Shape Up: The First Timer’s Guide to Yoga, Spin, and Barre

 

There’s never a better time than January to get back to the gym and make working out a priority. Whether staying active is one of your official New Year’s resolutions or not, it’s always nice to start the new year off on a healthy foot. And if you’re stuck in a workout rut, one of the best ways to get excited about the gym again is to try a new class.

Trying a new workout is fun, but it can also be a little intimidating. You don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb in a sea of yogi masters or spin class savants. So to make your first yoga, spin, or barre class a little less stressful, we decided to put together a First Timer’s Guide to all three workouts. Check out our workout class FAQs below…

Yoga

Q: Do I need any special equipment or clothing?
A: You will need a yoga mat (some studios provide them, but most require that you bring your own). A small towel is also recommended if it’s hot yoga or you sweat a lot. Wear yoga pants or leggings and a tight fitting top so you don’t flash the class during downward facing dog. And no shoes, no problem! You can wear flip flops since you’ll be kicking them off before class starts.

Q: Are any special skills or previous experience necessary?
A: If you have zero flexibility, a yoga class might not be for you (or you’ll at least want to start with a class intended for beginners). Try to build up some flexibility before taking your first class. Reach to touch your toes, do a few shoulder stretches, and try to limber up so that you don’t pull something in your first class. UPDATE: We don’t want to discourage anyone from trying yoga! You certainly don’t have to be super flexible at the start of your yoga practice. We just recommend stretching a bit in the week leading up to your first class so that you don’t pull a muscle. It can also help to start with a beginners class rather than a more advanced flow.

Q: What do I do if I can’t keep up?
A: If at any time you feel exhausted or need a rest, there’s no shame in coming back into child’s pose. And many teachers will give the class a level 1, 2 and 3 option. For example, while they might recommend level 3 yogis to do a handstand, level 1 yogis can be propping their legs up against the wall.

Q: Any special lingo I should know?
A: ‘Vinyasa’ refers to a flow or sequence of poses. ‘Savasana’ is the final relaxation pose. ‘Namaste’ means ‘the light within me bows to the light within you,’ and is a salutation that is typically recited at the end of class. A ‘flow’ in a class usually refers to a sequence of positions that is repeated a few times.

Spin

Q: Do I need any special equipment or clothing?
A: While many gyms and spin studios provide shoe rentals or even special pedals that allow you to wear regular workout shoes while you spin, you will definitely enjoy a spin class more if you invest in your own pair of cycle shoes. They lock into your bike pedals and let you sprint, climb and tap back without even thinking about it. We highly recommend wearing workout leggings or bike shorts, since running shorts or loose pants can get caught in the spokes or feel uncomfortable on the bike seat. And if you’re a first timer, you might want to buy (or borrow from the studio) a butt pad. Yep, a butt pad…it pads your seat so that your glutes won’t be quite as sore the next day!

Q: Are any special skills or previous experience necessary?
A: If you can ride a bike, you can probably catch on to the rhythm of a spin class pretty quickly. Make sure to arrive early and ask your spin instructor to help you set up your bike. Your seat should come up to about the height of your hip, and you should set your handle bars higher if you’re inexperienced and go lower as you become more intermediate. It’s also good to have a spin instructor watch you pedal a few times on the seat and up off the seat before the class starts. That way, he or she can adjust your form if anything looks incorrect.

Q: What do I do if I can’t keep up?
A: The great thing about a spin class is that the room is usually dark, the music is usually loud, and, unless you’re in the front row, very few people are watching you. That means that if you’re a beginner or just having an off day, you can go at the pace that’s comfortable for you. Don’t want to turn the resistance up another notch? Then don’t. Gradually continue to challenge yourself as you do more classes, but don’t kill yourself right off the bat.

Q: Any special lingo I should know?
A: ‘Clip in’ refers to clipping your spin shoes into the pedals, usually used when the class is just beginning. ‘Quarter turn, half turn, and full turn’ all refer to the amount of resistance on your bike. Your bike will have a little resistance knob or handle below the handle. Turn it to the right to increase resistance and to the left to decrease.

Barre

Q: Do I need any special equipment or clothing?
A: Wear socks (no-slip socks are best) and tight fitting clothing similar to what you would wear to yoga. Some barre studios also recommend that you bring a towel to lay down for any moves performed lying on the floor.

Q: Are any special skills or previous experience necessary?
A: While most barre classes don’t require any previous dance experience, it helps if you have rhythm as the moves are performed to music. Some flexibility is also a plus.

Q: What do I do if I can’t keep up?
A: Do your best to push through, since before you know it you’ll be on to the next set of repetitions. But if you find yourself feeling exhausted it’s definitely OK to pause for a minute and take a water break.

Q: Any special lingo I should know?
A: A plié is a movement in which you bend your knees and then straighten them again. Relevé is a movement performed on tiptoes. There are quite a few other dance terms that you’ll become familiar with if you stick with barre, but as long as you know those two, you’ll be good to go for your first class.

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There you have it! Keep in mind that most new workouts are almost always challenging at first. But if you can make it through the first class or two they become more and more enjoyable. It also helps to bring along a friend at first so that you know you’re not the only newcomer to the class. It’s all about that moral support!

Are you going to try a yoga, spin, or barre class this year?

We hope this post inspires you to try something new!

XO Team LC

Illustration: Carrie Beth Taylor
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