I’m not exactly good at going to the gym.
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that. Sometimes, it’s really hard to find the energy. Staying in bed and watching a movie is a lot more enticing.
But with that said, I often want to go to the gym. Whether it’s to work out my muscles or let off some steam, going to the gym can be exactly what I need.
I’m used to just going on the treadmill alone. I enjoy listening to music or watching a video while running. If I’m not running in the gym, then I’m going for a run outside while blasting music from my earbuds.
That’s been my go-to form of exercise for years now. No matter where I was, I’d go on a jog. Even while on a cruise.
Recently, I learned about group exercise classes at my school’s gym. I originally didn’t think much about it. I was a stickler for running and I didn’t think anything could change that. Plus, doing a group exercise class sounded intimidating.
I started looking at some of the classes out of curiosity. A couple were interesting, but one in particular caught my eye: body combat.
I was one of those kids obsessed with dystopian action movies and science fiction. I always loved the fight scenes where the protagonist would use all their moves against their foe, eventually beating them to the ground. Learning how to fight like that became a dream of mine. I wanted to look and feel as badass as the characters I loved.
I’d taken only one self-defense course before. It was an hour-long session aimed at women that taught me everything I needed to know about fighting back. At the time, I was desperate for a way to protect myself in case of the worst. I knew that being a woman in college invited a lot of nasty things, especially if you’re college was near a city.
Mine was, so taking the class felt necessary. It was totally free and an amazing experience. I still remember most of what I learned and feel protected because of it.
Now, I was being offered a chance to take further classes…and I was far too tempted to say no.
I signed up for the group exercise pass.
At first, I was too terrified to do anything about it. With this pass, you could attend any group exercise event you wanted at any point in the semester. They held plenty each day, with classes back to back and offering different forms of exercise. There was meditation, yoga, HIIT, and even some in the facility’s pool.
Even though I had the pass, I wasn’t required to go to any classes at all. It was totally up to me. It took a week of doubting myself before I settled on going on a Friday.
I added it to my calendar and cleared out my schedule. I would do this.
As I got ready for the class, my entire body was filled with adrenaline and anxiety. I was worried about being the only new person to class and not knowing what to do. I was scared people would judge me if I failed. I was terrified I’d stick out and be the only one unable to make it through the entire hour-long routine.
So many of these worries plagued me. But I knew if I didn’t do it now, I never would.
I took the class… And it wasn’t nearly as terrible as I made it out to be.
People fear group exercise because they think they’ll be judged and ridiculed. It’s easy to imagine humiliating yourself in such a setting. I liked exercising alone because I was comforted in the fact that nobody was watching. That I could do as I pleased, and nobody cared.
Shockingly, group exercise was similar.
Despite being surrounded by other people, it truly felt like I was doing this for myself. Nobody cared about how well others were doing. Nobody was staring me down, judging me for not fully getting the moves correctly. Everyone else was just as focused as I’d been, only worrying about what the instructor was telling us and not about the people around them.
I’d also worried that everyone else would be these perfectly sculpted models who were so much better than I was. Turns out, they were all like me. Every single person in the class was working really hard. We all struggled at different parts, depending on our own strengths and weaknesses. Nobody was able to hit every move perfectly – they’d have to be superhuman to do that.
Exercise isn’t perfect. It’s a messy, sweaty process in which you fail, and fail a lot.
There were times when I just couldn’t do another push-up because my arms would give out. But the class was super beneficial for me. It pushed me more than I would’ve pushed myself. It made me realize I wasn’t alone in my exercising struggle. The instructors and group members created an encouraging environment, where failing felt less terrifying. Even though nobody uttered a word (we were all too tired to do so), we all were cheering each other on throughout the whole process.
Group exercise sounds more terrifying than it is. After my first class, I feel more energized than ever to take another. Even though my entire body is so sore I can barely walk, the experience was more than I could have asked for.
If you have access to group exercise classes, I urge you to try one out. A lot of my excuses for not going weren’t a reality. While I’m sure this varies place to place, I believe people take group exercise classes to find a community where they won’t be judged and can exercise in an encouraging, positive environment.
Also published on Medium.