Your First SUP Yoga Class

For the past few months I’ve been trying to simplify life. It started when I watched a Netflix documentary about minimalism and I later read the excellent book Goodbye Things by Japanese author Fumio Sasaki. I was inspired to reclaim time and space by living more simply, and while I won’t share my decluttering efforts on this blog, I wanted to make decisions quicker. Instead of weighing up pros and cons, researching for days or analysing a menu for 20 minutes, my mantra became ‘if you want it, get it’ and ‘if you’re interested, do it’. I’ve regained so much time by thinking less. It’s incredible. 

This ‘do what you’re drawn to’ mindset is how I found myself at a swimming pool at 7am on a Tuesday, about to do yoga in my bikini. I love the water and had been interested in trying stand up paddle (SUP) boarding for a while. When I saw Precious Breath were offering a three week SUP yoga course at a local aquatic centre, I knew I had to give it a go! I usually workout with my mum on a Tuesday morning so I asked if she wanted to join me. She loves a fitness challenge too so we paid our AU$120 course fee and a few weeks later, we were poolside.

Class Overview

As the name suggests, SUP yoga combines stand up paddle boarding and yoga. You’ll do a range of yoga poses while balancing on a paddle board, with the class duration typically 45 minutes to an hour. There’s no paddle! The sequence can vary but as a guide, most classes will have the standard yoga format of a gentle warm up, sun salutations, warrior poses and then perhaps some inversions or hip opening stretches followed by shavasana (meditation). If you’re confused, terminology is covered below. The challenge of SUP yoga is moving between poses while keeping your centre of gravity, or you’ll topple into the water! 

Before you leave home

As with a traditional yoga class, it’s best not to eat for at least an hour beforehand or you may get an upset stomach. If you must have something, keep it small and energy-dense such as half a banana, a handful of nuts or my favourite – a raw ball. Ladies, you’ll be in swimwear so make sure you’re happy with your hair removal situation. Put on suncream, bring a towel and a water bottle. Consider a hat but it’ll likely get wet. It’s best to leave valuables at home unless you know there are lockers available (unlikely at river or beach locations).

What to wear

I had no idea whether I should wear a swimsuit, yoga clothes or both but thankfully I got an email before our class. It said to wear swimwear underneath yoga clothes in case we got wet. As the pool was chlorinated, I wore my oldest gym shorts and tank rather than damage my latest Lululemon, with a bikini underneath. I’d regrettably tossed my old one-piece out in a recent clean-out, but thankfully my bikini top had a high neck. As for footwear, I wore sneakers for the 20 minute walk from my apartment to the pool but flip-flops are a better idea.

On arrival

Ideally you’ve been given a good description of the class location, whether it be a public pool, lake or at the beach. It shouldn’t be too hard to spot the boards and cluster of people. Find the instructor and if it’s not specifically a beginner class, let them know your experience with SUP or yoga so they can give guidance throughout. 

 SUP Yoga: the paddle board was much sturdier than I expected.
SUP Yoga: the paddle board was much sturdier than I expected.

Equipment

Your paddle board will probably be supplied, otherwise you may need to collect a hire board. Inquire beforehand! Yoga paddle boards are wider than regular boards, giving you more space and stability. Getting onto the board can be difficult but look for a handle (a deep groove) in the centre. Then you’re set! 

Terminology

Your instructor will guide you through a range of poses. If you’ve done yoga before, you’ll be familiar with them. If not, here are some basics:

  • Child’s pose: A resting pose with knees and toes on your mat, chest on your thighs and arms stretched in front. A great option to do anytime during the class. 
  • Downward dog: One of the foundation poses in yoga. Hands and feet on the mat at least one metre apart, with your bottom in the air like an upside down “V.” Over time, your heels will touch the ground. 
  • Shavasana or “corpse pose”: Meditation. Five minutes at the end where you lay down and relax your mind, letting your body absorb the work you’ve just done. 
  • Sun salutations: A flowing sequence involving downward dog, lunges, some planking, upward dog and mountain poses. Usually repeated at least four times (twice on each leg). 
  • Warrior poses: A set of strengthening poses, with Warrior 1 facing frontwards, Warrior 2 your chest and hips face the side, and Warrior 3 a bit like a one-legged aeroplane. 

During the class

I quickly realised I’d be doing the class in my bikini, as we needed to swim a short distance to reach our boards! It’d been years since I’d been to a public swimming pool and the water was mild and refreshing. I felt genuinely excited I’d made this experience happen. I got on the board without any grace, and our class began.

Your main focus will be staying on the board, but honestly, it was much sturdier than I expected. From the first minute, I felt my legs and core instantly engage as if I was balancing on a beam. But I moved through child’s pose, cat-cow pose and to downward dog without any problems. It was 20 minutes later during a Warrior 2 pose that I toppled into the water! It resulted in lots of laughter and others fell off later too. Apart from being a little cold when the sun went behind clouds, I felt peaceful and lucky to have such a unique experience in my hometown’s warm climate.

Our instructor Claudia was fantastic, guiding us through poses with a headset microphone as she stood on the edge of the pool. She had a great teaching style, moving around the pool so our class could still see her when we were facing the side and demonstrating moves where needed. Throughout the class she congratulated us on accepting a challenge, getting out of our comfort zone and choosing to start our day with yoga. As a regular yogi, I was comfortable with the poses but I did regret throwing out my one-piece when my stomach sagged while planking. I told myself it’s just a body – and any onlookers were probably more interested in our unusual activity rather than critiquing my lack of tone. 

The highlights were doing ‘wild thing’ pose and flipping into the pool – what a sense of freedom! I also enjoyed bridge pose and hope to make it to wheel pose by the end of the three week course. I’d earlier joked with my mum that I couldn’t possibly imagine doing ‘happy baby’ pose in a bikini. Well, I did it – until I realised the school group next to us probably didn’t need to see that view! 

The next day & beyond

Forget the next day, my quads were stiff when I stood up after breakfast that morning! I woke up with stiff quads the next day as well as well, and my mum text me she had the same feeling. We must’ve worked harder than we realised. If you’re not a regular yogi, you may also find your hamstrings a little tight. Go for a gentle walk or try repeat some of the poses to loosen your muscles. 

In subsequent classes, have fun exploring and developing your practice. Maybe you lunge deeper, twist further or challenge your balance by closing your eyes. While I was slightly hesitant SUP yoga may be a fad, it was actually a perfect union of two different workouts. The flow of yoga and the movement of the water was calming and they absolutely complimented each other. The feeling must be heightened in natural water! If you get the chance, take your practice outside the studio – and get on board SUP yoga! 

QUESTION: When did you last take your fitness out of your comfort zone? 

Your First CXWorx Class

When I first heard there was an intense 30 minute abs class coming to my gym, I was excited! I’m always looking for ways to work out more efficiently and who doesn’t aspire to have a six-pack? I took my first CXWorx class in 2012 and while it was extremely challenging, I loved it. Usually just called ‘CX,’ it was the latest offering from fitness juggernaut Les Mills promising increased core strength, a toned butt, legs and abs, and as a nice sweetener – better posture.

I kept going back and after just one month, I noticed how much stronger my core was. I could plank for longer, do bicycle crunches with confidence, and also built my lower abdominal strength. While I’m yet to get that six-pack, I have definition in my abs that I entirely credit to CXWorx (in conjunction with a good diet). Five years on – I still love CX! I usually do two classes a week, mostly after RPM or BodyPump. Nothing feels as good as strong abs. Bonus? You can do it on your lunch break! 

Class Overview

CXWorx involves six tracks, each about five minutes. As with all Les Mills classes, there are four new workouts each year called ‘releases.’ Instructors will typically do the new release for a month before mixing new and old tracks. You’ll find a mix of pop, hip hop and dance cover music including my favourites PNAU’s Chameleon, David Guetta’s Titanium and DJ Snack & Lil Jon’s Turn Down for What. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect in each track: 

  • Track 1: Warm up – crunches, bicycle crunches and some glute bridges.
  • Track 2: Abs – The hardest track! A combination of planks and crunches, alternating between the two for a few rounds. There are variations of each exercise such as walking planks, planking while tapping or raising one leg, C crunches, and leg drops. See terminology below. 
  • Track 3: Back/spine – you’ll be on your feet using the resistance band and/ or weights, likely doing regular or side lunges with arms raised, woodchoppers and squats. 
  • Track 4: Glutes – One of my favourite tracks because you’ll 100% feel your butt working! You’ll again likely use a resistance band to do lunges, squats, single-leg squats and even just walking/tapping your foot with the band. Expect some glute bridges too. 
  • Track 5: Obliques – in my opinion, the second hardest track. Moves include mountain climbers, oblique crunches, side hovers, rotating hovers and bicycle crunches.
  • Track 6: Posture/cool down – this track typically has a Pilates vibe: swimming on your stomach, back extensions and glute bridges, but also potentially some upper back and shoulder work with the resistance band such as lat pull downs or seated rows. A quick stretch at the end and you’re done! 

It’s worth noting CXWorx is not recommended if you’re pregnant, and you should also avoid doing weight training afterwards as your core will be fatigued. But cardio or yoga is fine! 

Before you leave home

CXWorx is great because you don’t have to prepare a thing. Put on your active gear, grab a water bottle and a towel and you’re set! Ladies, you’ll likely be planking for an extended period so skip low-cut tops and sport bras unless you want to blind your neighbour. I also try to avoid wearing shorts to CX as your groin area can feel exposed at times, for example, when crunching your top leg during a side hover. As for eating and drinking before class, remember it’s only 30 minutes. You’ll be using your ab muscles a lot but not jumping around – I can eat a raw ball or guzzle half a bottle of water before class if I need without any issues.

On arrival

As with every time you take a new class, get there 5-10 minutes early and introduce yourself to the instructor. They should point you to what equipment you need (more on that below) and also give tips for beginners during the class. You’ll be moving around a lot so keep your area clear by putting any belongings (apart from your towel and water) away in a locker or cubby, if provided. While it’s tempting to set up in the back row, aim for the middle so you can see the instructor and watch others around you if needed. If your gym has mirrors, even better! 

Equipment

The three main items you’ll need are a mat, resistance band and possibly weights. The resistance bands come in different levels (indicated by different colours), so it’s important to get the beginner band. If in doubt, just grab the colour most people in the class have. Weights are mostly used in CX to make crunches, squats, lunges and occasionally side planks more challenging. If you’re new to exercising or recovering from injury, you could skip them entirely. If you already do weight training, grab a few different ones. Instructors should say at the beginning of the class what weights they recommend.

Terminology

Here are some of the most common words you’ll hear in a CX class, although most will be familiar if you already exercise. You don’t need to memorise this list as the instructor will be demonstrating the moves as well. 

  • Bicycle crunch: alternating between left and right oblique crunches while simultaneously extending a single leg, similar to riding a bike. 
  • Crunch: the most basic ab move. YouTube if you need. 
  • C crunch: a basic crunch where you also raise your feet off the ground with knees bent, stopping directly above your hips – forming a “C” shape.
  • Glute bridge: lay on your back with your knees pointing up, but feet flat on the ground. Lift your butt off the ground by squeezing your glutes. 
  • Mountain climbers: like a plank, but with your arms extended under your shoulders. Bring one knee to the same elbow, return, and do the same with the other. Increase speed and repeat.
  • Plank/hover: with only your forearms and toes on the ground, brace your body like it’s a plank of wood. Your butt will try rise like a teepee as you fatigue, but keep it in line with your shoulders. You can plank with your knees down too for an easier option. 
  • Pulse: doing any exercise as a micro-move and faster. Common in crunches, glute raises and lunges. 

During the class

The warm up will give you a crash course in the basic moves, while track two is the hardest. I find track five quite challenging too, but I also really enjoy oblique workouts so look forward to it. Track six is a breeze in a Pilates kind of way. 

Remember to keep your core switched on at all times. When doing crunches, that means your lower back is pushing down on the ground. If it feels much harder exercising that way, you’re doing it right! Also watch for your butt sticking up when planking. I remind myself constantly to keep my shoulders and hips in line, and use mirrors to check if they’re available. 

The next day & beyond 

CX will make you hurt in the most weird and wonderful places! My lower abs and glutes usually feel it the most, and after a long break it can hurt to laugh the next day. Gentle stretching, yoga or a simple walk can help reduce some of the pain. But I guarantee after a month or so of classes, you’ll notice how much stronger your core is. You’ll plank for longer, use or increase weights and take the more advanced options. I particularly like CX for targetting glute muscles to support my running. At only 30 minutes, everyone has time to get a strong core!  

QUESTION: What’s your favourite part of the body to train? 

Your First RPM Class

My first indoor cycling experience was horrible. Lured by the promise of a toned butt and legs (and a 45 minute workout), I jumped on a bike in a dimly lit room and followed the teacher’s commands. The music boomed but I felt doomed. I was uncoordinated, even on a stationary machine, and I couldn’t keep up with anyone else in the class. It was years before I gave indoor cycling a second chance.

It was actually my boyfriend who motivated me to try cycling again. He occasionally did a class called RPM at our gym and couples who workout together, stay together right? This time the bike was much more comfortable and I found myself able to sprint and stand at the appropriate times. I did another class the following week and my endurance way much better. That was five years ago. Now, I do RPM once or twice a week depending on my schedule. I like the fact I can target my legs, the workout takes minimal coordination (great if you’re tired!) and it’s only 45 minutes.

Different gyms may offer similar cycling classes, such as Spin, Pace or “freestyle” riding where the instructor determines the workout. The general tips below still apply to these classes, although the format and fitness goals can differ. 

If you’re thinking of taking an RPM class, here are my tips for before, during and after your workout: 

Class Overview

RPM is part of the Les Mills group fitness offerings, which also includes BodyPump, BodyAttack and CXWorx. You’ll find the RPM format is similar around the world as the workout is pre-choreographed to music. You’ll be mostly listening to cover music, with anything from Fat Boy Slim, Rudimental and David Guetta to Justin Bieber. Different releases come out every quarter, but instructors will usually mix the tracks up after a month (and they usually take requests!).

The format is 45 minutes although you’ll find 30 minute RPM Express classes. Don’t assume they’re easier than the longer ones – the tracks are all high intensity with minimal recovery time. The track names below are unofficial, but used by most instructors I know: 

  • Track 1: Warm up
  • Track 2: Mixed terrain – you’ll be sitting and occasionally standing
  • Track 3: Hills – mostly standing, heavy resistance
  • Track 4: Sprint – (slight recovery first) mostly sitting, lower resistance but speed-focused
  • Track 5: HIIT (high intensity interval training) – bursts of energy, alternating between sitting and standing
  • Track 6: Sprint – (usually recovery first) mostly sitting, with sprints of up to 90 seconds
  • Track 7: Final track – often the most challenging, up to 7 minutes long with heavy resistance
  • Track 8: Cool down & stretch

Depending on whether you’re better at speed or strength, you’ll find different tracks more challenging. I push myself most in Tracks 5 and 7 as I love cranking the resistance up, while the sprint tracks are hard too but I find they’re more manageable because of the recovery time at the start. You can do a “smart start” and leave after Track 5 if you need – just tell the instructor.

Handlebars: you’ll put your hands in different positions for standing, sitting and tucking into “aero.”

Before you leave home

Try to have fresh legs for your first class, i.e. don’t attempt a personal best run beforehand or do squats. Because there’s minimal impact and jumping around, I find I can eat before class without feeling sick (unlike BodyAttack or a run). Don’t apply hand moisturiser, but you can do you legs if you need. 

What to wear

Fitted, stretchy pants that are at least knee-length are ideal. Long baggy shorts can restrict leg movement while short shorts might creep up when you stand up and sit down quickly. A shirt with some length at the back is good too, as you’ll be leaning over and may feel self-conscious if your lower back is exposed. Regular sneakers are fine too – you can upgrade to shoes with “cleats” (studs) later if you get hooked. 

Several gyms have UV lights in their cycle rooms, so anything white will glow while other gyms will just dim the lights. Occasionally, I’ve done a class with full lighting so make sure you check how sheer your pants are check before you leave home. As always, bring a towel and water bottle. Your towel will be over handlebars so bring a small one (rather than a bulky beach towel). 

On arrival

Aim to be at least five minutes early so the instructor can help you setup your bike. If you arrive late, you may find yourself setting up in the dark! Each gym will likely have different bikes so I allow extra time when I visit new venues too. 

If you have to set up your bike up yourself, start by adjusting the saddle to hip height. When you’re seated, spin your legs a few times. Your knees should be slightly bent when your feet are at the bottom. You can move the seat forward and back, along with the handlebars. If needed, you can adjust the bike between tracks throughout the class. 

Equipment

Obviously, there’s a bike. As mentioned, the models will differ between gyms but essentially you can adjust the following:

  • Seat height: aim for your hip
  • Handlebar height: personal preference, but lower will work your abs more
  • Handlebars horizontally: move closer or further from your body 
  • Seat horizontally: move closer or further from the handlebars
  • Resistance: a dial that dictates how hard or easy your legs spin
  • Brake: usually a push-style button, in case of emergency
  • Pedals: you may be able to secure your sneakers in the cage by tightening straps

 Stationary bike: use dials to adjust the seat and handlebars vertically and horizontally, along with the resistance.
Stationary bike: use dials to adjust the seat and handlebars vertically and horizontally, along with the resistance.

Terminology

Thankfully most of the lingo is self explanatory. Here are the the most common terms:

  • Aero: Short for aerodynamic position, simply lean down, move your hands to the “D” or upside down “V” shape in the middle the handlebars and bend your elbows so you’re “tucked” in.
  • Racing load: Instructors will refer to this a lot. It’s a resistance level you’ll find in the first or second track, where you can spin your legs with moderate pressure. It should be slightly challenging but manageable. 
  • Resistance (also load, gear): Make the workout easier or harder by adding or reducing resistance.
  • Ride easy: A time to catch your breath but don’t “free spin”. 
  • Seated climb: Sit in the seat with resistance cranked so it feels like you’re cycling uphill.
  • Sprint: Spin your legs as fast as you can with “racing load,” i.e. keep some pressure. 
  • Stand: Turn the resistance up and stand while keeping your hands on the handlebar. 

during the workout

Drink water. Adjust your seat or handlebar position between tracks if you’re uncomfortable or if your lower back hurts. Watch how fast or slow others are spinning their legs as a guide, and listen to cues about adding or reducing resistance. Be sure to sit up and stretch your upper body by putting your hands behind the saddle a few times too (one of my favourite stretches!). 

The next day & beyond

You’ll probably have jelly legs when you get off the bike, and you may feel stiff or wobbly as you walk out the gym. That’s normal. I guarantee you will have a sore crotch the next day, and you might even feel like it’s bruised. Rest assured, the pain will subside and over time your groin will get used to cycling. If you’re really struggling, you can buy padded pants for future class. Once, I was in such agony when returning from an extended holiday that I had to put a towel over the seat for cushioning. 

Like every workout, you’ll get more comfortable over time as you become familiar with the moves and learn to push your limits. I love seeing how heavy I can take the resistance in climbing tracks and challenging my legs to get stronger. It’s also given me the confidence to try a triathlon one day, although I’ll need to practise swimming first! Les Mills recommends doing two to three classes per week for best results. 

QUESTION: Do you prefer indoor or outdoor cycling? 

Your First BodyPump Class

A 100th birthday is a rare and special occasion. New Zealand fitness giant Les Mills recently celebrated 100 BodyPump releases, which translates to 20 years of weights, sweat and, in the early days at least, Lycra. In an era where fitness crazes come and go, it’s quite an achievement. 

Pump, as it’s more commonly known, is one of the first group fitness classes I tried. It was my first time using weights and I instantly liked how strong I felt. Combined with moves like squats, lunges and push ups, it was the start of my fitness transformation. Nearly a decade on, I’m leaner, lifting more and still loving it. Depending on my schedule, I try do two to three Pump classes a week.

Weight training (also called resistance or strength training) is great for strengthening and toning muscles. It helps protect your joints from injury and aids weight management, as when you gain more muscle your body burns more calories when resting. Weight training improves bone density, increases stamina and I find it boosts my self esteem too. If you’re worried Pump will turn you into The Hulk – don’t be. The focus is on lots of repetitions with light weights, rather than short sets of heavy weights, to build lean muscle mass. 

Class Overview

Have an extra weight or two to use as free or “hand” weights.

BodyPump runs for 60 minutes, although there are 45 and 30 minute express versions too. You’ll do a warm up, then eight tracks of about five minutes each focussing on a specific muscle group before a cool down. The music is a mix of cover songs, usually pop, dance, some R&B and rock.

The tracks (in order) are squats, chest, back (clean and press), triceps, biceps, lunges, shoulders and abs. Most of the work happens in the first half where you’ll work bigger muscle groups but at the three quarter mark, the lunges track is never easy!

Les Mills is built on pre-choreographed workouts and they’re taught worldwide. This means you can go to any gym offering BodyPump while the music and moves will differ slightly, the workout is essentially the same. You make it harder by increasing your weights and improving your technique, such as going lower in squats, engaging your core in crunches and so on. It’s great for anyone with injuries, as it’s low impact and you can modify the weights to suit your ability.

1. Before you leave home

This could well be a rule for every workout, but do NOT moisturise your hands! You’ll be lifting your arms a lot too, so have a peek at your underarms. There’s no need for any special food or hydration before a class unless that’s part of your routine. Pump is one of the few workouts I can actually eat up to 30 minutes beforehand and be okay (some fruit or crackers, not a burger!).

2. What to wear

The dress code is pretty relaxed. Pants are good if you’re self-conscious, as you’ll probably do wide-legged squats and crunches. My Pump shorts debut was unintentional on a laundry day years ago, and seeing my pale, unshaved thighs in the mirror for the entire five minute squat track was confronting. But I’m fine with shorts now! Wear sneakers but know that you won’t be jumping or running. Some people wear gloves for Pump, but it’s not necessary for your first class. 

3. On arrival

BodyPump is offered at thousands of gyms. If you already belong to a club, great! If you’re joining a friend or visiting the gym on a casual pass, allow 10 minutes for paperwork and putting your bag in a locker if you need.

Pump involves a bit of set up, so give yourself five minutes for this too. Start by introducing yourself to the instructor, who should give you some tips and point you to a bar, weights and step. If you’re running late or the instructor isn’t there, grab what people in the front rows have (because they’re the hardcore Pumpers). If you’ve never done weights, you can do an entire class with just the smallest plates. If you’re familiar with weight training, I’d suggest keeping it light as well because you’ll be doing a LOT of reps. 

Where should you set up? While it’s tempting to hide in the back row, you’ll struggle to see the instructor on stage and more importantly, it’s harder for them to see you. Again, stand behind those fit looking people in the front rows. 

4. Equipment

As mentioned, there’s a bit of gear in Pump. You’ll need:

  • A bar: with clips, to keep the weight plates on. The bars aren’t heavy, but you can use them without weights if needed too. 
  • Step/risers: you’ll lay on this for the chest track, possibly triceps and abs.
  • Weights: get a few different sized pairs, as you’ll likely used loose plates in your hands during triceps, shoulders and possible abs. 
  • Mat: put this on top of your step to lay on during the chest track, otherwise it’s handy for push ups on your knees or crunches. 

Like any workout, bring a towel and water bottle. You can find my favourites in My Must-Have Gym Gear

 My favourite gym gear: a Camelbak waterbottle, Lululemon hat, backpack & towel and a foam roller.
My favourite gym gear: a Camelbak waterbottle, Lululemon hat, backpack & towel and a foam roller.

5. Terminology

A new workout, a new language right? Here are some common phrases you’ll hear during a class. Remember to watch your instructor to get visual cues as well.

  • New release: this refers to a fresh quarterly mix from Les Mills. It’s a great time to start Pump as everyone else will be learning it too. 
  • “Mixing”: the instructor is using old and new tracks after teaching the new release for a month. 
  • There’s a whole dialect around timing, which is eight counts. Specifically:
    • Slow: lower the weight for four counts, then up for four counts.
    • 2 and 2: two counts down, two counts up.
    • Singles: one count each direction. 
    • Bottom-half: Single time as above, but reduced range. Think of doing a squat, only coming half way up and then doing another squat. Yes. ouch. 
    • Pulse/”double time”: Fast, intense, micro moves. Common in push-ups, biceps curls and triceps.

There’s lots of lingo around moves too, such as planks, hovers, kickbacks, flies, dips and power presses. Don’t worry about it for now. Watch the instructor and you’ll be fluent in no time! 

6. The day after Pump & beyond

 BodyPump: 1.25kg, 2.5kg & 5kg weights.
BodyPump: 1.25kg, 2.5kg & 5kg weights.

You WILL be sore. It might be your butt, maybe it’ll be your triceps. You might ache everywhere. The most common “OMG PUMP!” moment is when you sit down to go to the bathroom in the morning. Even if I’m away from Pump for a month because I’ve been travelling, I still feel that first class back! Go for a walk, stretch and you’ll survive. 

If you enjoyed Pump, go back that same week. It’ll be much easier as you’ll know what to expect and you can focus on technique, before gradually increasing your weights. You want to reach the end of each track feeling like one more rep would be impossible. Fatiguing those muscles makes them grow baby! 

Les Mills recommends doing no more than two to three Pump classes a week, which I think is a realistic target. Any more than that and the music and workouts could become repetitive. I love following Pump with yoga afterwards – the strength and stretch combination is heavenly! Once you’ve been doing Pump a few times each week for a month or so, give yourself a high five. You’re a Pumper! Increase those weights, buy those gloves if you want and go claim your place in the front row.

QUESTION: Do you prefer freestyle workouts or pre-choreographed ones? 

Your First Yoga Class

We’ve all been the new kid at school. You don’t know anyone, the room is unfamiliar and it’s just plain awkward. I can’t rewind the clock and be your classroom buddy, but I can spare you the terror of your first day at a fitness class. This is a post I’ll do on various classes over coming months, and I’m happy to take all requests and suggestions! 

I’m starting with yoga because it’s something everyone can benefit from and it’s widely available. I practice once or twice a week to stretch my body and relax my mind. There’s nothing holding a one-legged balance pose for 60 seconds to make you be in the moment! I used to treat yoga as a work out and push myself as far as physically I could, but I’ve changed my goals lately to identifying areas of tension and trying to release them. Yoga is also my go-to exercise on holidays, as it’s a perfect way to lengthen my body after a long-haul flight. Joining a class overseas is a unique and fun experience too! Am I selling it?

Class Overview

Most yoga classes are 60 minutes, with dimmed lighting and wooden floors. You’ll likely start laying down before warming up with sun salutations (see terminology below), various poses, and ending with five to 10 minutes of ‘shavasna’ (meditation). There are many styles of yoga, which may or may not be specified ahead of time. Gyms tend to have generic yoga which is then determined by the instructor. The main styles are:

 Yoga: do the 'sheer' test and you'll only expose your toes.
Yoga: do the ‘sheer’ test and you’ll only expose your toes.

  • Ashtanga & Vinyasa: the most vigorous styles. Prepare to get hot and sweaty, with faster moving sequences. 
  • Hatha: this refers to the physical practice of yoga (rather than mental) but typically indicates a classical, more gentle approach.
  • Yin & Restorative: these styles are becoming increasingly popular as people seek deep muscular release and mindfulness. Poses are held for longer, with emphasis on stretching and relaxation. 
  • Bikram: yoga with the heat cranked. 

In some classes, your teacher will perform ‘adjustments’ and gently guide you into place. If you’re not comfortable with that, just let them know. 

Ready to take a class? Here are my tips!

1. Before You Leave Home

DO NOT MOISTURISE. You need to grip the mat, not have a personal slip and slide! I’ve used a 24 hour moisturiser in the morning and still had my feet slide down my legs in an evening class. 

Speaking of feet, yoga is a barefoot activity. There’s no need to get a pedicure but you may be less self conscious if your toenails aren’t setting Guinness World Records for length. If you’re prone to foot odour, bring some talcum powder. Do NOT try and hide in socks. You’ll probably slide and hurt yourself, and a good yoga instructor will ask you to remove them anyway. 

It’s best not to eat at least an hour before class, although I find I can have a raw ball 30 minutes prior without any problems if I’m starving. Bring water and a towel if you’re inclined to get sweaty.

2. What to Wear

Stretchy but fitted clothing is best. You can do yoga in a t-shirt and leggings, but remember you’ll be bending over and a loose shirt will slide right over your head. It’s easily solved by tucking your shirt in, unless you wear a cropped shirt like I did once on a laundry day. Never, never again. 

I recommend doing the ‘sheer’ test before leaving home. Put on your yoga pants, stand with your bottom to a mirror and bend over. Take a look behind you – if you can’t see anything, neither will anyone else in your class. Consider bringing an extra layer for meditation when your body temperature will cool right down. 

Half the reason I love yoga is because I can wear flip-flops to the gym! 

3. On arrival

Whether you do yoga at a studio, beachside or at the gym, chances are you’ll do some paperwork. Arrive 10 minutes early so you have time to put your belongings away and set up/collect your mat. Let the instructor know this is your first class and advise of any injuries or pregnancies, so they can give extra tips and modify any poses. Get a spot somewhere in the middle. Advanced yogis will probably be in the front row so you can follow them, while being close enough to see the instructor. 

 Yoga on holidays: The view when practicing on our balcony in Mexico! 
Yoga on holidays: The view when practicing on our balcony in Mexico! 

4. Equipment

A yoga mat is essential but most places will let you borrow or rent one. If you want to buy a mat, they start from about $30 but I’d wait until you’ve done a few classes. That way, you’ll have a better idea of the thickness and length you prefer.   

Some teachers will offer blocks to assist with some poses, along with straps for stretching. Grab them at the start, and then you can decide during the class whether to use them. As I’ve mentioned, bring water and a towel if you’re doing the more vigorous styles.

5. Terminology

Originating in India, most yoga pose names are in Sanskrit. Don’t worry, I’m not fluent either! Many pose names have been adapted for Western practice. Here are the most common terms you’re likely to hear during your class: 

  • Downward dog: One of the foundation poses in yoga. Hands and feet on the mat at least one metre apart, with your bottom in the air like an upside down “V.” Over time, your heels will touch the ground. 
  • Child’s pose: a resting pose with knees and toes on your mat, chest on your thighs and arms stretched in front. A great option to do anytime during the class. 
  • Sun salutations: a flowing sequence involving downward dog, lunges, some planking, upward dog and mountain poses. Usually repeated at least four times (twice on each leg). 
  • Warrior poses: a set of strengthening poses, with Warrior 1 facing frontwards, Warrior 2 your chest and hips face the side, and Warrior 3 a bit like a one-legged aeroplane. 
  • Shavasana or “corpse pose”: meditation. The cool five minutes at the end where you lay down and relax your mind, letting your body absorb the work you’ve just done. 

6. The next day & beyond

Prepare for hamstring hell. Your wrists might be a little sore too. But mostly, you should feel stretched, peaceful and inspired to return! What did you enjoy most? Or what did your body respond to? Google hamstring stretches if you need to. Otherwise, give yourself a high five yogi!

To find a class near you, check out the Mind Body app. Or to get comfortable in your own home first, give Pocket Yoga a go. 

QUESTION: What do you love most about yoga?