The names of group fitness classes can sometimes be intimidating before you even step foot into the studio. At the Y, we offer classes like BODYATTACK, BODYCOMBAT and BODYPUMP—all of which could scare a first-timer seeing them on the schedule. (Hint: They’re actually really fun!)
If it’s your first time joining a group fitness class and you want to start with the basics, there are a whole set of beginner-friendly classes designed to kick-start your health journey in a manageable, digestible way.
Here are six easy-to-follow classes that every beginner exerciser should try at least once:
A good workout always begins with warmed-up muscles. Stretching is vital to increasing strength and endurance, so this group exercise class is an easy choice for folks looking to start somewhere. In a Stretch class, you may use self-massage for your feet and hands, try therapy bands to assist in deepening a stretch, or stand on blocks to stretch your legs on the bar. Lou Anne Jacobs, instructor at the Brentwood Family YMCA, says that her goal is to “warm up and work [your] way through the body.” Techniques are explained and modifications are given as needed.
2. Step Aerobics
When you’re ready to get your heart rate up, beginner Step Aerobics is the class to attend. You’ll use the studio step to get your feet moving, and the choreography combinations of this class are simple and easy to remember. In Connie Williams' Step/Total Strength Fusion class, she makes sure to speak with new students before class in case any modifications need to be made. "I also keep an eye out for them and offer guidance if needed," Connie says. "I try to follow up with them at the end of class to see how they did and encourage them to return." The trick to mastering Step Aerobics is attending a few classes; once you get the movements down, it’ll become one of your favorites.
3. Tai Chi
Don’t let the slow, detailed movements of Tai Chi class fool you—this ancient tradition is used to methodically improve your overall health. Anna Winberg's introduction to Tai Chi at the Brentwood Family YMCA has made it more likely a beginner will return. "I realized that many new students who came for the first time found it difficult to follow the rest of the group who had practiced for awhile and often gave up and didn't return." She also didn't want her longtime students to feel like they had to start from the beginning. "We decided to have a 30-minute introduction so new students can get a better feeling for what Tai Chi is about and get familiarized." After that beginner class, Anna moves into the more advanced Tai Chi class. She's found that it's worked well for her new students. "They often begin to stay for a little bit longer and participate in the continuing class, and after awhile, they stay for the full class."
Several of our group exercise classes are offered at different levels of difficulty. On your class schedule, you may see “beginner” or “advanced” next to a title. Pay attention to these labels—you could end up in a class you're not ready for! You'll also find that group exercise classes vary in difficulty based on the instructor. What could be an easy bike ride in your Monday afternoon Cycling class could be an uphill climb at your Thursday morning class. If you’re not sure, just ask a YMCA staffer about the level of the class.
4. Dance Blast
In a Dance Blast class, you’ll find folks of all ages and skill levels dancin’ it out to great music. Each instructor has their own set of favorite songs that they like to teach, but all Dance Blast classes have something in common—what you put into the class, you'll get out. If you need to modify the steps, you won’t be alone. If you can’t remember the choreography, as Evelyn Wilson will tell you in her class at the Donelson-Hermitage Family YMCA: “Just keep moving.” Dance Blast is a fun, low-pressure class that gives beginners a chance to move around in a way that fits their body best (and, there are always first-timers).
5. Basic Yoga
This restorative class is perfect to ease your way into working new muscle groups. Lou Anne Jacobs says this about her basic yoga class: “I always ask if anyone is new to yoga or how comfortable they are practicing. I start out gently warming up before moving into poses. I give modifications for poses for students that need it. I will sometimes adjust a student’s posture with their permission, but I will never push them farther than they are comfortable.”
6. Lengthen and Strengthen 101
Building strength doesn't mean having to tackle the mechanical weight machines or bench-pressing on the wellness floor. Start with a group fitness class geared towards first-timers. Sandra Jankowski teaches Lengthen and Strengthen 101 at the Brentwood Family YMCA, and her class consists of 20 minutes of strength using dumbbells, bands and other equipment; 20 minutes of basic Pilates; and 20 minutes of stretching. "It’s perfect for members who are new to working out, need modifications because of previous injuries, or feel overwhelmed in more advanced classes," Sandra says. All you need to bring is a good attitude!
With all of our group exercise classes, you have the option to modify difficult poses to suit your body’s capabilities. At the Y, we recognize and celebrate that no one’s health journey or body is the same; we all have different talents and abilities. You may start with Basic Yoga and find that you could push yourself to try Advanced Yoga. Or, maybe the first class of Step Aerobics seemed difficult, but with an initial round of choreography under your belt, you’re ready to give it another try. Keep in mind that everyone around you also had to start somewhere—and we’re here to help.