No, not just because of COVID! Although, that would be a funny blog post. Why did I stop going? The pandemic. End scene.
First, a disclaimer.
I’m not much of a group fitness person in general. The last time I was really invested in any type of group fitness was when I took (and taught!) martial arts classes six days per week in high school and college. I’m not exactly college aged anymore, so needless to say, it’s been a while. And as much as I love road races, I prefer my everyday runs to be solo runs or 1-2 other people. I’ve tried group runs, and they’re just not my jam. I say all this to acknowledge that maybe I’d feel differently if I loved group fitness more. I think it’s important to reflect on what might be another way to look at a situation and I’ll admit that the lack of importance could be factoring into my feelings.
That being said, here’s why I stopped going altogether.
I’ve dabbled in classes over the years from spinning to yoga to things I can’t even remember. There were some I loved (for a short period of time) and those that I couldn’t wait to get out of. Maybe I need to be more comfortable with just walking out if I’m really having a miserable time, but it just seems so mean! I don’t want to make anyone feel bad. Teaching fitness is HARD.
Putting my own personal preferences aside, there’s a theme that’s standard amongst 99% of the classes I’ve taken, if not all of them. At least once per class, I am made to feel badly about how my body operates.
I absolutely believe that it’s not intentional.
I have an autoimmune condition that causes chronic pain. It’s not an easy explanation like “my ankle is sprained” and honestly, I don’t love disclosing my medical history to complete strangers. On the surface, I look fine. Fit, even. I am usually a thirty mile per week runner. I don’t look like I have any major limitations or that I’m going to freak the hell out if you make me do lunges.
Anyone who has taken a group class knows that instructors often come around and make adjustments by physically putting their hands on you or they call you out in the class. “Go a little deeper in that squat!”. I hear those words in my nightmares. Like I said, no one means any harm. For most people, that’s motivational and helpful. For me, it makes me want to run for the door because I either have to seem resistance and salty OR I have to try to launch into a shorter, minimally invasive explanation as to why I actually can’t go deeper in a squat while music is blaring and the person’s trying to teach. Good times!
So I stopped going.
Like I said, it wasn’t a huge loss. I don’t love them that much to begin with. But I do feel left out sometimes. I’d love to go to these random fitness pop ups. I’d love to support friends who teach. But if I’m being real, it’s not worth the damage to my mental health. Those interactions might seem like NBD to you, but when you manage chronic pain and your life is full of explaining yourself (often to less than supportive reactions), they’re exhausting and awful. When I’m exercising solo, no one’s giving me feedback that requires me to explain myself. If I need to adjust something to manage pain, I do it without commentary. It’s amazing.
So what’s the solution?
Honestly, I don’t know. I think most people benefit from the interactions I just described. On the other hand, conversations around amplifying voices and experiences that aren’t always heard made me think about how many other people might have the same experience that I do. What about them? How can we make it easier for people whose bodies don’t work perfectly or “normally”?
The only way to answer these questions is to start talking about it. So this is me, talking about it. Maybe it helps someone!