Exercise classes – what a newbie needs to know.


I really must stress, like so much of what I write on this blog, all advice offered in this post is entirely unsolicited. Nobody has ever approached me in the street, asking for tips on how to create this type of physique, and I rather think that if it hasn’t happened yet, it’s not going to. However, I am a figure of fun amongst my friends for the amount of time I spend clad in active wear, which I feels qualifies me adequately.

I decided to write this post after a friend and I were talking about exercise classes earlier this week. She hadn’t been to the gym in a while, wasn’t sure what some of the classes entailed or what she’d need and was a tadge mortified at the thought of going and looking like, well, someone who hasn’t been to the gym in a while and isn’t entirely sure what’s going on.

You wouldn’t necessarily think it, but I go to the gym quite a lot and have tried tons of classes. I can’t truthfully say I look significantly different for my membership – biscuits are proving a troublesome habit to break – but I do feel better when I make time to go.

Yep, this is definitely me, just stretching after a workout…

In the hope that it might be of help to someone else thinking of starting exercising, but feeling a little out of the loop, here are a few points I’ve picked up.

Tips for people new to exercise classes:

  • Kit. For most classes, all you’ll need is some trainers, a sports bra, leggings/shorts and a top. I as often as not wear a Primark slouchy vest, but you’re best getting some sporty leggings as everyday ones tend to show your knicks through. Nike, Adidas, all those brands, are great, but I think they’re rather expensive. I don’t want to spend £40 on a pair of aerobic trews, especially when it’s the sort of garment you really need multiple of. If you’re in my camp, then get yourself to TKMaxx, Tesco or Primark.
  • Literally nobody else cares if you’ve got no coordination. I have absolutely none. I am renowned for it. Ask Miss Caroline, who nearly gave up her career in Dance after trying to teach me the choreography for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe dance routines in 1988. I now regularly go to Body Combat, which gives me more opportunities than any other occasion in my life to confuse left and right, but nobody bats an eyelid. And if your fitness is pretty low, you’ll just be able to do what you can. Don’t worry about it
  • My lovely PE teaching colleague recommended to me to do three classes a week: one cardio, one strength and one Yoga or Pilates. I had hoped that I’d look like her after a few months of this, but no sign yet. Losing ten years from my age and going back to the 90s so I could rededicate my formative years to netball rather than reading the NME in my bedroom and watching indie bands in sweaty clubs is probably my most likely chance of achieving this now.
  • pretty girls
    Me again! Just hanging out with a friend, having a great time at the gym. I do this a lot. And always look exactly like this.
  • Exercise classes are not exclusively populated with lithe 19 year old whippets nor pumped men in muscle vests, as I had imagined. In fact, most of the classes I go to are full of mums – and some nannas – and people are generally friendly and supportive. If you’re new, make it known and people will help you out.
  • Some good cardio classes are Body Combat (boxing moves, very sweaty), Clubbercise (pretty much old school aerobics with glowsticks), Spinning (pedalling really fast on an exercise bike), HIIT (short bursts of really intense exercise – sole advantage: classes are short) and anything like Step Aerobics.
  • Good strengthening classes I go to are Body Pump and Kettlercise. Don’t be afraid to ask for someone to show you how to use the weights equipment in the gym either – even if you think you’ve got an idea, it’s best to ask so you don’t scupper yourself with the Pectoral Fly before your bod’s fully honed to perfection. The gym staff will be happy to give you an idea of suitable weights and sensible number of repetitions.
  • Body Pump is one of my favourite classes, but is something I never imagined I’d get involved in. Barbells and hand weights are used – quite light weights, but lots of repetition. If you go to this, you’ll need to get there a few minutes early to set up. You’ll need a bench and a mat, a bar and some weights, but there will be someone helpful on hand, I am certain.
  • Kettlercise is a similar sort of thing, though more cardio-y. It involves swinging a smallish weight that looks rather like a handbag around until your arms feel like they may never work again. The best thing about this class is that each exercise is only repeated for a minute before moving onto something else.
Also definitely me. Just a casual snap from our holiday in Cornwall. I didn’t even realise my husband was taking a photo…so embarrassing!
  • You’ll know more or less what Yoga is; Pilates is in the same sort of ballpark. (I’m sure I will be corrected here). It’s very good for strengthening your core and apparently does wonders for a bad back. You do both these barefoot, so you might want to bear this in mind if your pedicure’s looking grotty. If you have your own yoga mat from a previous fad, take it along because those belonging to gyms always smell of sweaty feet.


  • I haven’t done Aqua Aerobics (getting wet is a faff too far) but apparently the classes at my local gym are pretty full on and not the gentle paddle I had ignorantly imagined. If you have any injuries, this will be kinder to you. I hear that wearing trainer socks will make the whole affair more successful.

Good luck with finding something you enjoy!


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