I had a great class last night, thanks for asking!
Becoming a fitness instructor is something I’ve wanted to do since I was 24 and got heavily into taking aerobics from one peppy instructor at my tiny little gym in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Mary was a powerhouse: a petite girl with big(ish) hair, and huge muscles. She taught cardio classes and was a bodybuilder. Not a professional, but boy, was she “cut” (slang for “toned”: am I the only one that says that?)! What I loved was that in spite of her slightly intimidating presence, she had an absolutely adorable personality, and—off the microphone—she was very soft-spoken. She motivated me so, so much—and that was very important, considering the fact that, at age 24, I was struggling to take on my first regular physical activity of my entire life. (“My name is Melisa, and I was a Couch Potato.”) If I saw her today, I would reintroduce myself and thank her for being such an inspiration to me.
I’ve had a couple more mentors in this area, but I’ll save those stories for another post…
I found that, while enjoying my aerobics classes with Mary, I “had the beat”. That’s a very, very important element in an instructor. I can follow cues on the 32-count beat, down to 16, chopping it to 8-count, 4, and then 2. If you’ve taken aerobics classes (or slower tempoed classes, but tempoed just the same), you’ll know what I’m talking about: there is a distinctive, pulsing beat that should drive the movement of the class.
After I discovered that I could stay on the beat, I started having little thoughts of myself as an instructor. And then I pushed them down. I could never do that, right? Besides, I did not have, do not have, and will never have the stick-thin, Queen of Aerobics body. I am “blessed” (Hmmm…) with genes that require me to really, really watch what I’m doing when it comes to food as well as exercise like a Crazy Person if I want to be even moderately slender. (I don’t think I’ve been slender since I was a High School Senior: and even then, though “slender” for me, I was heavier than all my friends!)
A few years later, while enjoying classes at the long-time club I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I started thinking about instructing group fitness again. By this time, Spinning had come along and I really, really enjoyed that. Although I was slightly intimidated by teaching an aerobics class—something where I would have to prance my whole body around in the front of a mirrored, florescent-lit studio in front of a hopefully large group of people—Spinning (or Group Cycling), though very, very physically demanding, didn’t require me to be “out there” in the “Bright Lights, Big City” of it all.
I put it off again though, because I was taking my good friend’s classes four or five days each week, and I was happy with that. When she left the club and we had a falling-out around the same time, I made up my mind. I asked to take over her classes since I knew all of the people in them, and I started working on my certifications.
I earned my Schwinn Group Cycling Certification in 2004 and then my A.C.E. Group Fitness Instructor Certification, and I’ve been teaching (I started with low-impact aerobics and resistance classes along with group cycling, but now I just cycle) ever since. Obviously it’s great to get paid to exercise. Truth be told though, I usually get a better workout when I take someone else’s class because there’s that element of surprise in being told what to do instead of doing the telling. My real blessing here is a huge combination of getting paid for doing what I love, exercising, being with fun people, and hopefully inspiring others to be active.
I love when I set somebody up on their bike for the first time and then, after a rip-roaring class in which I see them smiling but obviously not wanting to draw attention to themselves so I would call them out personally (I never tease and taunt people I don’t know VERY well), they come to tell me how much they enjoyed the environment my friends and I create, and then before I know it, they’re one of my regulars.
I’ve had a few moments though, that test my self esteem even though they weren’t meant to. On a couple of occasions, people have approached me after class and expressed how much they liked it, and then continued to say…
I hate typing it…
“I’m so glad that a normal looking person is teaching a class here.”
“I’m so glad you’re not real skinny.”
Ick. I really, really don’t even like typing that.
When I hear that, I smile and nod and finish up the conversation gracefully, and then I have a few minutes of being upset within myself because I am a group fitness instructor that doesn’t fit the mold of a typical group fitness instructor, quite literally.
But then, I remember the advice that I give my class on a regular basis: “It’s all mental. Mind over matter!” I think about the comments and, hey, the comments are true! I’m NOT skinny. I AM normal looking. Heck, these poor people are trying to compliment me! What is wrong with me that I can’t immediately see that? Most women in the US are not a size 0. Most women don’t look like the celebrities that are on all the magazine covers. What I remember is that I can out-spin almost anybody I come into contact with. I’m fit, I’m healthy, and overall although I have weight to lose (and I’m working on it), I am happy with myself overall. So there, right?
And so, I just keep on doing what I’m doing: having fun doing what I love and hopefully inspiring others to move, just like Mary did for me.
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And that my dear is what we call good body image. It’s so hard for woman to grasp they can be a little overweight and still be healthy and live a fulfilling life. I’m working on it myself. I’d love to try spinning but I’m afraid I might kill myself.
I wish your trained at my gym. I’m scared of the spinning class…the claustrophobic room and just no being able to keep up with everyone. Maybe one day I’ll try it.
Yep. It dawned on me this year… that I may not be super thin, but I’m healthy and I’m happy with myself. I don’t have to look stick thin to be happy with myself! it’s really a liberating feeling, isn’t it?
and one of my very best friends is a spinning instructor as well. Spinning freaks me out though. I never tried it. Honestly, i ilked relaxing exercise… spinning doesn’t fit that category- yoga, pilates, strolling around the mall and shopping- that’s my sort of exercise! 😉
Ah the slightly back handed compliment! My nemesis is the “I’m going to put myself down in complimenting you”, I HATE those so much. They tend to make me feel sad/guilty for the person and self-conscience because it is drawing attention to my being scrawny. People need to think a bit more before they speak, and you are fabulous!