Home Gym – Exercise should make you feel proud, not pathetic
For a year or so in the early eighties, my lovely mom would dutifully dress down, press PLAY on Jane Fonda’s Workout, and “feel the burn.” (That’s right, kids — that expression was around before the senator from Vermont ran for president.) While mom got her sweat on, my awkward tween self would gawk in amazement at Jane herself as she swept her willowy limbs across the screen, demonstrating flexibility that she knew darn well almost nobody in her audience would be able to duplicate. It didn’t seem to bother my mom, but as a mildly chunky 12-year-old, I saw Ms. Perfect up there daring me to try her impossible moves and figured there really wasn’t much point, because I’d never measure up anyway.
Cut to the present.
A sweet, energetic, and inspiring teacher friend of mine side-hustles as a rep for a popular fitness company. She turned me on to its streaming workout channel, so I paid my fee and have been, let’s say, casually dating the different classes it offers for the better part of a year now. The program has its pros and cons.
PROS: Top-rated instructors lead me through beautifully filmed, effective workouts on demand, in the privacy of my own home.
Every workout series features a talented professional instructor who also happens to think I should have a good, long look at their exposed six-pack, backed by a room full of lean 20- and 30-somethings who seem to be having a blast.
CONS: They don’t seem to know I exist.
Well, of course they don’t know I exist; they’re not actually in my living room. Maybe it’s more that they know I’m out here — older, out of shape, red-faced — but they don’t really care. As the workout progresses, the instructor inevitably tosses out a bit of dismissal in the form of encouragement: “Don’t you give up, now! If it’s too hard, just follow Ms. Modifier!”
There. We gave her the modifier. That’ll keep her occupied while the rest of us do the REAL workout.
Ms. Modifier is easy to spot. She’s the only one in the room who can’t do what everyone else is doing. She’s leaving out the arm moves, covering less ground, doing “girl” push-ups. She’s a decade older and about 40 pounds heavier than everyone else. She grins and works like crazy to keep up. But the very same woman plays this part in a lot of these videos, and she never graduates from being the modifier to being a “normal” exerciser. The instructor makes a point of telling her she’s “doing great!” but it feels a bit condescending. Ms. Modifier comes off looking like the awkward klutz trying to hang with the popular crowd, while it’s plain to see they’re never going to let her in.
I’m Ms. Modifier, and she’s me, I thought. It feels like we don’t measure up, and that is not a feeling I’m willing to keep paying for.
Still, I kept sifting through the offerings.
The other day a class popped up that felt different. It featured a studio full of chunky middle-aged women like myself, led by an infectiously enthusiastic guy from some Eastern Bloc country who made us all feel like sexy queens. “You are BYOO-TEE-FUL!” “Come on, let’s DANCE!” “You know how to do it!” He actually looked at the camera a few times and asked me directly, “How ‘bout you? How YOU doing?” Great, I thought in response. I’m doing great, and thank you for asking, Sergei! The ladies in his studio brought to mind Maya Angelou’s iconic poem, “Phenomenal Woman.” They joyfully flaunted their middle-aged figures, smiling in empowerment instead of desperation.
I’ve done Sergei’s workout a few times now. It’s probably one of the easiest workouts available, but it gets my heart rate up and puts a smile on my face. Most importantly, the onscreen class members are me, and I’m them. We’re all part of a beautiful, proud group, moving our bodies and feeling great. That’s a feeling I’m willing to keep paying for.
Hello, fitness industry? Are you getting this?
Amber Woodward Gravitt can be reached at: [email protected]
Home Gym – Exercise should make you feel proud, not pathetic]
Tags: Home Gym