Exercising can be intimidating, especially these days when many group classes seem to be more about a popularity contest then a workout. I recently experienced a workout where I was forced to have to sit at the back of the class because I was new and I had to earn my way to the front. Seems a bit counterintuitive if you ask me. Shouldn’t new students be at the front so they can be watched by the instructor? At least that’s what I do.
Which is why I am writing this piece. To share with you an experience of a young girl who I think has taught me more than I have taught her. My studio recently received a phone call from a man asking for a trainer for his sister. She was here to study English from Saudi Arabia, which meant we needed to create a space that would just be me and her, where she would feel safe and could take off her hijab and wear workout clothes. Not a problem, because fitness comes in all shapes, sizes and ethnicities. There is no right or wrong in moving and sweating. So, we cleared out our group fitness space, closed the doors, drew the blinds and it was just us.
Her first workout, she came in like a timid, lost little bird. She was overweight and she had never been shown how to exercise. We started basic, and at first it was enough of a challenge just to have her walk, or to step up and down on things. She came in twice a week, and each session she opened up a little bit more to me, pushed herself a little harder, became comfortable and became comfortable being uncomfortable. Each workout I challenged her a fraction more than I had the last time and each week she saw the numbers on the scale drop. I’ll never forget over the Christmas break how I made her promise to keep moving and she said all she wanted was to make me happy. Melted my heart.
Flash forward 12 weeks and she is a different person. She has lost over 30 pounds and she comes in ready to fight. Literally, she and I put on boxing mitts and spend much of our workout sparring. Quite a bit different from our first session. She has gone from not being able to hold up her own body weight to being able to do a full, from the toes, push-up. Her studio walks have turned into studio sprints, her slow and steady elliptical intervals have turned into a full-fledged walk, run program. Step-ups have turned into box jumps, planks from her knees have turned into mountain climbers, 5lb dumbbells have turned into 12, side steps have turned into basketball shuffles and standing marches have turn into some seriously ass-kicking burpees.
She is heading back home in just over 2 weeks, but she is going home stronger than she has ever been. And this has absolutely NOTHING to do with me. She made the choice to come to the gym, to take the first step and then to trust the journey. Each step she took she knew she was one step closer to where she wanted to be and one step further from where she once was.
She still has a long way to go, but she has put in the work to learn that although it is not easy, and there are constantly going to be excuses as to why she should give up, if she takes it day by day, continues to make changes and accept challenges, she will continue to grow. Forever.
I hope this story inspires all of you to take that first step, or that next step. And if that step happens to be in a studio that makes you sit in the back, just like they made me, then own it and promise yourself that you too, very soon, will be killing it in the front row because that is where you were always meant to be.
And remember I am just an email away.