Monday, January 5, 2015

10 Things Only a Group Exercise Instructor Understands

Working 22 years as a group exercise instructor has not only given me free gym memberships and paid workouts, but a greater understanding as to why Richard Simmons is, well... Richard Simmons.

We're unique! No two are alike! And whether we progressively refer to ourselves as "life coaches who engage people in conversations about their fitness journey, leading them into action," or date ourselves with a simple "aerobics instructor," I'd like to think we have a lot in common. (Or after you read this, perhaps less in common?)

Here goes:

1. We aren't always getting all up in your grill.
Translation: Most instructors don't walk around, screaming in people's faces. We usually stay within 12 feet of the stereo and politely encourage students from there. But believe you me, it's taken many years to confidently say, "My name is Molly, and I'm a shy fitness instructor." Used to think I had to be more pizazzy and in-your-face. Now I just own it. I'm all, "Okay you guys, now let's do plyo push-ups!! Or... you could do them the regular way. On your knees even. Everyone having a nice time?"

2. We are stereo equipment miracle workers.
Just give us a fresh battery and five minutes, and we'll get this baby to work. Gym after gym, class after class, wire salad after wire salad of tangled microphone chords, and stereo button displays that appear more difficult to operate than a jet plane's instrument panel... and 97.36% of the time (lesser odds with the microphone - hate those things), we're in business! Sometimes it's just a matter of pushing buttons until music comes out. Although unexplainable, it's always magical.

3. We can't hear you when you talk to us.
What? You want me to explain the combo again? Think my top is cute? Trying to tell me a dryer sheet is hanging out of my compression (spandex) leggings? I can't (*raspberry*) understand (*raspberry*) your accent. I'm just going to have to wait to be horrified until I discover my wardrobe malfunction on my own.

4. Speaking of hearing, we can't hear. Period.
Crazy-loud "pump up the jam, pump it up while your feet are stompin', and the jam is pumpin'" music, combined with the occasional screech of a hot mic, may or may not have affected our hearing over the years. We instructors can be stubborn with this one. Besides, who's to say it's the music's fault? I don't know. I can't hear them. 

5. And speaking of wardrobe malfunctions, they do happen.
Not only dryer sheets falling out of clothes, but other things - two different shoes on, inside out pants, and yes, panties on shoes. I was driving to the gym a couple weeks ago and felt something around my ankle. I looked down. Lo and behold, underwear was wrapped around my shoe. I must have "looped it" while making a mad dash to get out the door on time. Thankfully, I discovered it in time to de-panty before class.

6. Oh yes, mad-dashing it to the gym. 
Is there such a thing as a Sunday stroll to the gym? Never heard of it. So we need plenty of grace with this one. Because when there's an EXACT start time - 4:30, 8:15, 5:45 - and you have kids to get to school OR just had a big fight with the hubs or wifey OR the dog got out and you had to herd him back into the house like a cow, getting to the gym on time can be a son-of-a-britch. So please, replace those email complaints to corporate with patience and understanding. And a smile.

7. Knowing how to pronounce quinoa doesn't mean we always eat it.
Just because we are "fitness professionals," we are not (all) food cops. I don't know how many times I've caught someone being "bad" and listened to them explain themselves - "Uh, it's my... birthday?" And I don't know how many times I've gone to bed on a belly full of ham and pineapple pizza and hot fudge brownie sundaes, realizing, "Oh no. I do believe I have to teach exercises in front of 50 people, eight hours from now. Poop." It's not pretty.
8. We love compliments!!
You like - you LOVE - our classes? Tell us! It is soooo encouraging. There have been times I've  walked out of class and thought, "I was lame today. I'm never coming back." And then I fantasize about the day I'm done teaching for good, a day I'm content to walk three miles a day with Betty and Myrtle. But that only lasts about 30 seconds before I start getting excited for my next class!

9. Some people dream in English, others dream in Spanish. We dream in choreography.
Whether it's an interesting transition from one-legged squats into plank jacks OR the most elaborate step routine involving a step with 28 risers and a monkey named Mr. Burpee, we'll dream about it. But then again, some of the stuff I've dreamt-up has been pretty good, stuff I've written down on my nightstand in the dark - in big messy letters - in hopes of deciphering by morning. Minus Mr. Burpee, of course.

10. We are the ones with the microphone. Darn.
Oh, how easy it is to complain, to vent, to act frustrated, to trip over words, to say inappropriate things in front of our classes. To roll our eyes at the more "challenging" students. And I've said and done it all. Because words have the power to build up or tear down, I want to use them well. Proverbs 16:24 says, "Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body." See that? "Health to the body." And that's why we do what we do.

Wishing you a fit and fabulous 2015!


  1. Hey, where'd my comment go? At the risk of repeating myself...I love this! You definitely hit the nail on the head! Made me laugh. Thank you...