hadn’t yet recovered from my sporting efforts on the Saturday. What was supposed to be fun was really a weekly tenderizing. So I hobbled into the studio, and was met by some cool, friendly, laid back types. I took off my shoes and sat on the floor as instructed.
The Yoga class began and I couldn’t even do the first bit (technical term for the first pose). My feet cramped, my body and mind felt incapable of leaning back in the same way the rest of the class had just plonked back like it was nothing. Seeing my confusion and terror the instructor came over and suggested some “support cushions”. I looked around and saw 1 person in a class of 20 with a single cushion under their back, so thought it must be a thing. So with a pile of cushions, stacked in a way to maximize height and load bearing ability I attempted the “first bit”.
Leaning back on my matrix of support cushions, I winced and writhed about getting what felt like further away from the position I for some crazy reason desired to put my body in. Unfortunately like the guy who had just been shot protecting the president, I was breathing rapidly, writhing in pain and knew the job was not yet done.
So what came next for our hero? Did he bleed out, did someone save the president? Or more likely in my case, did I leave and follow Cultus the Rottweiler’s lead and swing past Maccas drive through on the way home?
I pushed through. After what was probably only 5 minutes of what felt like an hour long torture session the “first bit” was finally over! I’d made it, I hadn’t done it as well as everyone else, but I’d done it the best I could. The next bit involved standing, standing I could do! Like a young Rory Calhoun I could stand with the best of them.
Whether it was the euphoria of making it through the first bit, or I’d just increased my pain tolerance in 5 minutes (thanks yoga!), I managed to make it through the whole class. I called on my new found best friends the “support cushion” matrix a number of times, in fact I’m 100% sure I didn’t do one pose correctly, but I was enjoying it and actually liked joking with the instructor about making him earn his money.
I continued to do Iyengar yoga every Monday for 3 months (yes I may have missed on long weekends), until I moved house. By then I was down to 1 support cushion for the 1st bit. It was great, I felt like I was sleeping better and had more energy on a Tuesday than any other day of the week, while I don’t still practice Iyengar I’m glad I did and writing this makes me want to go back.
Unfortunately new classes aren’t always sunshine and support cushions. I’ve also had times where I’ve tried classes I just didn’t like. I generally like spinning classes, but have had a couple of instructors that were just up there working themselves out (note to instructors if you’re too puffed out to speak you’re not running a great class). Luckily I’ve also had some legends who were really motivating and their classes were fun. I also walked out of a kettlebell class once, because I didn’t know what I was doing and no one seemed to care.
All classes and instructors are different. A different instructor may not have got me through that first Yoga class. So if the class really is too tough, you don’t feel comfortable or you’re worried about an injury, stop. This generally means you didn’t get the right information before you started or are not getting the right support (which isn’t your fault). So just grab your stuff and leave, maybe you book in for an easier class at the location if they were nice people, or you leave and never return, completely up to you, you’re the boss of you!
So that’s my attempt to get you going to a new class. Remember worst case you smell and/or leave, best case you get down to one support cushion and are still talking about how good it was 6 years later.