Two years ago, I took on the challenge of trying 100 different sports and fitness classes in a year. My friends and family were concerned that I was having a mid-life crisis but I assure you, although the initial idea was alcohol influenced, I was deadly serious.
On the face of it, I am not your stereotypical fitness nut. I was 35 at the time, a mum of three and properly out of shape. Although I still played hockey on a Saturday, I was definitely the most unfit in the team and was developing the role of "Super Sub", as I couldn't physically play a full game. A long time previous to this, I had already self-diagnosed myself as "gym phobic" after a history of failed attempts of attending gyms and fitness classes.
I also found it frustrating to find out where and when classes and sports were happening locally. I am a busy, working mum, I have one hour free on two evenings a week, and I just want to know what I can do to fit in some exercise! To tackle this problem, I launched a new website called HerMoJo, a place to help find your get up and go (it's free, so feel free to add your classes!). So, in the interests of personal development and a bit of self-publicity, I prepared to sacrifice my time and dignity to take on the challenge.
Before I started, I admit that I harboured my own pre-conceptions of a fitness instructor, based on my limited experiences of fitness classes. I had been to aerobics...once in the nineties. I had been to step aerobics...once in the noughties. I had been to PUMP, yes you guessed it...once in the tweenies. I gave up each time because I felt a bit of a prat. I convinced myself that I was uncoordinated, as my brain seemed to fail to be able to synchronise with the movements of the instructor and the more I got it wrong, the more I would start to panic. I would imagine people sniggering behind me when I messed up. I was sure that the instructor wasn't really smiling at me but was tutting in my direction and through all this ordeal, I got to witness my own suffering in the floor-to ceiling mirrors, whilst looking at my camel toe in my ill-fitting lycra! Yes, me and fitness classes had history and feeling comfortable in one, would be a challenge within a challenge.
If I was to make up a lonely hearts advert for my ideal fitness class, it would say:
"Fuller figured, 30 something, mother of three, with questionable pelvic floor muscle strength, past commitment issues and a loathing of floor to ceiling mirrors, seeks local class with GSOH, challenging but fun and calorie busting. Burpees and plankers need not apply."
Over the course of the year, I certainly went on a number of dates. I tried Aqua Aerobics, Body combat, Bootcamp, Buggyfit, Bums, Tums and Thighs, Cardio Tennis, Circuit Training, Cross Fit, Insanity, Nordic Walking, Online Exercise, Personal Training, Pilates, Piloxing, PoleFitness, Poolbiking, Powerhooping, Spinning, TRX, TyreFit,Yoga, Kettlercise KickBoxing Aerobics, Clubbercise, FitSteps, Zumba and BarreConcept.
For every class I went to and different instructor I met, my pre-conceptions started to crumble. I began to make friends with the instructors I met and would hear their side of the story. I started to compare them to stand-up comics, as each night they would stand and perform in front of an audience and they had to get it right at all levels. Sometimes, they would perform tried and tested material; sometimes they would introduce their own material. All this meant that sometimes they would get their own version of "stage fright". I started to change the way I viewed the instructor and the class itself.
So, my advice to any fitness instructors; make sure people know your story and why you are passionate about what you do. Don't be afraid to show your own vulnerability. Get to know your customers and listen to their fears and understand their goals. Some of the people I met struggled to even get themselves to the class, as they were crippled with the same nerves that I used to have.
For me, well I discovered the secret - nobody actually cares what you look like because they are just busy doing their own thing! Once I embraced this truth, I let go of my negativity and realised that it didn't matter if you missed a step or a rep, as nobody cared. Not once did I feel judged because I didn't let myself believe it. As they say "I may be slow but I was still lapping the person on the sofa!"