Thinking about starting a new workout activity?

Learning something new can be daunting at first. Fitness expert Barb Gormley offers four tips on how to get over ‘beginner’ embarrassment

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Each week personal trainer Barb Gormley answers your most pressing fitness questions.

Question: I’d like to start exercising, but I’m out of shape and a bit embarrassed and self-conscious about exercising in front of others. What suggestions do you have?

Answer: When you’re learning any new activity – whether it’s running, salsa dancing or ice skating – there are always the first few attempts when you feel really awkward and uncomfortable. I’m starting snowboarding lessons next month, and for the first classes I know I’ll be tempted to feel like a loser. But I’m already telling myself to just hang in there because I know that every new skill gets easier with practice. (And over time, there are bound to be people with less experience than me on the hill!)
Even though it’s hard to hide that you’re a novice, there are several things you can do to lessen the embarrassment factor.

Here are a few suggestions.

1. Hit the mall
Nothing says “beginner” like the wrong workout gear. You may not be an expert, but at least you can dress to blend in with the crowd. That means a tank top, stretchy workout shorts and a water bottle for hot yoga (not grey sweats and a hoodie), a sleek one-piece suit and goggles for swimming lessons (not a bikini) and a swirly skirt and sturdy heels for ballroom classes (not yoga pants and running shoes). Make some phone calls or talk to friends to find out what’s appropriate.

2. Study up before you start
If you’re joining a gym and are keen to get into weight training, boost your confidence by learning about some of the machines and terminology before your orientation session.  Websites like About.com and Dummies.com both have excellent weight training information. Check out YouTube.com as well for videos on just about every sport and fitness activity out there.

3. Practice at home
If you’re joining a fitness class, rent a beginner DVD first to learn some of the basic moves before heading to your first class. There are yoga, kickboxing, dance, stretch, Pilates and many other exercise DVDs available. Before you buy, visit Exercisevideosreviews.com (they have reviews for over 1,000 DVDs) to be sure your choice provides current and good quality information.

4. Make friends
Some people are great independent learners, but I find that most women enjoy the camaraderie of one or more people when they exercise. If this sounds like you and you’re thinking of trying an activity like walking, running, swimming, dance, cycling, etc., look for classes targeted to beginners. When you’re part of a group, versus learning on your own, you improve faster because you have an instructor and workout buddies to help and motivate you.

5. Be persistent
If you start out by exercising regularly and give yourself at least two months to settle into your routine, you’ll move quickly through the overwhelmed-and-intimidated stage. And after even this short time period, you’ll probably have other people with less experience looking to you for information and advice.

Barb Gormley is a certified personal trainer and a freelance health and fitness writer. You can contact her at www.barbgormley.com.