Most people assume that January is the busiest month at the gym. It’s true there’s a surge in new memberships, but it’s actually springtime that my group fitness class numbers see a significant increase. I have a few theories about why, but I think the main reason there’s a gap is it can be intimidating to take a new fitness class, especially if you perceive yourself to be out of shape or uncoordinated. I get it. In fact, my first strength training class happened when I was training to be the instructor. This column from 2012 is addressed to others like me who are afraid they can’t keep up, will look foolish, or fail in a group class setting. I do my best to make everyone feel comfortable and capable, but getting people through the door the first time is the biggest challenge of all. Maybe, just maybe, I can assuage some of those fear in this piece. Read on.
Dear new girl in the back row in class today,
I noticed you. I know you were hoping to blend into the background. I know you picked today to try my strength training class because it was so crowded you figured I wouldn’t see you, but I did. Actually, I’ve been watching you for the last week as you passed by the window, checking out what was going on in the group exercise room from the corner of your eye. I could tell you were curious. I could also tell you were unsure.
You’re unsure if you belong at the gym. A stranger in a strange land. The equipment is unfamiliar. The trainer lingo a foreign language. You had no idea there were so many ways to squat. On your right there’s a guy in the corner doing pull-ups with an oversized chain draped around his neck. Yes, a chain. On your left is Jillian Michaels flicking ropes like they were licorice. (Actually, this woman makes Jillian look out of shape.)
You’re unsure if you are physically capable of what everyone else is making look so effortless. Why are you the only one breathing heavy? Why are you the only one whose face is beat red and slick with sweat? How is it possible to run with full makeup looking beautiful in Lululemon tops worthy of wearing out in everyday public life? You’re feeling self conscious about your shape and your state of physical well-being. You feel as if every eye in the gym is on you wondering the same thing. You imagine you hear the whisperings. “What is she doing here?” “What does she think she can actually do?” “Thank goodness that’s not me.”