Ever have one of those nights where you think to yourself: “I will go try out a class tomorrow.” Or, “I will hit the gym” and then not follow through? The biggest step into fitness is when that thought is turned into action: the second you step into the gym or jump into an activity is THE biggest obstacle of all when it comes to living an active lifestyle. Just showing up deserves a major high-five in my book.
But there is one thing that irks me:
Group fitness instructors that aren’t inclusive. Fitness instructors are created by their passion for fitness and health and sharing that with others so they can be active and healthy, right?
I’ve been attending a power yoga class for the last 7 months and I just absolutely love it. It brings me joy to see the progress I’ve made with the challenging poses. Ever since falling in love with yoga, I have also been trying to get my husband, J, to join me. He refused. He is active; his choice of activity is running races, mostly 10k and half marathons. I wanted him to join me because I knew that yoga would bring a whole new dimension to his fitness level which would show through in his runs.
Last Monday, he joined me. He ran an errand earlier that day so he arrived in his jeans. Although seeing him in jeans surprised me (my fear of overheating in the warm room made me feel sweaty already), we continued into the room, excited about our first class together. As soon as the instructor walked in she said:
“You are going to do power yoga in JEANS??!”
His nonchalant response:
“I guess so.”
As she did her usual intro whenever there are newcomers, her words irked me:
“Power yoga is a level 3 or 4 class. You should already know the names of the poses when you take this class……..”
It was almost like it was directed to him. I shrugged it off.
Partway through the class, she walked over to help him with a pose, she says,
“Oh you’re shaking.” And walks away.
And at that point I had given her all the acceptance I could. This is not how new participants should be treated.
– feel ‘bad’ to be in the fitness class because they aren’t dressed like the ‘norm’
– feel intimidated and inferior
– are not getting the necessary tools/support to allow the to fully absorb the concepts of the class and get a good workout
….THEN there is a problem. Instructors are NOT doing their job. Participants should feel enlightened, healthy, strong, fit, accomplished and/or the urge to try the next class when they leave. If participants are experiencing anything less than these affirming feelings, that instructor has something to work on.
When I used to teach for the Y Healthy Heart (exercise rehabilitation in the form of fitness classes for participants with cardiac issues), there would always be 4-6 participants in the class who wore khakis or jeans with a polo style shirt to class. Is there something wrong with this workout attire? My first instinct was always to say, “HI! How are you?” I was glad to see them. I was happy that they came to take the class. I was amazed at the incredible courage it took to change their old sedentary habits and partake in something new. I did not judge, I did not condemn them based on their outfit. My Kinesiology degree did not teach me this, fitness mentors did not have to advise me; my mother always taught me to always address and greet people kindly.
Over the years, I’ve come across too many instructors with a ‘sour’ persona: unfriendly, abrasive, a disregard for the need to encourage and support participants. I hope the fitness governing body of BC (BCRPA) can bring back the basics, so to speak. Basic psychology of fitness applies across the board and should be a key component of the health industry.
Our job as industry experts is to encourage and teach people how to be active and stay active. To promote healthy living regardless of what you look like, how you dress or your level of fitness.
One participant who wears lululemon is not superior to another participant who chooses to wear jeans; instructors as a whole need to practice inclusion in all classes and focus on the end goal: to help promote a healthy, safe and active lifestyle.
Please speak up when you come across instructors that aren’t fully promoting the fundamentals of fitness and health. It is with utmost importance that all participants be encouraged and feel the necessary support upon accomplishing one of the biggest obstacles: stepping into the gym.