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Intimidated By Exercise Classes? Don’t Be!

group-class-585In a recent journey around the internet, I found what was supposed to be a humorous article from a group exercise instructor. It was a pet peeves sort of article, chiding class participants about everything from how they smell to them taking breaks or doing their own thing to what they wore. It left a sour taste in my mouth, and I hadn’t been eating anything sour.

As someone who has years of working out under my belt, I admit to still feeling a little uncomfortable about doing my own thing in the weight room. I’m getting better, but occasionally I still feel a bit self-conscious. But in all of the classes I’ve taken over the years, I’ve never felt uncomfortable or judged negatively by an instructor, even with a boot camp-like Pilates instructor and even when I took a class that was way over my head.

The article made me sad for the people who are already hesitant to try new group exercise classes at the gym—or those who have never tried a class to begin with. I’m sure many people already feel self-conscious about trying new things, particularly if you’re just starting out in the fitness world, have weight to lose and are strengthening your fitness mojo. I’m sure there are judgey instructors out there, but I find that most instructors appreciate you showing up and giving it your all, even if your all doesn’t quite match up to what they planned for the class. Good, professional instructors understand limitations from fitness levels and injuries, and should never make you feel uncomfortable for not being the best in the class. Even better, trainers should provide modifications for those who need them. It’s not a competition; they should be glad you’re showing up so that they have a job.

Trying a new class can push you out of your comfort zone in more ways than one. And if an instructor makes you uncomfortable for reasons other than pushing you to new fitness limits, try a different class. There are awesome ones out there who will welcome you with open arms, no matter your fitness level!

Have you ever come across a rude instructor? Are you intimidated by group exercise? —Erin

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10 Comments
  1. That’s really disappointing. Everyone of us go to those classes for different reasons as you stated but without the support of the instructor themselves, it’s just a waste of time and energy. The whole point is to feel great mentally and physically when you leave. It’s too bad those people are out there teaching. The last thing I want to be is internet fodder afterwards.

  2. Jami says:

    I have always avoided classes. I’m much more comfortable doing my own thing in the weight room. But recently I’ve been in need of a change. I am actually trying a kick boxing class for the first time on Thursday. I’m excited to try something new but am having serious anxiety about the class setting.

  3. I’m sad to hear that too. I am not as self-conscious now that I have lost weight, but when I was overweight, I was really self-conscious. I think we need to give support to everyone who is trying to get healthier.

  4. Melissa says:

    In the beginning I’m a bit uncomfortable in group exercise, but usually once I know some people and get used to how the class is run I’m okay. I have not come across a rude instructor, those type of instructors I’m sure don’t last long.
    Who would stay there. 🙂

  5. Ashley says:

    I totally agree with you. I am fairly certain I read the same article you did, and while I believe it was meant to be funny, the core message that came across is that group fitness is only for certain people and for those who don’t abide by the unwritten “rules”, you aren’t welcome.

    A welcoming, non-judgemental teacher means everything!

  6. Cari says:

    I can really relate to being uncomfortable in a class! Hello Zumba. It is so hard to get the moves unless you constantly go, but it can be really fun if you learn how to do it. I felt embarrassed when I went but was only judging myself. I am sure there were other people in the class just as clueless as me. My advice is to try new things, just drag a few friends along with you!

  7. Years ago I took an aerobics class but I felt so self conscious as everyone else seemed to know what they were doing and I didn’t have a clue! I even left half way through and I have to say, I have never tried an aerobics class since! I did however discover Pilates and enjoyed it so much that I trained to become an instructor. I now teach my own classes but have just 4 people per class, no one is made to feel silly or embarrassed and everyone leaves feeling better about themselves.

  8. Tracey says:

    Just chiming in here a bit late, but nonetheless…I am an instructor and I do believe that kind of instructor is not the norm; most people become instructors because they love to HELP people, not criticize. I hope no one lets the few bad eggs out there discourage them from trying a group exercise class. Also, personally I tell my classes I am willing to stay afterwards and help with any moves they have questions or problems with. Together we can create a solution! 🙂

  9. Sharon says:

    I’ve been shamed by fitness instructors in group exercise classes. The first time, was in a group Pilates class at a private gym.
    The teacher loudly singled me out in front of all the other participants because I was “a reverse breather” and advised that I should take private Pilates lessons to get it right before I should come back to the group. I was mortified and needless to say I didn’t go back to that class again. The 2nd time was in a YMCA. I wanted to try a barre class and was so tight and stiff that I had difficulty raising my leg up and placing it on the barre. The teacher made a big deal about it by “helping:” me lift my leg up, provoking lots of laughter in the class. Again I was humiliated and reluctant to attend any more group exercise classes. I now do my own thing and attend SPINNING where the room is dark and no one pays attention to what anyone is doing or looks like.

  10. Alissa says:

    I’ve always hated group classes because I was a totally different body type than everyone else, and I never seemed to get any instructor support. But now that’s I’m into my 40’s and I am focused on getting my core and body stronger, group classes are part of my routine. I joined Classpass 5 months ago since I didn’t want to commit to one studio and be stuck if I had a bad experience. I’ve tried all kinds of classes at different studios and had some awesome experiences and some less than great experiences. But that’s the thing.. I tried them at least once, and the experiences that were less than great, I either didn’t go back or tried another instructor. The positive that came out of it was I love Pilates reformer classes which had intimidated me for years.