Why is a big exercise class overwhelming?

Classes can be overwhelming because this is usually new to someone. Many times I hear "I won't know the moves to the class." Remember everyone in class started out just like you not knowing anything.  Like anything else in life it is just something you have to learn and soon you will be a pro. Just being in such a big class where there are 30-40 people in there can be scary. Just believe in yourself and your instructor will help you along the way. The first step is always the hardest but stay strong, stay focused and have fun. 
Mr. Donovan Green
Athletic Training
A big class can be overwhelming because there is no feeling of exclusiveness. You do not feel like you are getting the attention you need or deserve. Everyone seems to be in a world of their own and you are left out in the cold. Smaller group classes or much better especially if you are a beginner. The instructor will be able to correct you if you need correction and you will not be just a number you will be an actual client. I am not saying to avoid big classes but try to get involved in the smaller group classes.
A big exercise class can be overwhelming for a number of reasons. If you are unfamiliar with the routine of the class it can be hard to follow. A large group makes individual instruction more difficult and you may find that you aren't getting as much attention as you need. You may also be uncomfortable with a large group if you are not as fit as other participants. If you feel overwhelmed in a big exercise class don't give up! Look for another class where the participants are limited to a smaller number. Also look for beginner level classes so that you can familiarize yourself with the moves or the instructors. Exercise classes are not for everyone so if you continue to feel overwhelmed you may want to consider other means of working out or hiring a personal trainer for some instruction.
Big exercise classes tend to lose people who are new. Unfortunately many times instructors don't ask if there are people new to the class and/or don't realize the signs that someone might be struggling and then may not offer modifications for a variety of levels of participants.

The onus begins with the instructor because the instructor is the "leader" of the class. The instructor sets the stage for the participants. Part of being the leader is ensuring that everyone is comfortable at the very start and through the entire class: providing different level modifications, checking in with people, and seeing signs of fatigue.

If the instructor does not take the lead people who are new to class end up feel lost and intimidated and aren't likely to then feel comfortable asking for help.

In this kind of environment people can lose confidence and motivation for exercise and have a sense of failure.
Wendy Batts

Exercise classes can be overwhelming at times because they don’t always differentiate between the aerobic fitness levels of beginners and advanced participants. You may feel like giving up five minutes into the class because you just feel too out of shape to continue.

A couple things you can try are to seek out classes that have the beginner in mind and speak with the instructor prior to class for some modifications that you can use to make the intensity more appropriate. There is no shame in leaving a class 20 minutes early because it’s the right thing to do for your ability. The point is to go in and have fun with other exercisers in a social group setting!

In a big exercise class, some people get lost. For example, you walk into an exercise class that you've never taken before but several of the other people have been taking it for years. You don't know what equipment to use. You don't know what the expectations of the class are. You don't know anyone else in the class. No one greets you and many times no one really responds to the fact that you're even there. To become more comfortable in an exercise class, here are a couple of things you can do: observe a class you are interested in, have a conversation with one of the class participants, or talk to the instructor and if you are comfortable, share your fears. In most fitness facilities a participant or the instructor will also take the time to show you what equipment you'll need, how to get set up and what the expectations are. With a little homework you will feel much more confident walking into an exercise class.

Continue Learning about Fitness Psychology

What are the benefits of positive feedback?
Mr. Donovan GreenMr. Donovan Green
Postive feedback is the key to great performance in all areas of life. Hearing that you are doing we...
More Answers
How can I maintain healthy habits?
National Academy of Sports MedicineNational Academy of Sports Medicine
In order for healthy habits to become a lifestyle change the general guidelines are to participate i...
More Answers
Does Time Really Fly When We Are Having Fun?
Does Time Really Fly When We Are Having Fun?
How Can the Power of Positive Thinking Help to Optimize My Workouts?
How Can the Power of Positive Thinking Help to Optimize My Workouts?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.