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The View from the Back Row

One last thought about group fitness and the deconditioned. I recently ventured into my first step class, something I had avoided for years due to my lack of coordination and my low tolerance for embarrassing situations. However, one evening I had an inexplicable urge to finally step foot into a step class. After grabbing a step, I scurried to the back row (who wants to look foolish in the front row?) and positioned myself beside two women who also looked new to step. How could I tell? Well, they were both rather heavy, and they were standing uncomfortably in the back row while the 25 regular participants chatted amiably and eagerly awaited the instructor's arrival.

As I looked around trying not to feel self-conscious, I spotted myself in the mirror at the front of the room, and I envisioned a huge “beginner” sign on my forehead. I figured my two “neighbors” and I would bungle our way through the class together. Then, the instructor bounded into the room, and not long into the throbbing beat of the music, my suspicion was confirmed: This was not a class for beginners or people with no rhythm. The regulars had the steps down pat. Of course, to make myself feel better about my lack of ability, I decided that the regulars had been on their high school drill teams — yes, even the lone 50-year-old guy in his yellow T-shirt, black shorts, black socks and black tennis shoes.

I turned to my two “friends” for support. Unfortunately, my would-be compadres in “bungleness” were having even more difficulty than I was. Obviously, neither of them had been on their high school drill teams either. One of them kept stopping, putting her hands on her hips and looking at her friend. The other woman would shrug her shoulders each time and meekly continue. About 15 minutes into the 60-minute class, the shrugging friend could no longer deny her friend's discomfort or her own. They slipped out of the class.

I had an urge to follow them, but I didn't. Instead, I continued to try to keep up with the fast pace of the class, the T-kicks, the A-kicks (or whatever they're called), walking around the step with a turn and most especially, the step turns on top of the step. I tried not to look too foolish when the routine led the class to turn to the back of the room, where they inevitably found me staring back at them because I never did figure out that turn step. How many times can you blush and smile apologetically during a step class?

I kept thinking about the two women who left. It must have taken a lot of courage for them to come into this class, even as a pair. I was certain they had determined that step class — and possibly group fitness — was not for them.

I wish my club had a beginner step class for the sake of these two women and others like them (and for my sake, too). Maybe club owners should start attending their own classes and observe the participants, particularly the beginners. These people already feel inadequate in the gym. They don't need a class to make them feel even more inadequate.

Something is definitely wrong when it seems that classes are only geared to the already fit. Do we really want the overweight and obese in our group fitness classes? Sometimes I wonder.

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