We had just finished the step aerobics portion of class, but she left – walked out – after just a few Yoga warrior poses. I had been wondering if she was another instructor because she had such great form, fancy moves beyond the ones I was teaching, strong arms, and she wouldn’t make eye contact. She was the only new face in class, so when she stepped out, I asked if anyone knew her.
No one did. Someone asked if she taught other classes at the club (oh good, I wasn’t the only one wondering that!) Then someone jokingly suggested that she might be a spy. I laughed and said it was possible. Then one guy piped up and said she had been there the week before – the week I had been out with a cold – the week a different instructor had subbed for me. Okay so maybe she liked the sub better than me. (Careful, Bethany, don’t reveal too many insecurities.)
“Does the club really do that?” One participant wanted to know. I immediately said YES, clubs do that: send other instructors in to review you and report back to the group exercise coordinator. My method of avoiding crunches has received some negative attention, because crunches are such a staple in other instructor’s class formats, and they feel threatened at the notion that another instructor is suggesting that they are outmoded, outdated and downright disastrous to the core.
We reverse-lunged down onto our knees and did some gate pose work, side bridges, Pilates thigh work, extended childs pose, an achilles tendon stretch, and then a careful unfolding with tummies tight back up into a standing position. All of it active stretching and a beautiful blend of flexing and stretching: major core work without crunches. Her bag was abandoned in the back of the room; she had never returned.
It is my professional duty to check on a participant in a situation like that just in case there is a twisted ankle or tweaked lower back that they might not be reporting. It’s called follow-up. So I gathered my CD case, coat, and purse, turned off the stereo, wrote my numbers down, and went looking for her.
“Want me to talk to her? Find out who she is?” One of my most loyal participants feeling protective. Gotta love that. But I said, “No, she’s probably on the cardio machines and just wanted more than what we did in class.” Sure enough, there she was, punching a program into the console of an elliptical. I approached her carefully and from the side. I try to never sneak up on people operating heaving equipment…
“Hey, friend.” She glanced sideways but didn’t make eye contact. “I just want to be sure you are okay because you left class early.”
“I’m fine.” She opened a magazine. This gal was acting like we could be old enemies!!! But I had never met her!!! My class had been safe, simple and fun. Lots of smiles and laughter … from everyone but her.
“Okay.” I felt awkward, but I had to pursue it just a little. “You just wanted more cardio? I know it’s a short class.” It’s 45-minutes total with 25 minutes of step and about 20 of weights and tummy-safe abdominal and core work.
“Yeah, I already have a really strong yoga practice, and I don’t need more yoga. Thanks.” She never looked up from her magazine except to give me a dismissive once-over that started at my chest and ended at my feet.
“Okay, well you were great in step.” I was trying to be nice. “Are you by any chance from the East Coast, because some of the moves you did were pretty sweet East Coast style. I love that stuff –”
Finally eye contact: narrowed eyes, a shake of the head and a SNORT! She snorted at me. “snort — Noooo?” She said it like a question that I should have known the answer to.
“Okay, well…” I was at a loss. “Have a great Monday!” I offered a cheerful wave and looked back as I walked away. She turned another magazine page.
Do you know what makes me SAD about that whole interaction… Sad, not mad… She had a blown apart stomach. She looked like me a little over a year ago: strong arms and legs, but very poochy tummy. I had been looking forward to doing core work with her. I was sure it would resonate with her as she connected to her core in a new way. She had clearly tried all the other ways, and her belly was in ruins. Throughout class, I had seen her trying to respond to my queues to draw the navel in, but then her belly would pop right back out again.
Yes, I watch people’s bodies. It is a huge part of my job description. If just one person is out of alignment or proper form, I notice that the way a mechanic notices an odd noise in an engine, or the way an editor sees one comma out of place. The human body is my area of expertise, and the longer I’m in the field the more I learn how to watch bodies.
I wish I could talk to her. I wish she had been open to a conversation. I would have liked to lay her on that floor and check her for a diastasis right in that cardio theater. But I had no way in. She left. In her mind, she already had enough of what I was offering, and she could do “more” on her own than with me. Okay.
I call that a passively closed mind, and I understand it, because I suffered from the same thing… until I realized how much I had hurt myself by always trying to do “more” than other instructors, by always doing the hardest workout, by always leaving when another trainer seemed to be offering “less than” what I knew I could do. I used to be the walker-outer. Now I wish I had stayed. I might have learned more a lot sooner. I might have healed a lot faster. I might have realized that I had pushed so far beyond the basics that I was injuring my core and possibly hundreds of others! I might have had my mind opened to the more simple yet still highly effective methods of training that I use nowadays, and then I would have been able to reach more hurting people SOONER!
Might have… Would have… Who can know? I guess I’m where I need to be for today. And so is she… She took all that she could from me for today. I pray that she finds peace … and that she doesn’t fill out a nasty complaint form about the air-headed instructor who thinks there is such a thing as East Coast Style step.