What You Need to Know When Trying a New Class [Infographic]

Jumping into a new type of group exercise class takes guts. Thankfully, there are a few basic best practices — showing up early to let the instructor know you’re new, taking breaks as needed and easing into it — that apply across the board.

We spoke to instructors of 12 different fitness classes and their general advice was to not compare yourself to others, listen to your instructor and — most of all — listen to yourself. We also asked them what one specific thing students new to their classes need to know.

For example, in HIIT and CrossFit, every movement can be modified, so ask for options if they’re not offered. Whether you are injured, a movement doesn’t feel right or you’re not a box-jump pro (yet), speak up. “It is our job as trainers to customize the movements to fit your skill level,” says Lindsey Mikulecky, a CrossFit coach at BRICK Chicago. “That way everyone in class gets moving and gets closer to their individual goals.”

If you’re doing a TRX class, simply move your feet to make an exercise less or more intense. “To make the movements easier, move your feet away from the TRX anchor point,” explains Artemis Scantalides, co-owner of Boston’s Iron Body Studios. “That way you’re lifting less of your body weight. To make the movements harder, move your feet toward the anchor point, which means you’re lifting more of your body weight.”

Don’t let inflexibility keep you away from the barre. “Many are fearful of barre classes because they assume flexibility is a must,” says Kiesha Ramey-Presner, master instructor and vice president of teacher development at The Bar Method. “But a good barre class will offer tools and modifications for less-flexible students to benefit from the exercises and stretches just as much as their more-flexible counterparts.”

In indoor cycling classes, you get permission to go at your own speed. “Listen carefully for key information about three things: cadence, resistance and effort level, but go at your own pace,” says Christine D’Ercole, master instructor for Peloton, an indoor cycling studio that also offers streaming classes online.

“Then give yourself permission to stay in the saddle for your first ride,” she adds. Oftentimes instructors will tell you to get out of the saddle for hill climbs, but you don’t need to do those if you’re not up for it yet.

You should go at your own pace in yoga, too. No matter what type you choose to practice, the adage that it’s your practice is true. So make it yours. “Whenever you need to, take rest, drink water — do whatever best serves you,” says Jessica Matthews, a professor of yoga studies MiraCosta College in San Diego. “And try to alleviate any expectations you have. You will gain so many more benefits that way.”

By heeding advice from the instructors, you’ll walk out of class satisfied and confident to come back for more.

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Baked Plantain Chips

Baked Plantain Chips

Swap your store-bought fried plantain chips for a batch of Uproot Kitchen’s three-ingredient baked plantain chips. A blank slate for flavor, these green plantains pair well with a vast array of dishes, like tacos and enchiladas, or as a crunchy snack on its own!

Baked Plantain Chips


  • 2 green (unripe) plantains
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a baking sheet.

Slice the ends off the green plantains and use a knife to cut slits down the sides of the peel. This will allow you to pull off the skin (it is hard to remove).

Slice the plantains into 1/8-inch rounds (thinner slices will yield crispier chips). Place them on the prepared baking sheet, crowding them close but not overlapping.

Drizzle the additional oil over the plantain slices, and sprinkle salt on top.

Bake the plantain chips for 23–25 minutes, or until browned and dry.

Allow the plantain chips to cool for 20 minutes before enjoying them.

To store, let chips cool for at least 1 hour before sealing them in an airtight container. If you seal them before cooled, they will lose their crispiness. They will last 5–6 days.

Nutrition Information

Serves: 4 |  Serving Size: 1/2 plantain

Per serving: Calories: 199; Total Fat: 11g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Monounsaturated Fat: 7g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 444mg; Carbohydrate: 29g; Dietary Fiber: 2g; Sugar: 14g; Protein: 1g

Nutrition Bonus: Potassium: 0mg; Iron: 3%; Vitamin A: 20%; Vitamin C: 28%; Calcium: 1% 

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Watching Your Weight When It’s Your Job to Drink: Lew’s Quest

How do you lose weight when you just have to drink?

Drinking isn’t a craving for me — it’s literally something I do to survive.

My name is Lew Bryson. For two decades, I’ve written professionally about beer and whiskey. I taste them, travel from my home in the Philadelphia suburbs to where they’re made and discover what makes them different, and I pair them with different foods. Then I write about that for websites like The Daily Beast and The Whiskey Wash, Whisky magazine and in several books I’ve written, the latest being Tasting Whiskey.

Even when work’s over, there’s still drinking. Folks in this business don’t trust a guy who doesn’t drink with them, so… we drink.

That may sound like a sweet gig, but it has its downsides. One of the biggest is the fatness of it all. Craft beers start at 130 calories per serving, while whiskeys are about 70 per ounce. The foods that usually get paired with both — German and Kentucky fare, for instance — isn’t exactly what you’d call light. Sampling, even with quarter-size portions, adds up.

Sometimes it gets out of hand, like when I traveled to the Czech Republic to visit the Pilsner Urquell brewery. After beers with the brewmaster in the old sandstone cellars, we went out for steaks — huge steaks, just under a kilo each. And after three pilsners, I was convinced I had to eat the entire thing. It wasn’t an isolated event, either; the next day I had another, laughing all the way. I was Falstaff — life was great.

“Without drinking, I lost weight quickly that first month. But I couldn’t keep it up. I had to work! How do you fit drinking into weight loss?”

Long story short, I gained 90 pounds over six years. At age 57, I was at my heaviest ever, and I wasn’t getting any younger. The job wasn’t any easier, either: There usually aren’t elevators in distilleries. Enough was enough. I started using MyFitnessPal because my wife and my daughter had picked it up. And for the first month, I pretty much stopped drinking because I saw how it tipped the scales.

That was strange, not because of cravings but because my social life was fully engaged with bars and breweries and distilleries, and people asked why I wasn’t out there. Because I was initially embarrassed by my need to lose weight, I made some dumb excuses.

Without drinking, I lost weight quickly that first month. But I couldn’t keep it up. I had to work! How do you fit drinking into weight loss? Beer calories largely come from alcohol and sugars. I focused on lower-alcohol and relatively dry beers, and luckily, a current trend in craft beer is exactly that: session beers. Whiskey was easy; I took it neat or with a bit of water, keeping it as plain as possible, which didn’t hurt the reviewing at all.

Food also had to give, and I adjusted those choices and exercise around days when work called for drink. When the Craft Beer Conference came to Philly this past May, I went vegetarian, walked all over the city and still drank freely. I lost a pound that week and learned that I could back off the meat and still eat well. Food choices get hard sometimes if I have a few too many beers, because inhibitions get loosened; sure, I’m going to have that slider and some more glazed salmon — it’s OK. Only it’s not, so I force myself to track as I go, and if people ask what I’m doing, I tell them.

It was working. As I lost more weight, I was able to get back on my bike and hit the local trails, sometimes going 30 miles a day. By June, I was able to do 40 miles on the Pine Creek Trail in central Pennsylvania with my son, breaking for a lunch of crabcakes and one well-earned beer. That was a good day, one I could hold in memory as a reward.

I’ve lost 50 pounds in six months. The holidays are here, but my wife and I are planning the menus and planning activities into the day: stationary bike in the mornings and long walks with the dogs after dinner. Drinking fits in, but now I plan how many for the day and stick to that.

My goal’s still far off, and I’m still heavy for now, but now I know I can change that without a career change. Fitting in the beer and whiskey takes a little more work and thought. It’s all numbers and choices — you have to flex them until they fit.

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What to Do When You Blow Your Calorie Budget

So you splurged … now what? Should you just throw in the towel and continue on with your day of indulgence: tall stack of pancakes for breakfast, all-you-can-eat buffet for lunch, and dessert after dinner? Not so fast.

Before you beat yourself up for blowing it, or find yourself stuck in a day of gluttony, check out these steps to get back on track when you’ve blown your calorie budget.


One meal or day of overeating won’t have a big impact on progress, but a week or month of splurging can definitely set you back. Instead of tossing in the towel and starting over tomorrow, begin eating right at your next meal. The whole day or week isn’t a wash with a little indulgence—just get right back on track, and you will feel good that you did.


If you slip up and fall off the wagon, regain focus on the reason you’ve set these goals in the first place. Are you training for an upcoming marathon? Is it to look stunning as you walk down the aisle at your wedding? Do you want to be fit and healthy to chase your grandkids around? Keep a positive outlook! Remember that this is a journey, after all, and it will be full of peaks and valleys.


OK, so you blew it; it’s now time to find out why. Were those chocolate chip cookies in your pantry calling your name? Did you forget how to say no to the bottle of wine your friend wanted to split at dinner?

When you blow your calorie budget, assess if external pressures are to blame. If the cookies in your pantry are too tempting, don’t bring them inside the house. If you find yourself eating (or drinking) for social reasons, maybe it’s time to practice standing up for yourself and embracing the power of “no.”


So you know you’re going to have cheesecake at dinner? Don’t skip that workout! Make sure to get in some extra steps and go harder during your workout if you know that you may need a bigger calorie budget that day. Plus, a little extra sweat sesh isn’t a bad thing either.


Even if you might have blown your calorie budget by lunch or ate too much all day long, don’t skip your next meal or severely restrict calories the following day to make up for the splurge. Restriction will likely backfire and can set you up for a cycle of blowing the budget. Skipping meals creates ravenous hunger and, at that point, everything in sight might look good!

Instead of amending the budget by cutting calories from another meal or day, just chalk it up as a small splurge and continue on with your healthy eating plan.


Lifestyle changes are not easy, so make sure that you have enough support to create lasting change. Maybe you need to consult with a professional like a dietitian to address your nutrition habits or a counselor to discuss emotional eating and barriers to change. Confide in a friend that you trust and let her know your goals, so hopefully next time she won’t even ask to split a bottle of wine, or tempt you with dessert. Engage in the community on MyFitnessPal to get virtual support from like-minded people who can motivate you to stay on track.

Splurges are a normal part of a healthy living routine; just keep them in moderation so that they don’t hinder your progress!

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