You've passed the yoga room and peeked in, but never managed to land on a mat.
A friend has invited you many times to try a hip-hop class, but you decline because your body couldn't bust a move the last time you tried.
You've always enjoyed being in the pool, but struggle with doing laps. I know what that feels like. I've always wanted to be a proficient swimmer, but have put off taking lessons.
It may be time to get off that zone and take a second shot at your desired activity. We just need to make it a calculated shot. Here's why and how:
Reconsider the fit. It might have been the wrong fit the first time around. The instructor's style may have been too imperious, or the movements too weird for your taste. So try a different instructor. Perhaps the class may have been too advanced. Check the group exercise schedule or ask the group exercise director at your club which classes are suitable for newcomers.
Lower your expectations of how quickly you'll get it. Sometimes, we do ourselves in when we think that just because we're good at one activity, we'll automatically excel right away in another. Even one of basketball's legends, Michael Jordan, found himself humbled by the baseball learning curve. Give your mind and body three to five consecutive classes just to feel comfortable.
Ask for help. Good instructors take time to answer questions and may even approach you discreetly to see if they can help you. Sometimes, it's not possible to get all your needs met if there are back-to- back classes in the room, but the best instructors will find a way to accommodate you. Arrive early for a class and enlist the instructor's help or wait until class is over to pose your questions one-on-one.
Be aware of etiquette. Once in a while, I'll see a frustrated newcomer who can't keep up so she disrupts an advanced class, asking the instructor to break down the movements slowly. Meanwhile, the rest of the class is irked, waiting for the class to continue. Some formats, especially yoga, step and dance- based classes, have a natural pace that's best left uninterrupted. In this case, your best bet is to keep attending the class and learn mostly by observing and doing.
Join a sport-specific club or a group that trains for events. Numerous running, walking, cycling and hiking groups across the country welcome beginners. Local sports specialty stores usually have a rack or board with fliers and brochures for these groups. You're placed with others who have a similar expertise level. Or you could join an outfit such as Team in Training (www.teamintraining .org) that will help you increase your fitness and prepare for fund-raising athletic events.
Take lessons. This is especially useful when learning a new sport such as swimming, tennis, golf, skiing or snowboarding. Learning in a small group can be a lot more fun as long as everyone is at a similar proficiency level.
Private instruction is more expensive but might be the better route if you don't have a lot of time.
(Lisa Liddane is a health and fitness writer for The Orange County Register and an American Council on Exercise-certified group fitness instructor. Write to her at the Register, P.O. Box 11626, Santa Ana, Calif. 92711 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
(c) 2004, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.). Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.