One of the things I love about my fitness center is that all the instructors and staff treat everyone with respect. It doesn’t matter what shape you are, it’s assumed that everyone is there to improve his or her health and enjoy the experience.
Until last night.
After 55 minutes of shaking my money-maker in Zumba, I darted over to the adjoining studio for my favorite strength-building class, Power Sculpt. This class does a little cardio, a lot of work with hand weights and resistance bands, and my much-needed ab crunches.
The instructors rotate, which is great because you get a different experience from what each instructor brings to the class and it keeps the format fresh. Last night we had an instructor I had never met before. Seen her around the gym, but I had never taken one of her classes.
Things started out great. She had lots of energy and was keeping the mood light.
Then she asked me — the lady in black — for my name.
“Nona,” I said. She repeated it a couple of times. No bigs, it’s an unusual name and the music is really loud.
She then proceeded to tell me my stance wasn’t wide enough for my plie squats. OK. I have a strained muscle in my left glute right now, so I was trying to take it easy with squats, but not wanting to explain my injured butt to her at that moment, I just widened my stance.
After we moved on to the dumbbell portion of the program, she gleefully called me by name to tell me I needed to adjust my arm for a tricep exercise. OK. I want to improve my arms, so I made the adjustment.
Later, we were doing seated rows with the resistance band. She made a point of coming over to show me I hadn’t wrapped the band around my shoes properly. Neither had a few other class members, whom she ignored, but she was sure to point out that I was doing it wrong.
Then we moved on another row set where we crossed the band across our lap for more resistance. I hadn’t notice the change because I was feeling all stabby at that point. But I sure noticed it when she called me out for doing it wrong. Again.
At that point, the bubbly instructor had become all those mean kids in school and all those sadistic gym teachers who were happy to announce to the world that I wasn’t good enough, strong enough or fast enough to do anything physical. I felt all those insecurities surge back. I felt inept, out-of-place and foolish.
I was angry and humiliated. I wanted to walk out.
But I stayed, because this was my workout, and although I was cussing mad, I am not a quitter.
I was, however, in no mood to stay for yoga. I grabbed my mats to exit the studio as all the other yoga students were filing in. The sculpt instructor noticed me with my mats in hand and asked me if I was staying for yoga.
“Not after this buzzkill class,” I snapped.
She waited for me outside the studio and asked me if I enjoyed her class. Really? I told her no. I don’t like being singled out for critique. I told her that may motivate some people, but it has the opposite effect on me.
She apologized. She said she didn’t mean to make me feel bad. She asked me to give her another chance. I absolutely believe she was sincere.
She had no idea the long battle I’ve had with myself over my physical fitness. She was clueless about how much being the object of criticism in a room full of people, almost all healthier and fitter than me, stings my psyche. Her words, while perhaps well intentioned, were thoughtless and hurtful.
So the point of this long, rambling entry is this: Unless someone is in dire risk of injury, save the technical advice about exercise for a private moment.