Fun Times at the Barre

As a Barre, Pilates and Fitness Instructor, I still like to take classes at other studios for various reasons – sometimes it will give me great ideas for my classes, other times I can take note of the cues other instructors give that resonate with me and it humbles me.  Rather than barking out orders in a class, I’m taking the class so it gives me a different perspective as a student.  

Today I decided to try a new barre class which I will call PureCraziness.  I tried a class at this facility once before and thought it was okay but didn’t understand the hype. Today, I decided to try it again and took a different type barre class offered with resistance bands.  

As soon as I walked in, I removed my shoes (to preserve the pristine floor) and checked in on the iPad.  The girl behind the desk was super busy conversing with her friend so she didn’t have time to welcome me. So I found the cubbies and bathroom all by myself like a big girl and spent the next five minutes looking at overpriced clothes in the lobby.

Upon walking into class and finding a designated spot, I immediately made friends with the two girls around me.  One girl had never taken class before “Newbie”, the other girl “Smiley” had rave reviews as she just attended class the previous weekend. Instantly the instructor strutted in, turned on loud music and started barking orders (I LOVE music but not so loud I can’t hear the instructor).  She never asked if anyone was new to class or anybody had any ailments she should be aware of – just direction, rapid fire direction.  She spoke so fast I had to watch the other ladies to understand what she was saying and what we were doing. Immediately with no warm up we were doing planks on the floor with sliding disks on our feet.  So that was interesting – my body was barely awake – never mind ready to hold a plank.  I slipped slided around and somehow managed to complete my task.  It wasn’t pretty!

We then took to the bar with our resistance band contraptions.  Again, military orders.   I, of course, grabbed the wrong bands and couldn’t figure out why my arms wouldn’t extend beautifully like the graceful lady across from me.  What the . . . I’m a barre instructor for gosh sakes!  Our next task was to use the disk on one foot with a band in one hand.  This was very confusing but eventually I got myself positioned properly to which I got “nice job, Kelly” by the instructor.  Apparently, she did know my name!      But . . . the question was – did she know who was Kelly?  Blonde?  Brunette? Uncoordinated blonde?   My guess is she just memorized names!  After thirty pulses on one leg to the point it was almost numb, I looked over at my friend Newbie – and mumbled “WTF”.  She, thank goodness, understood my humor.  Honestly, I just blurted it out.   My leg was numb.  I couldn’t understand a word this instructor was saying. And   while Newbie and I were struggling, Smiley had no issues at all and was still flipping smiling.  At this point, I was getting a case of giggles. The whole thing was just silliness!   Oh yeah – nobody smiled, giggled or conversed in this class.  It was serious business (I’m eye rolling right now, you can’t see it but I am!).  My feeling is a fitness class should be fun, a bit social and enjoyable.  Maybe, that’s just me but it’s a fitness class not military training.  At any rate, we finished pulsing on the right and started on the left to which I whispered a mournful – “goodbye left leg, you’ve been awesome!”

Next thing we are on the floor, plank position sliding away with our feet to the point that we were sliding our left leg laterally so that our foot met our left shoulder – yup you read that right – pretty much spread eagle!  First of all, I have no flexibility, tight hips and at almost “50” was never going to achieve this task.  I settled for mid-waist height but these girls were sliding all the way to their head.  Dear God!  God bless them!  I don’t know how you teach a class like that without checking in with your attendees and their abilities or giving modifications.  But our instructor was pretty young and probably a dancer so she probably has no understanding of limited abilities. After all, she’s still learning the art of saying “Hi”.  

We finished class with straps on our feet mimicking the reformer.  Now, I’ve taken hours upon hours of training to teach reformer and proper head and spine positioning.  Absolutely nothing here – raise shoulder and neck and crunch away.  I heard the Stott Pilates Police cursing in my ear.  

We did finish class with a few stretches.  I looked over at Newbie and told her I will never walk again – she smiled and nodded.  I think she was exhausted.  My other new friend, Smiley, would not make eye contact with me.  I may have offended her with my  giggles, eye rolling, and cursing under my breath.  So perhaps she didn’t appreciate my nasty, class habits. 

After hobbling to the lobby, gathering my personal items,  I was one of the last ones to leave – the instructor never said anything to me – not “how’d you like class” or “you did a great job”, “you’re an awesome eye roller” or “please come back and pay our overpriced classes”.  So that gave me a warm fuzzy as I walked out the door!

Here’s my takeaway . . .  and I never expected a takeaway but so many random thoughts run through my head during these classes that I need to get them down on paper.   I have taught at three small studios and I have never not introduced myself at some point to a new student (unless inadvertently).   I almost never forget to ask a new student if they have any limitations – I may have missed that 1x or 2x times due to a busy class or chaos but I try my best to never do that.   I acknowledge new people in my class and try to offer encouragement or make them feel at ease.   Today is a perfect example of a “big box” gym class or franchise that does not train their instructors common courtesy.  Sometimes I question our small studios and what we have to offer but today it made me appreciate the one-on-one attention we offer and small group setting.   In a small group setting, I can cater my classes to my students’ abilities so that nobody leaves “hurting”.    Almost all ladies who come through the door over 40 years of age, have some previous injury or limitation or no fitness experience.  It scares me that they could walk into a class like this and hurt themselves.   I never intended for this blog to be preachy – in my head it was funny while I was pulsing away – but seriously be careful when you take a new class.  Don’t do anything you are not comfortable doing and use your head – if it does not feel right, do not do it.  In closing,  I try never to be skeptical of  fitness instructors because I know how hard it is to get up there and put yourself out there.  It is not an easy task.  We all have growing pains and bad days.  I feel my review is more about the studio and how they train their staff then the instructor herself.  But having said that, common courtesy goes a long way – it’s just “pure” common sense!!

Friendship is Good for the Soul

As I huffed and puffed on the stairclimber on a Monday morning, I reflected on my weekend – not on my overindulgence of food and wine but on friendship. I had just spent a weekend with one of my oldest and dearest friends. We have been friends for close to thirty years and every time we get together, it’s as if time has not passed. Girls need girlfriends. We crave and seek out time with our girlfriends. . . because only females will appreciate our silly stories about getting lost, our need for a new wardrobe and our new appreciation for Skechers shoes (OMG, so comfortable!). Our husbands will just roll their eyes or pretend to be amused but you know inside they are thinking “what the heck is she prattling on about”. Guys have a different genetic makeup than us. They don’t care about the little minute details that us chicks love to share.

I realized this annual weekend is good for my soul and my healthy well being. As a 48 year old woman, it is hard to find women to relate to. As an adult, we are all at different stages of our lives and it becomes more glaring as you reach middle age. Some of us have kids going off to college and others of us have kids who have not yet entered middle school. There are those of us who have gone through divorce, some of us struggle to pay our bills and others of us are jet setting on vacation every other weekend. All this makes for a disconnect at times as jealousy, frustration and sometimes just a plain lack of empathy sneaks in. Some friendships run their course and we no longer relate to each other or find each other’s silly stories about getting lost funny anymore. At times, we have to take a break from each other and reunite weeks, months or even years later. And sometimes, we just need to say goodbye because a friendship has become toxic, one sided or jealousy has reared its ugly head. I’ve experienced all of these phases of friendships and none of them are pleasant which makes me appreciate and cherish the friends that I’ve had for an eternity.

Studies have shown that both physical and social activities promote endorphin release. So as I finished climbing that stairclimber, wiped sweat from my brow and those endorphins started to kick in, I realized the feeling was like spending time with an old friend – euphoric and a general feeling of well being. Okay, I wouldn’t say the stairclimber was euphoric but giggling with my best girlfriend certainly was!

My Arsenal of Books

I will confess that I am a bit of a hoarder when it comes to books that specialize in nutrition, beauty and/or exercise.  Oh yes, and who can forget “self-help” books.  I collect those too . . .  because there is always need for self improvement!  I also need to order a hard copy of these books because I have to be able to hold them and peruse them several times, especially if there are photos.  If I put them on my IPad I can’t pick them up and put them down several days in a row.  I cannot earmark the pages.  More importantly, I cannot add them to the mountain of books that are collecting bedside.  It really is a whole process.  The problem with collecting these books is that I will only read a few chapters that interest me.  I promise myself that I will go back and read more but I usually don’t – perhaps there is a self-help book for that!  I become distracted with other reading material and then another nutrition book comes along that interests me.  But through this mass of books, there are a few that really stand out and make sense.  These are the books that I like to recommend to clients and one of them is “The Ageless Diet” by Tania Van Pelt.  It is not a diet book at all but prescribes healthy habits that you can incorporate into your daily living from vitamins to meditation. I always tell my clients to peruse the books that I recommend and take the tidbits that resonates with them and try to incorporate each piece weekly.   I propose that you all should do the same with this book and add it to your mountain of bedside books.

The Glamorous Life of a Gym Rat

So I don’t consider myself a “gym rat” so to speak but I prefer to be referred to as a person who likes to work out a lot and spends a significant amount of time in the gym.   Today, when I had finished my work out which included heavy lifting, I needed to get my protein in before my next client . . .  and as I poured the contents of the protein powder packet into my water bottle while holding my arm outside the open car door in freezing cold  . . I thought to myself . . . this is so flipping crazy.  We work out to look good but a majority of the time, us “gym rats” have dirty hair, sweaty clothes, and some form of protein powder on our pants, shirts, and in my case, all over the arm sleeve of my coat.   When training for fitness shows,  we eat five times a day at a minimum.  Consequently, I’ve consumed asparagus and chicken out of a plastic bag in my car numerous times.  Inevitably, I’m driving and digging underneath my seat for the dropped asparagus or reaching for a napkin but out of desperation using my leggings.  Fitness truly is not a glamorous hobby or job.  I do not look like the girls on the cover of fitness magazines with fluffy hair and cool work out clothes.   Many times, I go days without washing my hair because I’m scheduled to teach class at night so why bother?  Dry shampoo is my best friend.  Some days I don’t even put real pants on!  A “gym rat” is defined as “someone who spends all leisure time playing sports or working out in a gymnasium or health spa, addict, freak, junky, junky nut – someone who is so ardently devoted to something that it resembles an addiction.”  I’m not sure if I’m offended by this definition but on the other hand, if a driver went by while I was pouring protein powder all over my extended arm . . they probably would have said “look at that freak” . . . I know I would.