Q: Are there any classes you recommend for newbies? I want to try the stuff my friends like-barre, boxing, Zumba- but I’m nervous that I’ll look ridiculous if I don’t know what to do.
A: Any of those can be good for beginners, if you find the right class- and that means you probably shouldn’t tag along with your friends just yet. If they’ve been taking something like Zumba for a while, their workouts are likely pretty tough, and you need to learn the basics first. So do some research on local gyms: Read class descriptions and reviews online, or give them a call to ask about the workouts you’re interested in. Is there a boxing class that focuses only on teaching the basic punches? What about instructors-is there one everybody raves about because she makes you feel so comfortable? Sign up for the session that seems like the best fit, and give it two or three tries before you decide whether it’s right for you.
Q: Last time I worked out I almost lost my lunch. How can I avoid that?
A: I feel you! It’s such a delicate balance: You don’t want to eat so little that you’re tempted to cut out early, but you don’t want to overdo it, either. I try to have my last meal at least three hours before I hit the gym, and then about an hour before, I’ll have a small snack, like half a protein bar or a blueberry-banana smoothie with Greek yogurt. That’s just enough tokeep me going without the ugh side effects.
Q: Have you ever felt like the worst person in class? I’ve been going at this for a while, and I still want to bail every single time. Help!
A: I remember the first time I took spin. I was so sore and a little nauseous. It’s awful to feel like all eyes are on you, whether it’s your first class or your 15th. So do what I do: Before class, tell the instructor that you’re still trying to get the hang of things, so she knows how to help you. She really wants to-that’s why she got into this business! Then, if you start to feel overwhelmed, take a water break (no one will think anything of it) and start again. Just don’t give up. Everyone there was in your shoes at one point; if they got past it, so can you.
Q: How flexible should I be before I try yoga? (Truth: I can barely touch my ankles, let alone my toes.)
A: The fact that you can barely touch your ankles? That’s exactly why you should be doing yoga. I’ve been practicing for more than a decade and I’m still not super-flexible, but I swear I can see a difference in my stretches just from the beginning of a class to the end. My father-in-law picked up yoga several years ago. He’s 81 now and still in a beginner class, but he loves it because it has helped him maintain the strength and balance that are so key as we get older. Do it now to feel great then.
Q: Anybody else still hate changing in the locker room, or is it just me?
A: It’s definitely not just you! I try to lay my clothes out so I can change as efficiently as possible-this isn’t the time to realize you put your shirt on inside out, that’s for sure-because I find it all very awkward too. In fact, I really admire women who seem totally at ease with the situation. Goals, right?
Q: I’m lost on this stretching thing. How do you warm up?
A: I have to say, I didn’t start stretching until I got a bit older, and I don’t know what I was thinking all that time. I feel so much better when I limber up before a workout, and then stretch again after. For my warm-up, I focus on stretches that target the muscles I’m going to use most. For running, one of my favorites is a walking lunge: Step forward with one foot and lunge until both knees are at a 90-degree angle; repeat on the other side, again and again, as you "walk" forward. After my workout, I spend 10 to 15 minutes doing what trainers call static stretches-they’re the moves that keep you from feeling too sore the next day. Start with toe touches: Sit on the floor with your legs spread, then reach toward your right foot with both hands; hold for at least five breaths, then repeat on the other side. When you’re ready for more, try a free app like Sworkit-it’ll give you a routine you can do in as little as five minutes.
Fitness maven Alison Sweeney is an actress and the author of the upcoming novel Opportunity Knocks, in stores April 5.