Do you get the most out of your gym membership? So many people join a gym with the best of intentions but lose all motivation and gradually become one of those members the gyms love – the ones that keep dutifully paying without actually using the facilities!

So how can you get some motivation? The answer is fitness classes. People have a picture in their head of a room full of middle-aged women flailing around in leotards to cheesy music. The truth is that classes moved on from there about twenty years ago.

I’m going to start by busting some common myths about classes.

Myth 1: They’re full of middle-aged women
I admit that most of the classes I teach and attend have more female members than male, but that’s not always the case. Circuits classes are often male dominated or completely equal and almost every class, from salsacise to step aerobics, has at least one male participant, often more. There’s also a massive age range. I know people aged from 14 to 84 who enjoy and fully participate in classes.

Myth 2: You have to be super fit to attend a class
NO! When you train as an instructor, it’s constantly drummed home that you are teaching a group, not personal training, so need to cater for every possible skill level. There will be options so you can work as hard as you want to or need to. Often class timetables will give you some sort of classification of how hard the class will be, but any good instructor will make sure you’re working at your own level.

Myth 3: Classes won’t give you the same results as the gym
Motivation is key here. If you aren’t motivated and eventually stop going to the gym, obviously you won’t get results. Some people are really self motivated and can really push themselves, but for others having an instructor there and being part of a group means they feel they can achieve more, not to mention the fact that classes can be really fun, meaning people keep going. Since starting classes, I have seen massive changes in my cardiovascular fitness and built up much more lean muscle mass. If you fully participate in classes regularly, you will see results.

So, if I’ve convinced you to take your first class, the next step is to pick one. Most gym timetables will contain a combination of the following.

A class mainly focussing on improving your cardiovascular fitness. A range of aerobics moves put into a routine. May also be called hi lo. This is really good for beginners to exercise as the instructor will make sure you have low impact options.

Step aerobics
Again, this class is great for improving your cardiovascular fitness. You will be taught routines using a step board. Different classes will have different levels of complexity in terms of choreography so give it a few classes to get used to the new moves. Ask the instructor to help you set up your step if you aren’t sure how. There is a board and you place “risers” underneath. Only use one riser on each end for your first time. You will see others use 2 each end and can progress on to this later, but it’s best to stick to one until you have got the hang of the moves. During the class, make sure you step your whole foot onto the board and try to stay close to the board when you are on the floor. If you get lost in the routine, don’t feel stupid! Just come back to a march, take a look at the instructor and join in when you feel ready. You look much less silly if you keep moving than if you just stand there.

Legs, bums and tums
A class focussing on toning up below the belt. This is really popular as these are often “problem areas” especially for women. You usually start with an aerobics section then move on to toning exercises, often on the floor.

A class based around music and moves from around the world. This is another good one for the cardiovascular fitness, especially for people who are into dance or want to have a good time whilst they work out!

Body combat
This is a pre-choreographed class so will be very similar at every club. The class is split into tracks combining martial arts and boxing moves. The main focus is cardiovascular fitness but all those punches work your upper body and most classes incorporate some work for the legs, as well as an abdominal track at the end.

Body pump / pump fx / studio resistance
These classes involve resistance training using weights on a barbel, dumbbells and body weight exercises. You choose what weight you lift so it’s suitable for all levels of ability. The class starts with a warm up, where you do a few reps of each move at a low weight. This will seem really confusing for a beginner as there’s so many moves but don’t panic! You will change your weight for each track, as they each work a different muscle group. The larger muscle groups obviously require more weight, but don’t worry about this as the instructor will guide you as you go along and you can always change your weight halfway through a track if you need to. Make sure you arrive in plenty of time as you will need to set up a step board with a mat on it and get a selection of weights. Tell the instructor you’re new and they will help you set up and advise you on your weight selection. If you normally do weights in the gym, be aware that this class focuses on muscle endurance so there are a lot of reps – each track lasts about 5 minutes – therefore you will need lighter weights than you use in the gym. Don’t try to go too heavy on the first class; it’s much more important to focus on technique.

This is a good class for beginners as you choose your own level, though this also means it needs some self motivation! There will be several stations set up around the room, each with a different exercise. These often include cardiovascular exercises like shuttle runs and weights. The class usually warms up together then you move from station to station, with the instructor timing you and telling you when to move on. The first few times, try to pair up with someone who has been before or make yourself known to the instructor so you have someone to explain how to do each exercise. After a few weeks you’ll know them really well so don’t worry the first few times if you feel a bit confused.

This class takes place on a spinning bike. This is a stationary bike. Ask the instructor to show you how to adjust the seat and handlebars at the start so you are in the right position. They then take you through a class with different sections, including sprints and sections where you stand out of the seat. This is an excellent cardiovascular class and your legs will feel it afterwards! There is a knob on the front of the bike used to adjust the resistance, which is basically how easy it is to pedal. When the instructor tells you to turn up the resistance, the guide is usually to turn this knob ¼ turn. If you’re finding the class too easy, turn it up, and if you’re struggling, turn it down. They will give you guidance of when to adjust it during the class, for example it should be higher when you are standing to support your body weight.

Once you’ve picked your class and found a time to suit you, you’re ready to go. Make sure you take a towel and bottle of water and wear suitable clothes which you feel comfortable in, with good supportive shoes. Arrive in plenty of time and tell the instructor you’re new. Please don’t be embarrassed. It might look like other people in the class are experts but they’ve probably been doing the class for a very long time and everyone has to start somewhere. They were in your position and nobody watches anyone else, honestly! If the instructor knows you’re new, they can keep an eye on you and make sure you’re ok during the class.

I hope I’ve convinced you to try a class. Please leave a comment if you have any more questions.