CAC Instructors Bare All: What Advice Do You Give Newbies to Your Class?

There’s a first time for everything. Your first time working out at the gym. Your first time picking up a pair of dumbbells. Your first time at a new class.

It can be super intimidating to walk into a brand new class and feel like everyone around you already knows what’s up. They’ve already got the proper equipment lined up in front of them, have taken their places and know all the moves. Meanwhile you’re not even sure where to stand.

This happened to me recently when I attended my first POUND class. But I decided not to let my intimidation get the best of me — and I ended up having a blast!

Something that can make or break my experience in a new class is welcoming the instructor is to new folks. But from my experience, the CAC instructors handle this role excellently. I imagine it can be tough to teach a class that appeals to both seasoned regulars who are comfortable with the format and new attendees who may never have sat on a spin bike or gone into downward dog before.

So I asked them: What advice do you give to newbies taking your class for the first time? Here’s what they had to say.

Krissy Cox

Teaches at: WAC, LVAC, LSAC

No one runs a marathon the first day. It's best to take it slow, settle into the workout, figure out the flow of the class, before going all out. Especially if you are somewhat new to working out.

Paige WorthyPaige Worthy

Teaches at: BAC

Talk to me! It shouldn't be a state secret that you're new, and there's no shame in asking for help getting acclimated. Any instructor will be thrilled to help you with bike set up or anything else you've got questions about.

Stephanie Fravel

Teaches at: WAC, WPAC, and BAC but also LPAC and LSAC

Try to come 5 minutes early and introduce yourself and ask any questions about the format, equipment used, etc. Also remember that some gym members have been taking the same classes for years and are able to anticipate the instructors' next moves; even when new programming is introduced. Do not let this intimidate you. Everyone has had a first time and the only competition is the one you have with yourself.

Ken CoxKen Cox

Teaches at: LSAC and LVAC; I also sub many classes, including EAC

I tell newbies that the goal of yoga practice is to stay present for the experience. It is not about touching your toes or going fully into all the poses… you don't have to look like the the photo in the book or the person next to you. Yoga is a personal practice and is not competitive.

Andrea MetcalfAndrea Metcalf

Teaches at: Bucktown, Lincoln Park, West Loop, Wicker Park

Take your time, come early and don't be afraid to introduce yourself to the instructor. It's always great to learn something new and challenge your body in new ways.

Lindsay WielgolewskiLindsay W.

Teaches at: LVAC

Don't worry if you aren't perfect! Taking a new class can be a little scary, but it's so worth it. Most classes are progressive -- meaning the more you do it, the better you'll get. It may take a couple of classes to feel comfortable, but that's okay -- we all need to start somewhere. Trying new formats is a great way to challenge your body. And who knows? You might just discover something new to love!

Michael BokorMichael Bokor

Teaches at: LPAC, WAC, WAC, LSAC, WPAC

Be prepared to have fun. The first time is the hardest because everything is new. So breath, smile and bring a towel and water. And depending on the class, consider only taking only taking part of the class the first time and then working up to a full class over a few weeks time. It is all about having a positive experience.

Kelley LongKelley Long

Teaches at: WPAC and WAC

I always tell newbies that in my 10 years of teaching, I've never once taught a class that didn't have at least one new person in it, so I will *always* be cognizant of what it's like to be new. Otherwise, I would love for newbies to know that no coordination or weight lifting experience is necessary to enjoy BODYPUMP™. Make it your own workout and feel free to leave halfway through if you want — no peer pressure and no one is judging.

Sharon UslanSharon Uslan

Teaches at: LPAC and BAC

The goal is continual improvement in your fitness level. You can't expect to do everything on day one, so don't worry. Just stay safe and have fun.

Gina SakaGina Saka

Teaches at: LSAC

I would say come and try it out. Please let me know that you are new or if you have any injuries, and I will do my very best to give you lots of modifications so that that you can have a good experience.

I also encourage you to come a few times as your body will learn the postures. Then the yoga practice turns into so much more than just the poses. And there is a very nice community to socialize with!

Katie DuffyKatie Duffy

Teaches at: LVAC, LPAC, WAC

If you are nervous about whether or not you will be able to handle or last the entire class, teachers do not care if you leave early. The fact that you take time out of your day to work out and take class is wonderful. Be open with instructors, and let them know how you feel going into the class. As an instructor, I am here to make class work for each individual person, with modifications and progressions.

web_Jaclyn-Hugg-220x146Jaclyn Hugg

Teaches at: LPAC

My advice would be to just keep moving, and modify if needed (I always demonstrate these options in class). Turbo Kick is one of those formats where the saying "third time's a charm" rings true.

Therefore, if you are new to choreographed group fitness classes, it can take a couple times to familiarize yourself with the moves and the cuing. Additionally, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to let me know! I am always available before and after class, and love to get feedback from members.

Nikki-Schultz-220x204-1Nikki Schultz

Teaches at: WPAC

The hardest part is always walking into the group fitness studio but once you are in you will be hooked. The music, exercises and energetic atmosphere will have you wanting to come back for more!

Always know that there are plenty of modifications to decrease or increase intensity for whatever your fitness level. My only goal for you is that you find enjoyment in doing something you learn to love!

web_Susanna-Kalnes-Headshot-2014-1--220x330Susanna Kalnes

Teaches at: West Loop Athletic Club

For anyone taking my TurboKick class for the first time, be patient with yourself. Since Turbo is choreographed, it can be a little confusing at first for newbies. But after taking two classes, a "lightbulb" goes off and you get it! Then, this class becomes one of the best additions ever! So stay with it and you will be great! (That's exactly what I did and now I'm the instructor!)

Mandy YuilleMandy Yuille

Teaches at: LPAC

I'd like to apologize in advance for the loud music, burpees, and sprints. Just know that even though your classmates are crying and saying, "This is awful," those are tears of happiness and what they really mean is, "Gosh, I love this class."

Suzy CrawfordSuzy Crawford

Teaches at: Evanston

Follow along, smile, breathe and enjoy! Come back again, and before you know it you will be grooving with the rest of us.

Sara KempnerSara Kempner

Teaches at: BAC, LVAC

Tell us you're new; we want to help you! Recognize this is a journey and it will take several classes to learn the moves and feel confident. There will be that time it clicks and it will feel amazing, especially when you realize how far you've come.

Jenna Reddington- trainerJenna Reddington

Teaches at: WAC, WPAC, BAC

Tell me that you're new! Or whatever else you're concerned about. That way I know to keep an eye out for you… especially if you're in a sea of 20+ people where it's hard to get around to everyone. Don't worry if you need to take a break. And if you plan to leave early, just give me a heads up.

David AllenDavid Allen

Teaches at: WAC, BAC, LPAC, LSAC

I hope you love my class, and become a regular, and I see you every time I teach a class!! But ... if you don't like my class, don't be discouraged. There are hundreds of different classes that CAC offers. Keep coming back. You'll find your passion!

Dahlia FlakusDahlia Flakus

Teaches at: LPAC

Listen to your body and focus on yourself. Try to keep a sense of humor :) Have fun!


Angelica ColantuoniAngelica Colantuoni

Teaches at: WPAC, LSAC

Judging yourself against others is never a good indicator of how good/bad you are in a workout. Listen to your own body.


Mandy Goode

Teaches at: BAC, WPAC

Come say hi! Let me know that this is your first time at my class, and I will be sure to pay special attention to make sure you feel comfortable during the class.

Ashlee WozniakAshlee Wozniak

Teaches at: LPAC, LSAC

My advice to new students is to take my class the whole way through and to not give up, no matter how intense it gets. Our bodies know no limits, but it's our heads that can get in the way of that. Push yourself the entire time and you'll feel amazing afterwards — that's a promise!

Erica MerrillErica Merrill

Teaches at: LPAC, LSAC, WAC

I usually tell them, “Good luck!” Then I laugh and tell them to take their time, modify what you need to, rest if you need to and just try to enjoy yourself.

Kimberly MichaelsonKimberly Michaelson

Teaches at: EAC, LSAC, LVAC

Please don't avoid it because you think it's too hard or you think you can't do it. I guarantee that my interest is in making you feel successful. I can offer you a bunch of modifications to help you ease into any workout routine.

Also, some of the exercises are supposed to feel and look awkward because they're working parts of your body that can't be worked otherwise.

We are all in it together. Yes, you will feel sore afterwards and you might experience strain during class. I hope you do because that means you're challenging yourself.

Most importantly, my goal is for you to feel victorious when you do something new and like it, and for you to feel empowered when you're done.

Cheryl NormanCheryl Norman

Teaches at: BAC, WPAC

Come early and tell me if you're new to taking the format. I want to make sure you are set up for class properly.

If you are set up for class properly, you can better judge if you like the class or not. For instance, in Spinning® if you are not set up on the bike, it will be an awful ride and you'll want to leave. If you choose to leave, I want it to be because you just don't like the format as opposed to something in your set-up being off making it uncomfortable.

Secily ShambaughSecily Shambaugh

Teaches at: LSAC, LPAC, WPAC

Not to give up. Give a group fitness class two or three chances before you decide if you like it or not.


Donna VeriveDonna Walker

Teaches at: LVAC and LPAC

Listen to your body, and don't be afraid to push outside of your comfort zone.


Meg MattssonMeg Mattsson

Teaches at: LPAC and LSAC

Focus on form and technique. Build speed and force after you've mastered that. Have fun!


David Hardin

Teaches at: WAC

Listen to your body. No one knows it better than you! Don't push into pain. Ignore those who say "No Pain No Gain." PAIN IS BAD! Now, burning, on the other hand, is great!

Paul T. Rykiel

Teaches at: LVAC, LSAC, WPAC, BAC

I say take the plunge. Don't be afraid to experience it, make mistakes and just have fun! No one is judging you!

Gloria Araya

Teaches at: LVAC

One of my main focuses when teaching is to create a welcoming and safe environment where people feel they have the freedom to express themselves. From there, I assist them in connecting with their bodies through movement. All my classes have a holistic component. Then, the process is more about their own internal work experiencing their own bodies and minds, for that matter, through movement, than any advice I can provide.


betsy picBetsy Mikel is a freelance copywriter whose passion is telling the stories of entrepreneurs, brands and businesses that challenge the status quo. When she’s not biking or running all over every city she visits to find its best taqueria, you can find Betsy on Twitter at @betsym |