So You Signed Up for a Really Intimidating Class: An Instructor’s Tips to Ace It

By Emily Wolff

Whether you go to a gym like Crunch or NYSC, hop around on ClassPass, or purchase drop-ins, you definitely know The Class (no, not The Class by Taryn Toomey, although I suppose that does fall into this category… keep reading).

The Class is the one that’s always waitlisted, the one with the seemingly perfect and yet intimidating instructor, the one where all the same regulars sign up each week like it’s life-or-death, the one where everyone is wearing just a sports bra and already has a six-pack, or the one with crazy equipment or machines you’ve never used in your life.

Trying a new fitness class is scary and can definitely be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are a few insider tips on how to make the best of your first class experience (trust me—I’m an instructor!).

1. Read the class descriptions (and take an intro class if it’s offered).
Having worked as an instructor and a front desk team member at many gyms, I’ve seen so, so many first-time clients unknowingly sign up for advanced-level classes (no shade, but… usually through ClassPass), and then be floored when leaving the class because everyone else could follow along and they felt left in the dust.

Don’t let that be you! Read the class descriptions on the website or on ClassPass.  If you’re walking in, talk to the front desk staff to see what they recommend.

Most studios offer an intro-level class (at the gyms where I teach, we have Lagree Foundations at Lagree NY and Signature I at Physique 57)—I highly recommend taking these classes, especially at a new studio because each studio’s technique is a bit different. If you’ve confidently taken multiple classes in a technique (barre, spin, pilates, you name it), then totally jump into the all-levels class for a challenge! But if you’re newer or on the fence, take the intro level. You’ll actually get a better workout because you’re taking the time to do every exercise correctly.

2. Show up early.
Allow extra time to find the studio because God knows that in New York City some boutique fitness studios are basically speakeasies where the password is “gains.” Additionally, an extra five to ten minutes is a perfect amount of time to talk to the instructor (if that’s available—if not, there’s usually front desk staff who can tell you what to expect), go over any injuries, and acclimate yourself to the studio (hey, posh locker room, how you doin’?). Since we use megaformer machines where I teach at Lagree NY, I can tell you firsthand it’s absolutely imperative that first-timers show up early so we can show them the megaformer, how it works, and how to move safely on the machine.

3. LISTEN to your instructions.
As an instructor, I purposely repeat important cues and spend time going through setups because it’s so easy to zone out when your thighs/abs/glutes are on fire. But keeping your ears and eyes open will help you perform successfully. That said…

4. Don’t expect to nail it your first time.
Your first class is a learning experience, and there will probably be a few exercises (or all the exercises!) that are confusing or that you can’t do right away. That’s okay! If you start to get frustrated, focus on the moves you can do, and how you’re getting stronger and in time will be able to nail that one position that seems completely impossible right now.

5. Have fun!
At the end of the day, it’s just a workout class. You might be grimacing from the pain, but allow yourself to enjoy the experience as a whole—the music, the work, the endorphins afterward.

6. Chat with the instructor or front desk after.
It’s always great to touch base with clients after their first class! We always want to hear about your experience, good or bad, and if there’s something that frustrated or confused you or just didn’t feel right, please tell us! If we have a break between classes, we are always happy to break down any of the moves. There are no dumb questions, so please don’t be shy—we want to help you feel the work in the right places!

7. Take advantage of intro offers.
It’s been a while since I used ClassPass myself, but from what I understand, their dynamic pricing can make peak-time classes up to $40. Most gyms have some sort of intro special—I try to highlight them in my studio reviews—so definitely take advantage of those two-for-one specials. Most of the time, it’s a better deal than ClassPass, and there won’t be blackout or premium class times, so you can get into that elusive 6:30 p.m. that fills immediately.

Remember: Everyone in the room had a first class once, too. Challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone—you won’t regret it!

Emily Wolff is a long-time fitness enthusiast who left the corporate world for fitness instruction. She teaches barre at Physique 57 in Manhattan and lagree at Lagree NY in Astoria.