Once when I’d done something super embarrassing, my dad told me a story to make me feel better and it goes something like this. He was out for his daily walk and decided to take off his hooded sweatshirt. But, rather than stopping, taking off the shirt and then resuming his walk, he decided to multi-task. He kept on walking and began pulling his sweatshirt over his head. The thing he hadn’t counted on was that while his sweatshirt was over his head, he wouldn’t be able to see the metal streetlamp ahead of him. Can anyone tell where this is going? Yep. He walked straight into that lamppost with his shirt over his head. And do you think he was afforded the minimal dignity of doing this and having no one see it? Nope. Bus full of people watched him bounce off the post.
I tell this story because I found great comfort in knowing that I wasn’t the only one who had done something mortifying. And as I thought about the ways in which exercise offers us all myriad opportunities for embarrassment and/or regret, I realized that there might be comfort for you in hearing a personal trainer confess some of their most regrettable exercise decisions.
So here goes.
Wearing a Unitard. When I first started exercising, I found a navy blue, spandex unitard with an image of tweety bird on the front, at Target. And I bought it. And I wore it. Not in public, thank God–that’s really the only redeeming part of this story. And I wasn’t ten. I was like, 16. Geez. I’m embarrassed even writing this.
Hot Yoga. AKA the worst thing I’ve ever done. I was new at work and one of the cool people invited me to join her for hot yoga. I said yes without thinking it through. Clearly. Because I don’t like yoga and I hate the heat. I can only describe this experience as akin to doing yoga while standing inside your oven. For those of you not familiar, hot yoga is 90 minutes of yoga in a room heated to between 95 and 108 degrees. I started to get scared during the pre-class instruction, which consisted of ways one could lower their risk of throwing-up or fainting. Five minutes in and people were literally dripping sweat on their mats. I watched a woman crawl out of the room. A grown person, literally crawling to freedom. I watched another run out at a speed that left little doubt as to what was going to happen on the other side of that door. Leaving was something they told us not to do, by the way, as the rapid change in ambient temperature between the classroom and the lobby could mean you’d pass out and hit the ground like a safe. Never a good sign when the best argument for continuing a workout is that the alternative is possibly suffering a head injury.
Spin Class. This was horrible. I knew it was bad when the instructor literally bolted my feet into the pedals of the bike. Whenever they physically prevent you from leaving, you’re in trouble. This was like doing cardio in a dance club, but without the alcohol to make it bearable.
Yoga at Work. Never underestimate how hard it is to look your co-worker in the eye at a morning meeting after you’ve watched one another downward dog or happy baby-pose your way through a group yoga class. It’s awkward. Two worlds that should never collide.
Headstand During Pilates. Anything that requires a spotter; I’m out. That’s my motto. I couldn’t do cartwheels as a kid, so this moment was super physically uncomfortable with the added benefit of being middle-school-gym-class-level embarrassing.
Boot Camp Class. After I took this class I thought to myself that the only reason to go back was if I felt like what was wrong with my current workout plan was that it didn’t provide me with enough opportunities to cry in public.
If this were just my personal blog I probably wouldn’t feel the need for these stories to have any kind of larger point. Other than maybe to share that even people who make their living in the fitness industry have had embarrassing or regrettable exercise experiences. It’s universal.
But I guess the other point I’d make is that they’re examples of situations where a particular approach to, or brand of, exercise was just wrong for me and my body. But there were others I tried that felt right and if I’d given up after any one of these I wouldn’t have found the good stuff.
Each kind of exercise is different and while none of these worked for me, they do work for tons of other people. Maybe some of them represent your favorite exercise and you could write a similar post about how little you liked about some of the classes I love.
What I’m trying to say is keep taking yourself on little adventures, trying different kinds of exercise. The embarrassing stuff and the stuff you end up hating, teach you something. Sometimes we learn more about what we do want by experiencing things we really don’t.