So here is my completely unprofessional, strictly observational advice for making it past March:
- Show up for your first few classes early. Give it ten minutes. Figure out the layout of the class. Get settled. Chat with someone who appears to know what they're doing.
- Talk to the instructor. Please! In those ten minutes before class, tell her/him that you've never done this before, or that you did six times at a different gym three years ago. This gives the instructor an opportunity to help you more, whether it be with form, equipment or motivation.
- Take a friend or make a friend. There have been many days that the 4:56 a.m. alarm might have been ignored, were it not for knowing that Spinning Marcy and Ellen would wonder why I wasn't there. These are friendships that developed over long months of casual chit chat at the gym and I now value greatly. We support each other, not only in our fitness endeavor but in life. Talk about exercise being good for the heart...
- Fitness classes are for fit people. Don't let that scare you away, but understand that you need to let someone help you get through those first few months of adjustment. Take breaks if you need to take breaks. Ease back until your body can keep up with your desires.
- No one is looking at you. When I began hitting the group exercise class scene, I was off in the corner, didn't know what I was doing, not in the clicque. Luckily (?), I was coping with the death of a marriage and needed the endorphins enough to ignore the perceived ridicule by the regulars. Those of us who have been going to the same class for six months, two years or even a decade are looking to the mirror at ourselves, not you. We are checking our form. We are looking at our thighs. We are hoping we don't fart [loudly].
- It's okay to be a newbie. If you've never taken yoga before, for Pete's sake, take a beginner's class. Yoga is so much more than stretching and breathing (yet, it's nothing more than stretching and breathing). I've practiced yoga (on and off) for twelve years and my down-dog still needs adjustment now and then. Take the time to learn the form so that you can experience the euphoria that results from a good class (at least 10% of my drives home from yoga include a missed turn).
So if you're playing it safe on the machines at the gym, or even walking around your neighborhood, find some music and find your groove. Don't push yourself to exhaustion these first few weeks. Give those hormones a chance to organize their plan of action so that they can sneak up on you and take over your life.
Admittedly, being addicted to exercise has its drawbacks, like when I almost skipped heart surgery because I didn't want to put marathon training on hold, but it's advantages far outweigh its drawbacks. And I'm not skinny. I don't look like a gym rat. I wish I'd put down the Nutella and drop fifteen pounds. But my resting heart rate tickles my cardiologist (soooo sad that I have a cardiologist),I can keep up with my kids and their classmates at recess, and my biceps, well, they're awesome.
I would be thrilled if every one of the Class of 2011 Resolutionaries became gym rats, regulars, addicts and fit folk. Keep filling those classes -- the powers that be will add more. Hop on the treadmill until you're so bored that you have to join me on the Brookside Trails this spring. Make a date with a friend to run a 5K...then a 10...then a.... Even if your weight doesn't budge, your innards will appreciate your efforts.
So go get 'em, Tiger! Before you know it, you'll be one of the 2,000 people who pass me while running Hospital Hill.