I have a confession: I don’t know how to exercise. Seriously. Due to a fateful combination of my being incredibly uncoordinated and incredibly out of shape, I don’t know how to work out. And due to yet another fateful combination of ignorance (as in, “What the hell am I doing? How do you even lift a weight?”) and intimidation (as in, “Everyone at this gym is so fit and strong and I can’t even run a mile!”), I’ve never really tried that hard to learn how to work out. My roommate once tried to get me to do push-ups and I collapsed on the floor after the fourth one.

It’s not that I haven’t tried before. I’ve taken a couple yoga classes here and there. While I was studying abroad in Argentina, I signed up for one of the most expensive gyms in Buenos Aires with a few of my friends, hoping that the exorbitant price would guilt me into exercising. And it did. At first, it was a chore. My friends would have to drag me in, reminding me of all the money I had already dropped on a fancy gym membership. After a while, it actually became an enjoyable experience. I never went more than three times a week because of my class schedule, and all I ever did was run on the treadmill and do crunches, but it started to feel good.

So I figured it’s time I actually figure this whole exercise thing out, and I’m going to stick to it. It’s going to be hard: as of right now, I can’t run a mile without stopping. I can’t even run half a mile without stopping. I still don’t know how to properly lift a weight. But figuring all of that out is part of the journey.

Here’s how it’s going to work: with Kelly at my (figurative, but sometimes also literal) side, I’m going to try out various fitness classes around the city. I’ll write about my experience there: what was the atmosphere like? How was the instructor? Were they helpful? Did I feel intimidated? How did I feel afterwards?

The ultimate goal is that I find out what combination of things works for me, while also giving fellow exercise virgins an inside look at the world of NYC fitness. A few things to remember, for me and for any other exercise virgins who want to join in on the fun:

It's not all about looks
One of the most talked-about benefits of working out is its effect on your physical appearance. While that’s great, it’s not the main focus of this project. On the contrary, my main goal is to improve how I feel on the inside. I want to feel healthier stronger, and more fit; if I also end up looking healthier, stronger and more fit, that’s just an added bonus.

Everyone was a beginner once
Let’s face it: for those of us who don’t know what we’re doing, gyms and fitness classes are intimidating and, quite frankly, pretty scary. Gyms are full of mysterious-looking equipment I have no idea how to use. Exercise classes are populated by devotees who know exactly what they’re doing. But they were beginners once, too. Everyone had to start somewhere, and you shouldn’t let yourself be intimidated or feel judged in a place where people are all striving to improve themselves.

Baby steps are key... 
Like I’ve said a million times already, I can’t run a mile without stopping. Naturally, I don’t expect to be able to run a marathon a week after my first workout. It’s important to pace yourself and to set realistic goals so you don’t get burnt out or give up when you don’t immediately achieve the results you want.

...But don’t underestimate yourself
Even though it’s important to pace yourself, it’s equally important to not underestimate yourself. My biggest problem when it comes to working out is that I’ll find something that’s comfortable and I’ll be scared to push myself beyond that. But pushing yourself to do better is the entire point.