The Potato With Eyes

A few months ago I was at the Barn for a Body Pump class. There were two instructors up on the stage. I’m not sure why they have two. Maybe it’s so one person can walk round the class helping people while the other teachers. Or maybe it’s because when you’re teaching a class in a basketball court, you so get exhausted from shouting to make yourself heard that it’s nice to swap the microphone with the other instructor halfway through.

There were a lot of new people that night. And it’s always the same story. Bad form ahoy! Wonky squats, swinging bicep curls, awkward lunges. I remember the first time I did Pump in 2001. I knew diddly squat about squats. It’s a crazy new world in there! Now I watch people wrestle with the bar and squint at the stage, trying to absorb so much new information. I want to run over and say, “Don’t give up, pet! It gets better!”

On this occasion there was one woman doing a particularly unusual interpretation of a squat. As the track went on, I saw Instructor 1 (who was on the mike) glance at Instructor 2, nod their head towards Wayward Squatter then grin. I2 looked and smiled. And so it went on for another few minutes. Nod. Grin.

Then Instructor 1 actually rolled its eyes. I2 shook its head with a hint of exasperation then decided to step in. In the most un-freaking-subtle way possible. I2 threw the bar down with a mighty clang that echoed round the court, jumped off the stage and ran over. I2 stood beside the Squatter and demonstrated the correct form.

Maybe I am just an oversensitive fatass, but I found myself getting rather angry and defensive on the Squatter’s behalf. Sure, the instructor was nice to help her out, but crikey! Every single person was staring, trying to be casual about it as they sank deep into their bottom-half squats. The Squatter was clearly flustered, and the more I2 corrected her, the more she’d fluff it up.

I remember the first time I rocked up to a group class; all the fretting I’d done about even turning up; how fragile my resolve was. I was just looking for confirmation of my fears that I shouldn’t be there, that I didn’t belong. I already feel like an idiot simply for daring to be in the same room as these nubile regulars, resplendent in my baggy trackpants and oversize t-shirt. I recall looking in the mirrors and thinking very specifically that I looked like a potato.  A potato with eyes, standing in a sea of celery stalks.

So if my instructor had done the eye-rolling, half-smirking, dramatic bar-throwdown thing with me, I would have slunk out the door and never come back.

I just wanted to yell at them, where’s your empathy? Isn’t fitness meant to be for everyone? You may not be able to relate to the Squatter’s overweight body, but haven’t you ever been crap at something before? Were you ever a beginner or did you emerge with those muscles straight from the womb?

I am hyperconscious of not forgetting what it feels like to be right at the start of a lard-busting journey. It would be all too easy to be smug, arrogant or complacent. It is possible to be proud of your own achievements without sneering at the efforts of others. Especially since we’re all just a few skipped workouts and a bag of cookies away from being there again.

(The Wayward Squatter never came back.)

. . .

I ranted about the above to the Scottish Companion months ago when it happened – I bet he thought I’d let it go by now! No way, mate! You know I just use you to test out my material before I write it on here. Hehehe.

. . .

So I lost 0.9kg (2lb) this week. Woohoo! That’s 75.7 kilos (168.8lb) gone in total. “You’ve lost a whole me!”, said the Scottish Companion. How bizarre.

This new softly softly approach feels so much better. There’s balance. No extremes or denial. I ate the 0% fat yogurt and the sunflower seeds but I also factored in the three slightly stale Mint Slice biscuits (brought all the way back from Oz by a good mate). Softly, softly!

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23 thoughts on “The Potato With Eyes

  1. I think it’s incredibly rude of an instructor, someone who is supposed to be there to teach and support, to belittle someone and make them feel stupid for trying to get in shape. That story has infuriated me! Congrats on the 2 lbs. though!

  2. You should complain to the gym people. I hate those beautiful people that think they are so much better than all the rest of us. Oh my goodness, your entry made me sweat with pissed-off-ness!

  3. Poor wayward squatter – I hate being corrected in class but then I think it’s also bad when you see someone doing wrong in a class and the instructor does nothing. Some of them seem to be more interested in the sound of their own voice over the microphone.

    I think the “correct” thing for instructors to do is to walk around the class giving attention to everyone – that way you feel like less of a nuff-nuff if they correct you.

  4. That is ridiculous! Talk about horrible customer service. I would hope that the wayward squatter said something to management about it – I know I would.

  5. Ugh. UGH. Something like that happened to me a few years back, and I suspect it’s one of the deep-seated reasons I still dislike the idea of going to a gym. Why do some people think they need to be as condescending and snotty as possible? Hell, everyone was new to this stuff once upon a time.

  6. Yes, I’m with you, dg. Sometimes I want to form a rescue squad when I see things like that. Since you have a dietgirl superhero cape, you could probably pull it off, actually!

    I often wish that there were fun fitness classes for obese people, only. That way no one would feel out of place and everyone could support each other until each one “graduates”. They have special classes for older folks, so why not for bigger folks, too?

  7. Does that mean you’ll love me forever if I do recaps of Australia’s version of the Biggest Loser when it starts? 😉

  8. Your description of being a beginner is so perfect! “looking for confirmation that you don’t belong here…”

    I think you should say something too, but I’m always leery of taking up cudgels on someone else’s behalf. If it was me? I would print out this post (with maybe some small editing) and anonymously slip it to the instructors. Not to the management – give the transgressors a chance to reform on their own.

  9. What an a**hole. I have become a lot more bolshy about having every right to be in the gym but I used to be more fragile about it. These days I rarely disappear into the cubicle to change. Yes, sometimes people look over at me and I can imagine what they think but no-one has ever said anything – and god help them if they did. I’m at the gym dealing with my problems and I’ve as much right as anyone else.

    Re: Biggest Loser. In UK we are currently seeing the 2nd US series but it’s on satellite (Living TV). Enjoying it but as I know who won and came 2nd and 3rd and who’s going out with who, it does spoil it a bit. I wish they’d have it on more quickly. We had a UK Biggest Loser last year but they prizes paled in comparison to the US one. £25K rather than $250K. Also the UK contestants were mostly bozos who I wouldn’t want to spend 5 minutes with. There was only a core group of 4 who I liked and only 1 of them was in the last 3.

  10. Yes, I know those evil, snide work out instructors. It’s the reason I’ve always had a love hate relationship with the gym. But now, when folks treat me that way–I complain. To the instructors, then to the manager. I don’t care if the manager rolls his eyes when I leave the room or thinks I’m an idiot, or the instructors titter when I was away. And then, of course, I don’t go back.

    But I want to share a story of contrast in case we all lose hope over exercise instructors and their attitudes. I recently fell in love with a yoga instructor at my second time ever Bhakti Flow Yoga Class. She came over while I was doing this totally ridiculous pose called ‘happy baby’ which was the easy alternative offered while everyone else was doing this sexy legs straight in the air and supported only by your shoulders deal.

    I guess I must never have been a happy baby cause I was really mucking up the pose. But, no recriminations, obvious smirks or fool making displays–instead, this instructor came over in the most quiet, gentle way possible and whispered in my ear “Can I adjust your pose?” To my nod of yes, she very gently shifted me using her whole body weight to hold me as she shifted me and suddenly–I was a happy baby.

    It actually made me feel nurtured.

  11. Every time I attempt to enter a running shoe shop to get some shoes I recall your post about the first time you bought shoes (which ended up the wrong type due to your desire to escape the shop at the earliest possible chance). And I still have not made it into said shop as I fear, above all else, being made fun of for trying to get fit by already fit people. I admire anyone who does anything in front of other people as we are a horrible species in that we laugh at all of our fellow humans misfortunes. I mean, Minties ads for god’s sake, they even try to sell lollies by taking the piss out of people hurting themselves. Not that I don’t laugh, because I do but it has become extreme.

  12. Softly softly. Well done on your loss this week. That is great. And a great post to remind me not to forget what I felt like, where I was in my head, now I responded to things when I began losing weight. Thanks.

    Hope you have a fantastic day 😀

  13. urk, those instructors give the rest of us a bad name. I promise you – 99 percent of all fitness instructors are really normal people with as many insecurities as the members! I would tell the coordinator or manager at the gym, instructors are there to HELP and NOT to intimidate!!!!!!!! They were both probably thick as posts and with no life outside body pump. And if you feel crap in a class – I’ve taught classes where the *participants* have been fitter & stronger than me. THAT’S awful… at least as a participant you can leave…

  14. Hey, DG,

    Just looking at your stats in the sidebar – I’m a UK 12 and a US 8 (when not pregnant as I am right now, that is), so I’m thinking if you’re a UK 14/16 that would make you a US 10/12, in fact.

    Of course, sizes vary depending on the shop and the item in question – I’ve been known to fit a size 6 dress and a pair of size 10 jeans at the same time (well, not at the same time, but you know what I mean), but I know that a US 8 is a good average equivalent for my UK 12.

  15. 2 pounds?! That’s awesome! I am so happy for you. Losing weight, even just a little a week, can make a woman or anything for that matter, feel good. You should and be proud of yourself!

    About the “instructor being mean to the client” situation. Being a christian, this is what I think. I believe the devil wants nothing more than to destroy us, make us suffer. For overweight women, just being overweight is suffering. Some women are weaker than others. Maybe that girl had enough of calling herself names and putting herself down. She took a chance and went to one of this workout places. What those instructors sis to that poor girl was wrong and very upsetting.

    What those instructors did will effect this woman in so many ways. God, I do hope she is okay, I really do. We will never know her particular situation but I pray for the best.

    Now, if I was there and I witnessed this… man, in the end, both this girl and I would be walking out together. Being the bold and highly protective person I am, I would have approuched the situation, said my words in a nice and kind way, and left. I would complain until something was done about the situation.

    This situation doesn’t make me angry, it makes me sad. I feel sad for the girl and sad for the instructors. I have learned… someone is the way they are for a reason. I learned to see people through Gods eyes, and not my own. Yes, I am human, and if I saw this situation, anger would have come to surface but just as fast as it came, it would go. I learned anger solves nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I do get angry at times but I believe it’s one thing to act upon it and another just to feel it.

    Haha, I can go on and on about this if I wanted to. As you can see, I have went on and on enough, don’t you think? lol Take care and God Bless.

  16. Help – I hope it’s not the Devil controlling me those times I teach a bad class….:-(

  17. yikes thanks for all the comments! i have been away all weekend and have not caught up on them… sorry folks!

    hi mindie… nice to see a new face!

    nikhila – that was a great story, hehe 🙂

    christine – cheers for your comment! 🙂 i have heard conflicting things about the US/UK size difference. When I was in the states last year I found that my UK 18 was a 16 over there, but again that depended on the store. Inconsistent bastards!

    elisabeth – i am sure you have the exercise gods on your side 🙂 hehe

  18. Wow, I am afraid of group classes and if I went and something like that “wayward squatter” incident happened to me, I don’t think I would return either! Some of us (like me) can’t help it that we are uncoordinated!..lol

  19. Having a word with the instructors after the class might have helped this not to happen again. It can be hard to remember what it’s like to be a beginner. By nature, I’m an evil sod, so I have to make a conscious effort to empathise in order to avoid the kind of situation you described in my kickboxing class.

    One problem is that the mistakes that beginners make can be funny! Controlling the impulse to roll your eyes or laugh inappropriately is a skill that some people find harder to learn than others. A well placed snark from someone who doesn’t appreciate their actions can aid the learning process.

  20. well i can understand that foob! god knows my lack of coordination makes ME laugh in classes so i couldn’t blame the instructors for laughing then… hehe

  21. Hi! Truly thankful for your site – makes the weight loss seem much more attainable even without personal chefs and expensive trainers. I write because I am infuriated and saddened by the instructor’s behavior. When I started Body Pump and Combat I was uncoordinated and awkward and now I teach both. This instructor should be reported and taken off the schedule. Les Mills has higher standards than this judgmental and discouraging behavior. Also, reading Tales From the Scale – inspiring and normalizing to others of us who spent childhood and adolescent years hoarding and bingeing on chocolate. Congrats on the weight loss!!! I’m down 100lbs, 15 to go. Thanks for your effort and time on this page.