Last night, I taught my Wednesday BodyFlow class as usual. There was a woman in class who’s been coming for a few weeks now with her very young (maybe 11-12?) daughter. Both are very new to exercise, so it makes me so happy to see them coming to class regularly, especially as a mother/daughter team. How awesome!
Anyway, I went over to them after class to say hi and to find out how things are going for them so far. The mom started talking about how they’ve been trying a bunch of different classes, including Flow and Zumba, but she was wondering: doesn’t anyone just do a “regular exercise” class anymore? Like with basic push-ups and lunges and stuff?
You mean like a class that’s not loaded with fancy choreography, fast-paced, and timed to music? A class that actually sort of teaches you HOW to exercise?
I was totally taken off guard.
She then hit me with question #2, which was even harder: What’s a good workout program for beginners? She’d been trying to work out on her own, outside of classes, but didn’t know where to start and didn’t want to pay for a personal trainer (I don’t blame her—so expensive!).
So basically, I think I came off as totally clueless. I fumbled through some answers (Have you tried the boot camp class? Have you searched online for beginners’ programs?), but I found it unnerving how hard it was for me to help her. How totally disconnected I am from what it feels like to start exercising from scratch.
I found myself wanting to say “well, it depends what your goals are…” but I know that phrase sounds like a cop out (even though it’s true). Instead, I tried, “do you want to use machines or just your body weight?” She shrugged and said, “whatever people do when they’re starting out.”
If someone asked you how to cook, what would you say? Maybe something like, “what do you want to be able to make?”
If someone asked you how they should dress, what would you say? Maybe: “what kind of look are you going for?”
With exercise, everyone thinks that a beginner is a beginner, and there should be one clear cut Step 1. But everyone’s ground zero is wildly different. What have they tried? What do they know? What can they do? What would they like (enough to stick with it)? What are they trying to accomplish?
And how do you cut through all that, in a 5 minute conversation, enough to actually give some practical advice?
I have this problem in my class too—accidentally marginalizing the beginner. I make sure to include all the advanced options, but sometimes I forget to show how to make moves easier. I worry about the class being challenging enough, but forget that it might be too challenging for some.
The same goes for blogging. The people most likely to comment on my blog are fellow fitness bloggers, so I sort of fall into writing like I’m talking to them directly. But then I’m just preaching to the choir, and not helping the people who actually want help with fitness.
Anyway, I told that woman I’d do some poking around on the internet for a program for her. Who knows, maybe I’ll even write something myself.
It’s partially for her, but also a lot for me. Because next time I get an Exercise 101 question, I don’t want to be so rattled by it. I want to have something in my back pocket.
I mean, isn’t that exactly what I’m supposed to be doing here?
What advice would you give someone new to exercise?
Any beginners’ workout programs you can point me to?
Fellow fitness peeps: do you struggle with forgetting the beginner?
Have a great weekend! We’re celebrating Mason’s birthday with an extended family egg hunt—can’t wait.