I never felt like I fit in. Now I help those like me. 

By Emily Abbate
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At my first-ever group fitness experience—a cycling class—I wanted to leave minutes in. I had recently undergone a body transformation, slimming down from 200-plus pounds, and still carried self-doubt. If I didn’t stand up from the bike saddle when I was supposed to, people would notice. If I didn’t bop to the beat, I would stick out like a sore thumb.

I regularly did my go-to workouts— solo runs and gym trips where I felt less visible—for another year or so. But as I got fitter, I had an urge to buy into New York City’s varied fitness scene, and I wanted to continue shaping up, which would require adding diversity to my routine. I’d heard about a class that involved treadmill and strength circuits. I already liked running, I thought. So I tried it.

I loved it. The physical changes I noticed from going to the class regularly made me crave new challenges. After work, I hit up dance cardio with a girlfriend (there’s safety in numbers) instead of happy hour; I began to look forward to the sweaty moments of accomplishment walking out of a hot yoga room.

Today, the girl who once wanted to ditch class after a few minutes is a cycling instructor herself (at Swerve Fitness in New York City, if you ever want to find me). I always ask if any-one is new to class before we start; that way, I can bop by her bike and let her know I was once in her seat.

Find the Class That Works For You

Your First Thought: “I’m not part of the cult-follower crew.”

Rethink it: Take your first class with a friend who has been to (and enjoys) that particular class. Then you’ll have someone you feel comfortable with to use as a point of reference during the workout, and you might catch some of her already-positive attitude toward it.

Your First Thought: “I prefer working out alone, without instructors shouting at me.”

Rethink it: Work around your preferences. A die-hard runner? A class involving speed and agility drills that can make you a stronger runner might be up your alley. This way, you can find value in instructor feedback and make it apply to you.

Your First Thought: “I tried already, and I hated it.”

Rethink it: Go to a class three times to give it a fair assessment. You may find that different instructor personalities, times of day, or studio locales are game changers. And if you still hate it? Try something else!

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