It’s Okay to Suck at Your First Exercise Class
“Class, we have a first-timer in the room today. Welcome Elizabeth!”
I’m about to begin my first barre class—and I’m absolutely terrified.
“Alright, let's get started by extending your left leg back behind you. Now pulse—one, two, three, four...”
Upbeat music fills the room. I copy the movements of my neighbor to the right because she looks like she knows what she's doing. Gripping the wooden ballet barre to steady myself, I raise my leg upwards, then downwards, upwards, then downwards.
“...seven, eight, nine, ten!”
The instructor encourages us to move with the beat of the music, but that’s far more instruction than my brain can process right now. Everything hurts. She’s going waaay too fast. I look like an idiot! I silently mouth curse words about the class instructor and struggle through the last leg pulses. I’m tempted to quit right now, but then I remind myself of why I’m here in the first place.
During a recent run, I'd tripped and smacked the pavement pretty hard. My diagnosis included a badly-bruised kneecap and strict orders from my doctor to take a few weeks off from running. In searching for alternative exercises during my hiatus, I asked a physical therapist friend for advice. She recommended barre, a low-impact workout that uses isometric movements, or small motions from the legs and arms, to build strength. Most of the exercises are centered around a stationary ballet barre and are designed to work the core, hamstrings, glutes, and hips.
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Every muscle is furious with me right now, but barre is bringing me one step closer to recovery. With renewed motivation, I enthusiastically extend my right leg back behind me and accidentally kick my neighbor in the shin. My excitement quickly changes to embarrassment as I turn around to apologize. I can hardly tell the difference between my hands and feet anymore, but I manage to wobble through the final lunges, squats, and balancing poses. I glimpse my neighbor take a not-so-subtle step away from me. Smart move.
Yes, my first barre class was a bit humiliating (I mean, come on, I kicked my neighbor!). Yes, my entire body hurt the next day, but as I asserted to myself, it's the good kind of pain!
Would I do it again? Absolutely. In fact, I attended my second class a week later. While I still struggled through the various positions (ever seen a giraffe try to walk on a balance beam?), I felt like I was starting to catch on. From the instructor to the class attendees, everyone was happy to help me perfect my pliés and revelés. And if I screwed up, laughing at my own clumsiness proved much more productive than getting frustrated.
Unless you’re super human, mastering a new exercise routine requires patience, consistency, and guts. If you expect instant success, you’re likely to be discouraged. Whether you fall off an exercise ball or take a tumble during downward dog, it’s okay to look a little silly the first time you attempt it.
So, what's the big takeaway?
When starting a new exercise, a learning curve is completely normal. The longer you stick with a workout, the more likely you are to make it a habit. Whether you’re a newbie to barre, spin, or kickboxing, there are plenty of ways to lessen the stress of diving into a brand new routine. Many gyms offer a one-time free class without future commitment, so why not take advantage? Ask a friend to tag along and position yourself towards the back of the room instead of the front row.
Lastly, if the instructor offers you feedback, don’t take offense or get embarassed. Think of it as constructive advice from an expert (which is what it is!). Your neighbor—unless it's the newbie friend you brought—may also be smart source for help.
And if you keep coming back, soon enough, you might even be the one everyone looks to during class for guidance. If it takes a while to get there, don’t fret. You're human—and failure is a key part of success. Learn to laugh through your awkwardness. Just don't give up. With a little determination, you’ll master the terms and techniques of a new exercise in no time.