I snuck out of work this morning, hitting the gym at 9:30 instead of my office chair. My husband is going out tonight. I knew I needed a spin class, but I didn’t want to dump the girls in childcare from 7 until 8 p.m., especially since the little one’s bedtime is 7:15.
After dropping the little one at school, I arrived at the class and (once again) marveled at how many people are at the gym during the day. The parking lot was packed, and a good portion of the almost 50 bikes were taken. Snapping on my spin shoes (yes, I finally got spin shoes!), I got right into the class. The music was good, and the energy was flowing.
About 9:50 a.m. one of the other riders — a woman in her 50s who was quite overweight – leaned forward on her bike to ask the instructor something. Always nosy, I wondered what she said, and was able to figure it out when the instructor walked over to the fans and turned them on halfway. I would have liked to get the full effect of the fans, but since I was sweating profusely by that point, I said a silent thank you in my head and kept going. About ten minutes later the woman who had requested the fans got off of her bike and walked out. I was shocked when the instructor took the opportunity to say something about it.
“I think she left because I only turned the fans on halfway,” she said, laughing, her voice filled with scorn.
I thought it was rude of her to say anything, and was about to tell her so, but stopped when I heard one of the other women in the class was already sticking up for her. “Yes, but she usually only does half a class,” explained the woman. The instructor wasn’t giving up. “Yeah, but she barely did half a class today. I mean, she really left early.”
I kept my mouth shut, but I was instantly so hurt for that woman. I hate it when people — women especially — feel the need to put other women down. I was especially upset that the teacher decided to blame the woman’s departure on her physical abilities and heat tolerance. How did she know what’s going on in that woman’s life? Maybe the woman is like me, sneaking out of work to get a little exercise in. Maybe she had an important phone call to jump onto. Maybe she was meeting a friend for lunch. Actually, who cares why she left! She’s a customer paying a lot of money to go to that gym, and it’s no one’s business if she does five minutes of a class or 60 minutes. The instructor, in my opinion, should shut her mouth and do her job, which does not include criticizing and critiquing her students, especially those who have already left the room. Totally unprofessional.
The gym is a tough place for all of us but that woman, I feel, was singled out because she was overweight. The instructor is one of those super-tiny, spandex-wearing women who is great at motivating people, but doesn’t understand — at least in my opinion — what it’s like to be a regular person who doesn’t count fitness as a career. She’s not the first instructor like that I’ve run into, either. I’ve had yoga teachers announce very loudly as a new student struggled that her class was for “advanced” students. I’ve seen step teachers tell people to “keep up or get out.” I’ve seen personal trainers talk to their trainees in ways that were outright offensive. Of course, these people are the minority, but every time one of these people belittled their students I knew in my heart that they wouldn’t be back. Why would anyone want to come to a place and feel bad about themselves? Exercise is supposed to be fun — not cringe- or guilt-inducing.
Once the class was over, I decided to do something to change what I had seen. Although I was already an hour into my usual work day, I stopped at the front desk on my way out. I told the entire story, and the girl behind the desk immediately handed me a comment card. It was important, she said, to let the manager know so that instructor could be reminded about proper class etiquette. Will it help? Maybe, maybe not, but at least I tried.
Have you ever had a bad experience at a gym or fitness class? What did you do? I’d like to know.