There are few things more daunting than being called to sub a class for someone who has a cult-like following.
Got a text yesterday from one of my fellow instructors at the gym where I teach part time. Seems she had to leave town and needed me to cover her 8:45 am class today. I agreed, with some trepidation.
Morning workout people — especially the ones who go to 8:30-9 am classes are especially persnickety. They want what they know, not unlike little kids who get fixated on a certain food. Anything outside that realm is viewed as suspect. If they are unhappy after three minutes, they leave.
I have heard about women who fight over spots on the group exercise floor. There are tales of women who just get in other people’s spaces if they are not accommodated as they see fit. Inevitably, it is this mid-morning crowd that feels so entitled. Maybe they don’t have jobs and for many of them, this is their job. I’ve never really understood the mentality, but it has been present at every gym I’ve either belonged to or taught at.
So, this morning, I walk into class and I can tell there are easily 40 people jammed in there. They look at me uneasily. I explain what happened and that I plan to give them a challenging workout.
Apparently, they were already expecting a step class. I can’t teach step for a number of reasons, but the first is that I have no official certification, so I don’t want to go there. I tell them we’re going to circuit train or do cardio intervals and then weights.
This type of class is NOT what I normally teach. Normally, I teach Spinning and Pilates, but have a general group fitness instructor certification from AFAA (which is a top -ranked organization).
I start the warmup. The music is from what I call my “candy” mix. It is full of upbeat, pop, hip-hop and rock songs that almost every group I use it with, love it.
Three minutes in, I see the exodus begin.
I try to cheerfully ignore what’s going on and keep the class moving.
First aerobic set includes us skipping across the gym floor. If you haven’t skipped in a while, you will not understand how great this is for bringing up one’s heart rate. But after four back-and-forths, some of them had enough. More people flee.
It went on like this for the whole hour, until there were like 10 people left.
It was mortifying. I have subbed classes before and had people leave, but never like this. I think much of it is that my confidence got rattled and I couldn’t shake it off after that.
It was funny, afterward, as I talked to the yoga instructor who was running the next class, that I found an unexpected ally. I was recounting the shipwreck of the previous hour, when one of her students (whom I don’t know), piped up and said, “You’re Donna, right?”
Yeah. “I’ve been hearing really good things about you and your classes. Don’t let this upset you.”
I was grateful and thanked her.
It will be fine. It’s just the gym. It’s not brain surgery.