3 Ways To Have A Better Workout No Matter How Fit You Are — Or Aren't

Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Last week, I walked into a new dance class confident I was about to get a good workout — and that I could keep up with the others.

Instead, the classed moved quickly with little instruction, and I saw my classmates expertly perform the routine while I flailed my arms and legs awkwardly. It was not what I was expecting.

Group fitness classes can be great, but taking an open level class often means there are some moves I’m not quite ready for. All of our bodies have limitations, no matter how athletic we are (or aren’t) and we should never be ashamed — or worse, stop going to fitness classes — just because we need a modification or two. I love creating plus-size workout videos and I don’t let my size keep me from doing high-level workouts, in spite of the challenge. Just last week, I tried a new dance class that moved quickly with little instruction, but I got through it.

If this sounds familiar, and you've been skipping classes because you're afraid of messing up in a group setting, follow these three tips and you'll have a great, heart-pumping workout
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Get To Class Early
Arrive a few minutes early and let the instructor know of any injuries, limitations, or personal fitness challenges. If it's your first class with the instructor or your first class of this type, just let him or her know before the music starts and the routine begins. Introducing yourself is an easy way to ensure you get a little extra attention and the one-on-one interaction may make you more comfortable with the instructor throughout the duration of the class — even if you can't do every single move he or she's demonstrating.
Speak Up
Fitness instructors are paid to teach and they love sharing their knowledge. If you are confused by a particular move, speak up. In a recent kettlebell class, I was instructed to “deadlift” and was totally confused. I raised my hand and simply said, “Sorry, I’ve never done that before.”

My teacher was more than willing to help me out, and I got a quick private tutorial while everyone else did reps.

Related: Can You Be Fit And Fat?
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Do Your Own Thing
Keep trying and stick with the class, even if you are struggling to keep the pace. The most important thing in a cardio class is not to perfect every single detailed move, but to simply keep moving.

Can’t do jumping jacks? March in place and pump your arms. Can't follow complicated choreography? Shake your butt and have fun! You’re investing time and money into your health, so try to get the most out of every minute. Who cares if it’s not perfect? The main thing to remember is that very few people join a fitness class knowing how to do everything and I guarantee there are other people in the class faking their way through some of the moves, too.

You know what your body can do, so work with what you’ve got until you are stronger, can do more, and have had enough practice to nail the routine.

Next: My Current Fitness Essentials
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