Self-isolation, working from home and remote learning have not made good bedfellows for allowing primary care givers (let’s be honest: ‘Mums’) to maintain a fitness regime of any sort. You may have made it outside, kids in tow, for your daily ‘iso walk’; or your may have even done a home workout each day. 

Essentially, though, for the past thirteen weeks, you’ve haven’t been able to step foot inside a gym. And that’s a long time to have off! Things will have changed – some out of necessity and some because your instructors have taken the opportunity to reinvigorate their business. 

So, your post-Iso return to the gym or your favourite group fitness class is going to be just like being a beginner all over again. It’s going to be great to see everyone again, but you may be feeling nervous about what it will all be like. Or maybe you are a beginner? Maybe you’d like to start attending the gym once their doors fly back open. Either way these tips are designed to help you have a great time at your first session back. 

Book in.

There are usually a couple of ways to do this – your best bet is to check out their website. Some services will have a booking system, and others may just have a ‘call ahead’ policy. Either way, it’s better to let the service know they are expecting a new member as it allows the instructor to be aware of this. And while gathering numbers are restricted and contact tracing is required, you will have to book to even get into the class or gym. 

Go with a friend.

Having a familiar face to smile or grimace at can be reassuring in such an unfamiliar situation. You can both fumble through together and you can both be as unsure as each other about what to do. Or, maybe your friend has already done the class a few times? Great! She can show you what to do, where to set up, introduce you (quietly) to the instructor and even to a few friendly class members. Remember, everyone in that room – and I mean EVERYONE – was new at one stage. Even the instructor! Yep, even the instructor had to walk through those doors for the first time once upon a time. So everyone in that room should be able to empathise with your nerves and a couple of friendly ones will help you out with your first class. 

Go in with an open mind.

Don’t set any expectations of yourself or of the class. Be open to trying new things and be curious about how many new ways you can move your body. While some moves may feel uncomfortable or unusual, nothing should actually physically hurt you during the class. 

Take your time.

I want to look at this from two different perspectives – the first one being a practical point of view (actually getting yourself to the class) and the second being the expectations on yourself in the class. So, first of all, you definitely want to arrive at least ten minutes before the class starts, if not a tad bit more. You need time to get a lay of the land, to go to the toilet, to fill out any paperwork (such as a health form) that may not have already been done, to set up and to have a chat to the instructor. To do this, you need to know how long it’s going to take you to drive/walk/public transport to the class. It may also pay to check out what the car-parking is like. Taking your time once you’re in the class is so important. Every single instruction and cue is going to be new for you, or you need to remember. It’s much better to do five great squats while everyone else in the class is doing twenty, than to hurt yourself doing those twenty poorly. You are going to be asking your body to move in ways that it may not be used to, so just be gentle on yourself. A good instructor should definitely allow for this, and will have some great modifications up their sleeve if you really do find something too tricky. 

You don’t have to be fit to start.

This follows on nicely from my last point. Just like you wouldn’t get your hair trimmed before you go to the hairdresser, you don’t have to be fit to start in a group fitness class (as long as the class is suitable for all fitness levels). While it might seem like everyone else in the room are fitness experts, the truth of the matter is, they’re not! Everyone has their own reason for being there, everyone has their own perspective on fitness and everyone in the class was a beginner once upon a time. You’ll soon see that the instructor will give individual feedback to class participants – no one gets it right all of the time. A good instructor will be able to help you at whatever fitness level you are coming into the class with. 

Wear comfy clothes and runners/sneakers.

The clothes you choose to wear is not really the important point here. You just need to be able to move well in them – so a pair of tracksuit pants or leggings on the bottom, and a comfy t-shirt or active wear top is best. Something to consider for comfort will also be the ways you may have to move in these clothes – so check to see how comfortable you are bending over (reach towards your toes), squatting (a sitting position without the chair), reaching above your head, lying on your back and getting up and down off the ground. Your shoes should ideally be laced-up runners (not slip on) – and this is simply because you will need the extra support. You need to be comfortable and supported enough to move forwards, backwards and side to side. They should have good grip to keep yourself safe. 

Another clothing consideration is your bra.

Again, you will be moving in many different ways to what you are used to, so it is wise to check that your bra can support you as you reach your arms above your head, as you lean forward, as you lie on your back and as you get up and down off the ground. 

Layers are key!

Often times, the class participants start a class wearing a jumper and soon take that off for the long-sleeved t-shirt they are wearing underneath as they warm up. Then, as the class really gets into the swing of things, they take the long-sleeved off for a short-sleeved t-shirt. As we cool down at the end, they then put their jumpers back on. 

Some other things to bring:

Some gyms or group fitness business will require you to bring your own mat and maybe even your own weights at the start – so do check ahead about this; check ahead to see if you’ll be required to wear a mask; you’ll want your own water bottle (fill it before you leave home); you may wish to bring a towel (a hand-towel will do here) to wipe your face through the class and also for any floor work you may do; a small bag for your things (it makes it easier to keep your phone, keys, wallet, drink bottle, towel, etc. all in the one place). And of course, a small bottle of hand sanitiser, although this should be supplied. 

Consider bringing:

a small, spray deodorant in case you become aware of your own BO during the class; a spare hair tie and bobby pins; and a spare pad/tampon. 

I am so aware of how long this list is. Please don’t think that the length of this list is indicative of how complicated participating in a group fitness class is. It’s not. This is simply an overview of all the little things I wish I knew when I first started, and also the little things that I remind participants of every so often. 

The most important thing to remember is to simply just start! You will never actually find out what a group fitness class is like unless you try if for yourself. 

So, go on, grab a friend, pop your comfy clothes and runners on and GIVE IT A GO! 

(The very first thing you should do, though, before any of this, is check in with your GP – just to see if there are any health concerns that you may be unaware of that need to be taken into consideration before you start or start back.)

Theresa Prior is a Westmeadows mum and passionate about your health and fitness. She gets it!

She is also a qualified Personal Trainer (Cert III + IV: Victorian Fitness Academy 2013) with a specialised qualification in Post-Natal Assessment + Functional Exercise Prescription.