Last year, I attended a muscle works class at the Y. It was a horrible, horrible experience, so horrible I can still recount it all these months later but yet haven't mailed the letter of complaint that I wrote after I regained full use of my mind and body days later. Years ago, I took that same class on a regular basis with a different teacher and a nice group of friends. It was a pleasant experience. The workout was hard but it was manageable. Shoot back to the near present and my stab at Muscle Works 2008.
How and why did I decide to go to muscle works? I ran into another mom heading there and she issued an invitation. I was looking to do something different with my exercise routine anyway, looking for some interaction with other adults while I worked out. Okay, I'll give it a try. Big mistake. These are the things I learned from attending the class:
1-I'm forty now. I was in my early thirties when I did the class on a regular basis. Those years evidently make a difference. I thought I was in reasonable shape. I had completed a mini-triathalon a few months earlier yet I realized the skills of swimming, biking and walk/jogging do not translate to a muscles works class. Each sport/activity uses it's own set of muscles and you can expect soreness whenever you try something new. And even within the same class.
2-The teacher happened to be a mean person. After I joked out loud about taking a break, she noted that I could take a break at 10:30 when the class was over. Alrighty, I have now determined you are a bit**. (And let me tell you it is a rare occasion when I use that word, I don't like the word one bit) She referred to me as the one in the pink shirt, and towards the end, she joked about the likelihood of any of the new people coming back. I spoke up again (!) and said I would probably not and she didn't understand this and said I wasn't optimistic. I said I was optimistic about a lot of things in my life but THIS class was not one of those things. As we lunged the entire parking lot about four times, the invitee said that usually there was a group of ladies who would just walk around the lot instead of lunging. They weren't there that day. My friend who invited me said the teacher was from the north and that was just her personality. I am married to a Yankee, I lived in the north for a couple of years, and this was more than just a north/south personality difference.
3-There were no modifications for a beginner to the class. I now know that I have to make my own modifications. There is something in me and a lot of people, who will just do the whole class at the level of all of the other participants because that is what you are supposed to do, because of our Western competitiveness and then never set foot in the class again because it was too much. I had an informative conversation with an exercise physiologist friend of mine who lives in another state and works in a fitness center and she said the problem is widespread. Persons who are new to exercise, walk in classes and those classes are taught at the level of the instructor and the people who have been attending for months or years. There are no modifications offered and then the newbies never come back.
After the class, for several hours, I felt like throwing up and very weak. My muscles rebelled for an ENTIRE week and it hurt whenever I moved anywhere. I swore I would never do another class. The next week, another friend invited me to a Pilates mat class and I went(!) The experience wasn't as bad, I knew to take breaks and not say anything out loud. The instructor wasn't mean, she wasn't very encouraging either, but in the end she did say in a nice manner, that she hoped I came back. I have since found yoga. I had an aha moment while waiting for a yoga class out in the lobby area where the front desk is. The receptionist commented about how quiet we were while waiting as compared to some of the other classes. I realized while looking around at the waiting participants, that generally speaking everyone was grounded, calm and reflective. This seemed to be an obvious contrast to other classes. When you go in there is no competition, it is within yourself, and that just seems to be the nature of yoga practice and it fits me right now.
In the end, I'm glad I wasn't a beginner and did not walk away from exercise classes all together. I'm glad I kept pursuing it until I found the right fit. I still see the mean teacher as the pilates class I take is right after her muscle works class. But even as she is preening and not paying any attention to those around her, I am thankful to her because I learned a lot from that class and not just that I will never go back. It really wasn't a big mistake, it was a good learning tool to help me find MY fit.