This is not going to be a fitness article like the ones you’re used to at this time of year. You know, the ones that prey on your culturally-induced dissatisfaction with your body. So many industries are built around you not feeling happy with who you are. I’m here to say forget all that.
First thing’s first: Why do you want to get in shape? What is your motivation?
It might seem strange to start off an article about getting into shape with me questioning you about your motivation. I’m going to do it anyway. Here’s why.
You should go to the gym because: You want to take time to yourself, to relieve stress or anxiety, because moving more will make you feel better physically or emotionally.
You shouldn’t go because you feel guilty about eating a cookie last night, or last week, or all last year.
Working out should be something you do to make you feel better, not as a punishment.
You will be asking your body to get stronger, to be there for you in ways that you haven’t called on it in the past, and if you want your body to feel better, you can’t get there by shame.
Throw your self-judgment out the window on your way to the gym. That kind of littering is ok. That is actually what’s weighing you down.
Speaking of weight: I don’t weigh my personal training clients when they come in for the first time, unless they ask me to. Why? Because if you’re here trying to lose weight for a wedding, or to fit into a particular swimsuit, your goal is temporary, and while I can help you get there, what happens after the event is over?
I also know from experience that when I was at my smallest, after losing 90 pounds, I felt bigger than ever before. All I could see were my flaws. I lost the weight, but not the self-judgement.
Fitness isn’t about numbers on a scale. It’s about feeling good in your own skin, feeling capable, feeling strong, and not giving a flying f*** about your “flaws.”
What (not) to wear
You don’t have to have expensive, fancy workout gear. Just something comfortable that you can move in.
Hear me again:
COMFORTABLE AND YOU CAN MOVE IN
-Don’t wear jeans to yoga! You’ll chafe!
-For weightlifting classes, you’ll need sturdy shoes and athletic wear to get range of motion.
-Wear footwear to classes that would require it, but not to yoga!
Yeah, I know that’s kind of a basic assumption, but I’ve seen some wild stuff in the years I’ve taught. People wearing Uggs to lift weights, people wearing no shoes for kickboxing, people wearing shoes… you guessed it… in yoga.
Most importantly: wear things that make you happy. I like to wear sarcastic unicorn t-shirts. If that’s your jam, do it! If you want more athletic gear, you can get great stuff without breaking the bank at places like TJ Maxx or Target. So long as it makes you happy, as an instructor, I do not care. (Though I will give you extra points if it has a unicorn or something snarky on it. And by points I mean pushups. Muahaha!)
Every single one of us was new once.
Some of us have been new many times!
No one expects you to be good at things the first time you go. Or the tenth time you go. I remember the first time I went to a class at the gym. I had been working out by myself and thought the classes looked fun and spent six months working up the courage to show up. I even planned my laps around the track to when there were classes so that I could watch and learn about them before before having to brave actually setting foot in the studio.
The first class I went to was a dance-based cardio class. I felt so many feelings– none of them good. I felt awkward, terrified, intimidated. I tried to hide in the back, but there was hardly anybody there, so there was no one to hide behind. All I could see was my instructor and myself in the big, stupid mirror. The instructor was friendly, but I wanted to disappear.
I managed to finish the class and I cried afterwards. I was afraid after risking showing up that I was never going to be good at it.
And I wasn’t good at it. The only reason I went back to a second class was because a friend of mine asked me to try it again with her. It took 3-4 classes for me to get more familiar with the moves. I still wasn’t confident in my body necessarily, but I started at least to be able to follow along better.
My best advice is to try lots of things until you find something enjoy. It’s not necessarily going to be what is the “best” workout. There are so many things you can do to work out. I could tell you to run three miles a day every day and maybe you’ll do it for two weeks, and quit. That’s not what we’re looking for. YOU ACTUALLY NEED TO HAVE FUN. You also deserve to have fun working out.
I would rather enjoy an hour than hate thirty minutes. It’s not about what’s most efficient, it’s about what you’re actually going to do because you like it.
Introduce your dang self!
As your instructor, I’m better able to help you if you introduce yourself. Arrive a few minutes early and come introduce yourself– I know that most instructors would rather get you set up the right way so that you have everything you need. I will explain moves more thoroughly if I know there are people who are just learning or are new to the class.
Please keep in mind, whatever you’ve been able to lift or do before, you shouldn’t expect to be able to immediately do that the first time you come to a class. You are much better off starting light and getting comfortable with the class and moves, than going heavy and risking injury. Believe me. I’ve seen people going too hard too fast, and it usually ends in pain.
Especially in the first few classes, make sure to listen to the instructor. It’s great if you have a buddy with you to help keep you motivated, but we give you instruction which is important to help keep you safe– whether it’s your first time, or your 300th time in our class.
If I correct you during class, don’t feel bad. I’m not criticizing you. I’m just trying to help you not hurt yourself!
I know, I know, not everyone wants to make new friends, especially trying something new. But trust me on this one: Make friends with the regulars.
It may seem like everyone around you knows each other, but generally, if people are happy to be there and see each other, they’ll be happy to have you join them. It may seem intimidating at first, but really, if you share a comment like, “wow, that was rough!” or “How long have you been doing this class?” or “have any tips for me on this one move?” you can easily start to bond. I’ve seen some amazing friendships blossom in my classes between people who otherwise wouldn’t have ever met. People who look forward to seeing each other, who keep each other accountable, who support each other through good times and bad. (And good workouts and bad!)
That’s also a good motivator for coming back– knowing you will see people you’ve gotten to know. While it’s great to start the gym with a gym buddy, don’t stop there. Make more gym buddies so that even if “your” person bails out, you’ll have another social tie to make you want to show up.
I can’t wait to see you shed the weight of your expectations (see what I did there?) and find exercise that you love, and that loves you back. Come see me! I’ll be at the gym. Where I always am. The gym is my happy place, and it can be yours, too. Trust.