Tag Archives: teaching

I’m a little frustrated.

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This blog (as a whole) has no point. But I’m kind of to the point of deleting it all and saying goodbye, or writing¬†something. So I’m writing, something. ūüôā

I teach Spinning as part of my corporate fitness job, and I’ve been in such a rut lately. But yesterday I went in kind of excited, revved up, trying every trick I had for mental preparation and visualization.

Class was okay… not great. And then, I ended up talking about politics. I was mentioning the opening number for the Academy Awards, and someone said she didn’t watch awards shows because they were too political.

First off, I hate when people say this. What they really mean is, Hollywood is full of liberals and they don’t want to hear what liberals are concerned about. While the world is falling all to hell, they want to stay in their isolated bubble and believe whatever Trump says is true.

I didn’t say all of that, though. I just said it wasn’t that political, other than some Trump jokes, and the Iranian director’s speech, which was just about not being divisive. And I don’t understand why people think that’s a controversial statement, especially when it’s far-right Christians who seem to think it’s a controversial statement.

Hypocrites.

And, I did say a lot of that. Which is inappropriate to say in the work environment, and killed the class mood. I killed my own mood for the rest of the day.

It’s a simple solution. Don’t talk about politics at work. And I can follow it, mostly. But I feel like this is how life is now. If you say, I’m worried about the direction our president is taking us.. If you say, Do you really believe all Muslims want to kill Christians? … That will get you mobbed by Trump thugs on Twitter. And heaven forbid we talk about our disagreements in a civil manner in real life.

The problem is, there is no way to bridge a gulf with people who don’t believe in actual facts. If you point to actual numbers and research, they say that’s liberal propaganda, then put up a nasty meme, call you a snowflake, and link to a YouTube video about how Obama bought missiles¬†for ISIS.¬†frustration

Then they call news that follows actual journalism guidelines “fake” news, as if they didn’t create a world that is only fake news.

I do believe, if this were a regional problem, it’s divisive enough now that it could lead to a Civil War. I’d personally like to put the boundaries of state between my fellow Americans and those nutjobs. But it’s not like that… It’s really come down to city versus rural.

And there’s nothing to be done for it. My best hope right now is that Trump will finally fail, and disappoint those who supported him. I know a few people have already regretted their vote. But for the most part, it’s clear that Trump followers are with him 100%, and there is nothing that will change their minds. If he shot his Chief of Staff in the head today, they’d say it was deserved.

Or that Obama did it.

On creativity: Wicked, full-time fitness, & keeping it fun

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First of all, can I just say how very, very hard it is not to dramatically title a blog post that refers to a musical with the lyric going through your head at the moment?

(FYI: “Too long I’ve been afraid of losing love, I guess I lost…”)

That took a lot of restraint.

Second, yes, this is ze¬†fitness blog, and yes,¬†I’ll make it¬†relevant, kind of. But the joy of having your Very Own Blog is that you get to go on about whatever is on your mind. And so… indulge my inner fangirl for a minute? Or skip to the bottom!

[Gratuitous flashback] I was in middle school when I saw Sweeney Todd with my class at TheaterVA. I was tumblr_lg152avbRA1qghbjlo1_500completely transported. I wanted whatever that feeling was, forever and always. I obsessed over the program, and researched the history of Sweeney Todd, learning that Angela Lansbury had a life before Murder, She Wrote. This was before the Internet, kids. I had to go to the library.

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Did I mention I won the Wicked lottery?

Flash forward, I’m *ahem* a wee bit older, and find myself doing things like… poring over the program for Wicked. And researching the history of Wicked. Thank you to Wikipedia, which makes this much easier than when I was 13, and to YouTube, where I could see the performance of “Defying Gravity” at the Tonys. (See it live first, please! It’s so powerful in person, it took my breath away.) And Twitter, where I get to¬†follow¬†(not-a-stalker) some of the amazing¬†actors who introduced me to the magic of Wicked:¬†@EmmaHunton, @Gina_Beck, (brilliant Elpheba and Glinda, respectively) and my new Twitter BFF (though she may not know it) (not-a-stalker-really) @alisonfraser. (Plays Madame Morrible, and has the best travel Instagrams¬†and¬†¬†spends her day off live-Tweeting¬†Die Hard. What’s not to love?)

I really will get to the point, but first, if you’re one of the two¬†people I haven’t shared my experience with, 3 things:

1) It’s brilliant.¬†You might have heard: Wicked is amazing.

2) It’s worth waiting for.¬†I’d never seen the show, and was getting a little despondent. I’d missed it¬†the first time it came to Richmond, and as soon as I heard it was coming again – like, a year ago – I was so excited. I’d save up! I’d get great seats! Then I had a Minor Tax Crisis (read: I will be paying the IRS for 4 years). Then a guy was going to take me, but I decided after 2 dates I couldn’t bear a third. (Honestly, he’d almost ruined Grand¬†Budapest Hotel; I couldn’t bear the idea of him ruining Wicked for me!)

3)¬†I won the lottery!¬†¬†I was trying desperately to think of ways I might still pull this out with less than $75 in my bank account, when by chance I saw the actors who play Boq and Nessarose on one of our morning shows. I watched the interview happily. I thought, “This is nice, this is my taste of it, and they seem really pleasant people, hope they’re enjoying Richmond.” Then they mentioned the Wicked lottery.¬†A chance for up-front seats for $25 each! Okay, I determined, I would show up for every remaining show (5 at that point), and if it wasn’t meant to be, at least I tried.¬†Fifty people showed up when I was there on a Thursday, and I picked people I’d be happy for if I didn’t win. (Selfishly trying to increase my chances of leaving happy.) Two of the 3 people I picked won, and I was delighted. Then they called me! So thrilled. My aunt (whose birthday was upcoming) went with me, and we had second row orchestra seats. It was a really great night, and Kathy and I were pretty sure we saw the Best Show¬†Ever, that no other¬†Wicked¬†or Wicked cast had ever been as great as ours.

***

Okay, back to the point.

So, the last two months or so, I’d been thinking a fair bit about Broadway actors, and touring actors, not as much in a fan way (though obviously I’m a total fangirl), but trying to figure out how they did it. How do you keep the magic going month in and out, 8 shows a week?

I had hit a place in my own work where I felt like I was losing it. I’d arrived! I was a full-time fitness professional. This was what I’d dreamed of¬†for years, and it is such a perfect job for me, creative and challenging and steady work (never to be discounted)… but also? It ¬†is physically and emotionally exhausting. I teach about 20 classes a week. I put myself out there, get¬†up in front of people and give¬†it my all, every day. So many days, I would¬†think there was no way I could get out of bed, much less¬†do it all over again.

So I started to wonder, in a sort of a scared way, do actors ever feel like this? Do they get that thing they’ve worked so very hard for and beat the worst odds for, only to feel like they’re going to go crazy? Do they think, if I have to sing this song¬†one more time I¬†will kill someone?

Around¬†this point I read an interview with Idina Menzel where she said something to the effect of, “You have to do things outside of the 8 shows a week or you’ll go crazy.” And I was thinking, “Don’t stop there! Tell me more! I need to know!”

So I considered the “things outside,” and following a bit of advice from The Artist’s Way, decided to find ways to have more fun.¬†I have been trying to do creative hobbies outside of work, like writing a book I started earlier this year, just for fun. I started singing lessons last week… just to play. Not because I want to be a big-time writer or run away with the Wicked tour (sure, a daydream here or there; it’s the new running away with the circus, y’know)…

And you know? I think it’s working. I have more energy for classes, from yoga to new Zumba routines. I don’t feel so drained at the end of the day, and I’m sitting here writing ¬†a ridiculously long blog post and watching Twitter with Zumba music playing in the background. It feels like a pretty good life.

One of my friends passed on some wisdom to me recently, that “creativity feeds creativity.”

I think that’s really true.

Sunday Night Blues Musings

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There’s something about Sunday night that really makes you want to kill yourself…And that creepy ’60 Minutes’ watch that sounds like your whole life ticking away. – Angela in My So-Called Life

Yeah, that pretty much sums up my feeling about the Sunday Night Blues… fairly consistently since I was about 11 years old. Just end-of-the-world unhappy. I don’t even watch 60 Minutes, and I hear that damn clock ticking away…

So, yeah, in case you were wondering? This isn’t a peppy post.

Sometimes when I see how other fitness instructors take the stage and are so full-on with their personalities, I wonder how in the world I actually get paid to do this for a living. I see how they work the crowd, have their very own taglines, tell really funny jokes, and connect with the people in front of them on a Bruce Springsteen level – all while showing and coaching great technique.

Is that me? No, not really. I think if you picture Liz Lemon trying to teach a Boot Camp class, you have a better idea of what I’m like.

The only time I’m completely in a state of flow and comfortable being in front of people teaching is in a mind-body class, like yoga or BodyFlow. I don’t have to even try, really. I can sit in the mind-body essence and feel deeply connected to what I’m doing. It makes sense to me. I can be myself.

In every other format, I have to work really hard.¬†It’s not that I don’t work hard at yoga or BodyFlow, but just to get even competent at teaching something like Boot Camp, aerobics or Zumba (Zumba is the hardest!!!), I have to put ridiculous amounts of time in. And I am not a yeller, so things like BodyPump or Boot Camp have always been hard for me to get the essence right. I understand the exercises. I’m good at technique, exercise science and coaching technique.

But I am jealous of that Insanity-level Shawn-T style of push-motivate-go-go-go patter, and when I try, it falls flat.

It’s just not me. So often I am just the person holding the stopwatch and saying, “Doing great!” Ugh, gotta work on that….

I wish I had an inspiring ending to this post, but it’s Sunday night, and as much as I love my job, this is Sunday Night Blues time.

I do hope to blog more consistently, so in that interest, here are two topics I’m considering. I’d love to hear what you think of these topics before I post about them, too, to include some outside perspective.

1) Les Mills is having instructors download releases, no more kits shipped to us. Same price.

2) To talk or not talk while teaching Zumba?

Catch you soon!

Happenings, and Zumba training! (No way! Yes way!)

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So many things I’ve missed blogging about! Like teaching my first boot camp class, and going full time at work, and RVA Streets Alive! Oh my goodness, RVA Streets Alive, all on its own, should have gotten its own post. Here’s what I’ll say about it: it was fun to walk around a 2.5 mile loop of Richmond city streets and watch people do things. I even picked up a hula hoop and worked it for about, oh, 60 seconds. I bet it’ll really take off next year!

My employer convinced me to go to Zumba training. This is so far outside of my comfort zone, I can’t even tell you. I think I’d actually rather go to BodyCombat training! Zumba scares me. Not as a participant. Though I’ve only gone twice, I had fun.

As a participant, though, I didn’t mind being awful at it. My hips don’t move that way, and I just don’t have much upstairs to shake that way, if you know what I mean….

But my work seems okay with the idea of my doing my best, and having a class that has lots of salsa, cha-cha, sashay, and not as much with the get-down-and-shake-it.

Because get-down-and-shake-it Marian is going to take some kind of miracle, let me tell you.

Reality Check: The truth of my glam fitness-pro life!

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The goals I find myself setting in fitness, now that I’m working in the field as my day job, are so different from what I imagined they’d be. I always thought, when I was a capital F, capital P, Fitness Pro, I would be full on, you know? I’d work out all the time, and set fitness goals to keep getting stronger, fitter, faster. I still imagine that’s what most of my peers do.

Here’s my reality, though. My goals are now about doing less and trying to find balance.

I exercise a LOT in my work, and will even more in the coming months as I shift to full-time. So if I’m exercising in my off-time? It is absolutely not in pursuit of any big goal. It’s fun time. I go to the new 8 a.m. BodyPump on Saturday morning (Midlothian Athletic Club, come join us!) not because I am trying to get stronger – though it does have that effect – but because I love the social energy of BodyPump and I get to start my day seeing people I love and soak in the energy of a great community.

I’m going to practice BodyVive (along with the DVD, early rounds of practice this quarter!) with my friend Jayne today before BodyFlow. Am I doing it because I’m such a very dedicated teacher and I always practice in my downtime? Honestly, not really. I’m doing it because I like Jayne and I have fun practicing with her.

This afternoon, I will go for a 30-minute walk in my neighborhood. After two hours of exercise, I don’t have to tell you this isn’t about burning calories. It’s more of a time to reflect on my weekend and the week ahead, and to let those creative juices percolate. It’s time to soak in the beautiful early-summer (not technically, but feels like it) evening and get ahead of the Sunday Night Blues.

Reading back over this, I sound like I’m being a little hard on myself, for not being what I thought I would be at this stage of my career.

The truth is, I’m rather proud of where I am. This is still a very new career for me. Fitness was a hobby at first, then a second job, only a career for … um, 7 months now.

So, the fact that fitness is a day job, and also something I still turn to for social and fun time? That’s pretty cool, huh? I remember when I first started looking into exercise – before I’d even gone to a gym, decades ago – reading about creating a lifestyle that included exercise as an intrinsic part of one’s life. That seemed like such a far-away idea, and now it feels as natural as breathing.

So it’s okay that I’m not rocking it out as a fitness conference presenter or writing cover articles for fitness magazines, or running marathons. It really is enough that I am able to do what I love for a living, and get the chance to still enjoy exercise.

Just for the fun of it!

Catch-Up

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Yep, it’s time for a catch-up post! I’m just going to toss it all in here.

1) BodyVive Certified Instructor, yay!

2) Full-Time at my fitness day job in 4 or 5 weeks. I’ve been working 25-30 hours the last few months, and I’m really excited to, okay I admit it, make more money! I bought a car I can’t quite afford, and I’m going to be moving to a bigger apartment in August. I owe a friend money…. and I’ve been getting worried I wouldn’t have money to pull everything off. So it’s a relief in that way, for sure.

That¬†said,¬†anyone who works in fitness will tell you you don’t do it for the money. I’m excited to be full-time because I’ll be able to offer more classes and connect to people all through the day. I really feel ready to fly. It’s my time!

3) Interesting article from Les Mills on trends in the fitness industry. I really appreciated this, because it’s helped me understand why LM has done some rather stupid things lately, like add sumo jumps to BodyPump. Sorry, personal opinion,¬†but that’s really dumb, and only one example of how a program has stepped out of its own essence in the last year. After reading this article, I can see how a company can look at the trends and the competition and push its program directors to change things up a little bit.

4) This seems like a good time to mention I’ve given up on my goals to be a BodyFlow Elite instructor. Not that I don’t think I could get there, but it stopped seeming like such a priority in the balance of my life. Also because I decided I don’t want to be a presenter. I used to daydream about being on the DVD (mostly so I could hang out with Jackie Mills for a week), but now I find myself bitching about Les Mills programs a lot (see #3), and I like that freedom. As competitive as the LM world is, I would imagine that’s the kind of talk that would keep you from being invited to present at anything, much less on a DVD.

5) NYT article on Yoga After 50. Well said, all around. My only addition would be: practice yoga now as if you want to be able to practice it for the rest of your life. Safety first, honor your limits, and take care of your neck, knees and lower back.

 

 

“Tell me about the ups.”

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Last week I was catching up with someone after a meeting and said I was having some ups and downs. She said, “Tell me about the ups.” I loved that! It was saying, “Let’s focus on the positive.”

Interestingly, I had been planning a blog post called “Disappointment.”

Really. So instead, here are some of my ups:

  • Day job: going well and I may be full-time by end of summer!
  • Winter is in the rearview mirror! I’m really pleased to look back and think, I didn’t get sick a lot. I’m prone to respiratory infections (childhood pneumonia and many young-adult cases of bronchitis) and this is the first winter in a long time I can’t remember having any sinus infection or lingering chest cough – just a brief cold in January. I do believe it’s a sign that I’m taking good care of myself with food and rest, and finding a place in my daily meals for some warm, spicey food has made a huge change. I have to say, though, it was also the first winter in a long time I wasn’t working with kids every day! Kids should be labeled with big orange biohazard signs.
  • Building confidence as a group fitness instructor outside of Les Mills. Don’t get me wrong! I’m still completely obsessed with Les Mills and the endless cycles of learn new releases, launch, make playlists of old releases, lather rinse repeat… but it’s also been really scary for me to branch out into the world of designing one’s own class (outside of yoga). One of the biggest delights has been finding I can teach a HIIT class that everyone loves! I hated HIIT and thought “It’s just not me,” but when I thought of using the basic concept but tailoring it to my participants, I found out I could give them a fantastic workout even with low-impact options. It made me feel really creative, proud and brave.
  • Forgiveness of my imperfections/weak areas: I still haven’t mastered putting together a freestyle aerobic routine, but I’ve also learned it doesn’t really matter. People don’t really care if you get the V-steps just so, or if you have grapevines before a double-turn. People mostly want motivation, fun social experiences and a great workout. So now I save the sequenced footwork choreography for warm-ups, and do everything else interval style. Easier for me, and people at my day job¬†love it. As one participant said, sometimes simplest really is best. Also, there are many variations on interval training, so no one will get bored. It was driving me crazy for a while, how I couldn’t do this new thing GREAT, but now I see it’s okay, it led me to find a better solution for my teaching style.
  • Greater understanding of my peers: Just, I’m beginning to understand the people who aren’t so into Les Mills. I used to think they¬†were closed-minded, to be honest. And¬†I do love Les Mills, likely always will,¬†and I think they are the best¬†exercise programs around. I know LM classes bring¬†out the best in me as an instructor. At the same time, I sometimes get frustrated when they put¬†plyo jumps in BodyStep (or worse, in BodyPump UGH!!!), and I don’t have the freedom to change that to an exercise that better suits my class other than the provided low option (which is often repetitive and boring in any program except for BodyFlow, which does options right).¬†Anyway, I’m not trying to be negative here, just saying I can understand where the diehard freestylers are coming from. I get it, peeps.

Okay, that’s some of the ups. I also got a new car, and am planning a move to a new apartment soon, yay, but that’s outside the scope of this blog. I’d love to hear about your ups, so keep in touch!