Wow, this is my first blog as part of this AMAZING team that Athleta has put together! I suppose since my bio is already posted there’s no need to introduce myself, so let me just say that I’m beyond excited to be provided a platform to reach out to Athleta’s inspiring audience of readers (and doers) with much of the content I’ve already been writing for my own personal “Life’s Lessons” blog.
With that said, this blog post was inspired by something that happened as a result of my afternoon Zumba class. This is “Life Lesson #183: Give something a chance, as the outcome may surprise you.”
As a group fitness instructor, I run across MANY types of people in my classes. Having taught my first class in the 90’s, it’s understandable that I’ve run across MANY personalities in my classes. Last night I had two young ladies who seemed to be in what I call the “too cool for school” category. The ones in this category are usually the younger kids who scoff at things and goof off DURING class. They’ll participate, but in a way that makes fun of the class as it’s being taught. If you’ve instructed fitness classes for any length of time, chances are you’ve probably seen this type as well.
I usually welcome this type as it presents a challenge to me–the challenge of winning them over and making them realize that if they actually take the class seriously, they might get a good workout out of it. I say “usually” as that particular day I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, and not too up for the challenge of dealing with people who seemed to only be in class for the purpose of making fun of it.
Of all days to have the “too cool for school” type in my class, this was not the day. Having missed the last half of the previous work week to tend to a sick child, I was overwhelmed trying to play catch-up. It didn’t help that it was my LONGEST day of the week: work at full time job, teach Zumba, pick up kids from after school care, get dinner, run to boy scouts, teach belly dance funk, then home for bath and bed… So needless to say, I was a bit overwhelmed going into the class, and I didn’t really feel up to any additional challenges.
So I stood before my class and introduced myself, as I always do. I’m not a professional body language interpreter, but it was kind of easy to read the language of these challenging young girls as they stood in the back row, with their hands on their hips and their heads cocked slightly to one side as they waited for me to finish my intro. I guess the exchange of looks and giggles between them as they looked back to me also kind of helped me interpret their body language.
With my intro to the class out of the way, I started up the music. I’ll admit that I can be a bit of a dork when I teach, but that’s because I have two goals when teaching–to get the participants to not only have a good workout, but to have FUN while they’re working out. While my dorkiness causes many participants who take my class to smile, it also gives the “too cool for school” crowd fuel for their fire.
As I taught, I continually scanned the room to make sure I kept an eye on all the participants. I could see the girls giggling as they partly did the moves and partly mimicked them. There were times one of them would break from the routine and dance in front of the other, in an exaggerated dance-off fashion, before returning back to the routine. Because they were in the back and did not get in the way of the other participants, I continued to teach as they carried on.
I like to engage my participants and cheer them on, so of course when I saw one of the young girls goofing off with her friend, I actually encouraged her, “You go girl, shake that booty!” She was kind of caught off guard, but was amused and did shake it a little harder. I flashed her a smile and a thumbs-up as I continued to teach.
With the warm-up out of the way, we went on to the second song and I was ready to start cranking up the intensity. The girls still flashed each other looks and giggles, and continued to goof off a bit, but for the most part were actually paying attention and started keeping up more–especially since I’d remind them that they were in a fitness class with phrases like, “Keep your core tight!” and “Lift the arms higher to get that heart rate going!” I even caught their attention and got a few more smiles as I yelled such things as, “If you have long hair you’d better WORK that hair too!”
The further into the workout we got, the less those girls goofed off. In between each song, their goofing off gave way to wiping away their sweat and running for water so that they could stay hydrated. I could see that I was winning them over. They were actually taking the workout seriously and putting forth the effort to keep up.
By the time we were cooling down, the two girls had given up all notion of treating the class as a joke, and actually followed along without any more goofing off. When the music ended, I did my usual congratulatory run around the room, high-fiving each and every participant.
As I got to the first of the two young girls, she high-fived me and held onto my hand for a few seconds longer and said, “Best.Zumba.Class.Ever!”
This truly made me smile and it actually helped to turn my day around, giving me one of the best smiles of my day. It also helped me to understand another one of life’s lessons: Give something a chance.
As an instructor, it would have been easy for me to politely dismiss the girls from my class for being disruptive by not taking the class seriously–especially since I was not having my best day. However, I would never do that. Participants like this pose a challenge to me. When I teach, my goal is to give my participants the best workout experience I can give them. I know that if I put forth my best effort each time, I can give each participant a chance to discover a workout that’s not only fun, but worth their while. In turn, I discover that if I give something a chance, sometimes my most challenging participant can create one of my most rewarding experiences.
Based on their turnaround in attitude, I think those two young girls discovered that if they too give something a chance, they may just find a hidden gem that’s worth their while–for what might seem to be a joke of a class, taught by a dorky instructor, may actually turn out to be their “Best.Zumba.Class.Ever!”
SANDY SANDERS is an avid fitness enthusiast, a mother of two, and a woman fueled by her desire to live life without regrets. “There are two types of regrets in life — regretting having done something and regretting having not done something…” more »