There’s just one rule to joining a group exercise class…

There’s just one rule to joining a group exercise class…

“Take that first step, that’s everything.”

A tidbit of wisdom from Beverly Athletic Club’s own Group Exercise instructor Nicole Celso who has a habit of tossing out motivational pearls of wisdom in the middle of any one of her many classes. This statement of taking that first step is her number one rule of how to overcome one’s fear in starting a group exercise class. Make the first goal this one thought just step through that door.

“That’s huge, I’ve seen so many people hesitate to come into a group exercise class because they feel that a lot of people are staring at them. Maybe they tell themselves, I’m out of shape and everyone is going to stare at me. They feel as if they are a neon beacon in the class and everyone will be watching. But the truth is that all of the regulars are going to embrace them, they all remember what it was like to walk through the door and give it a try. Then ultimately once everyone starts the workout, each individual will only be focused on what they are doing and how can they finish.”

At the root of this hesitation is intimidation. The equipment, the space and seeing someone else in shape only to feel as though you are not. That’s why the simple advice that Celso gives reduces the stress and hesitation to one goal, a step. “You’re afraid to go there but that’s what we are here for! Every instructor knows your hesitation, your fears and we will never push you to do something you are not ready to do. It’s all about baby steps.”

Celso also loves the camaraderie that extends from a group class towards their fellow participants, helping the new person, challenging a friend to ride faster, and giving motivational yells to anyone who might be listening.  The group motivation kicks in and the individual can feel an immediate jolt of communal energy. “Group classes are 100% community. If you take that new person and put them into the community how much better will they feel. You have allies by your side and people who will push you, that is empowering.” 

Celso has observed people going over to the new kid in the class to make sure that they have the right equipment or they invite the instructor over for an introduction with a welcoming tone. A class community then will build up around that person, that individual feels that connection and gets motivated to try something new and different because of the fellowship created by an active, thoughtful group. The workouts then expand to a depth and breadth of conditioning that can be unexpected and the socialization influences individuals so much so that it becomes a welcomed habit. 

An article written by psychologist L. Allison Phillips for (which also appeared in The Washington Post) states that “group workouts can become a habitual behavior that you do not have to spend a lot of energy forcing yourself to do, they’re your default, preferred behavior.” 

Attempting to self-motivate every day can become de-prioritized within a busy lifestyle.  Whereas in a group setting you feel connected and challenged eventually developing into that habit that makes you come back again and again. That is what most individuals seeking a healthy lifestyle wish to strive for, a healthy habit. 

Celso agrees, “there are few people that have the mentality on their own to go full force. Then add in an instructor who is going to take me one step further. The average person will slack on their own, there is no accountability. In a group, there’s the instructor pushing you and then you suddenly find yourself trying to keep up with the person next to you. If you have someone next to you who is really hitting it hard, then a goal that you might set for yourself is to keep up with them. Pushing you beyond what you could do on your own.”

Celso refers often to the importance of nurturing and motivating every individual who enters that workout space. With the willingness to help by both the instructors and participants, a new habit forming, and the group affinity, if that you are still worried about being watched. You will develop muscle memory, a term used often with athletes, which will kick in after 28 days of learning a new routine or exercise. If you want to look like the person next to you, listen to the instructor and be forgiving to the learning curve that you are about to undergo.

“I’ll always tell you the truth and I will always try to push you to your potential. I want to challenge everyone who comes into a class, I want to push them out of their comfort zone for the best possible results. Little steps, you set up a goal and maybe it can’t happen that day or the next but if you enter the class with intention then eventually you will get there. It takes time. Don’t measure your success or failure based on others, look to them for community and support but this is you taking that step and every step after until you reach your goals.”

by Maureen Canney, MEd., MA.