Don’t judge instructors too quickly

Published 6:34 pm Tuesday, October 14, 2003

By Staff
Question of the Week: I want to join an aerobics class but it seems like every instructor looks like a Barbie doll. I just feel like I am out of place because my body does not look like theirs. How would they know how I feel when they are all in such good shape? They do not know what it is like to be out of shape. Please give me some advice.
Answer: This is an excellent question, which I believe many of us think about but few of us have the courage to express. Women have a tendency to look over their aerobics/fitness instructor and critique how they look. Based on that, we decide who they are. If they are thin and spunky then we may feel that they are close to perfect and never have had any weight issues. If the instructor is overweight then we may prejudge that there is no point in taking her class because aerobics does not work for her so why would it work for me?
Here is the scoop: Nine times out of 10 that perfect-looking instructor has battled with weight issues just like the rest of us humans. They probably did start out overweight and out of shape and starting is the whole key to self-improvement. Through exercise and good eating habits that instructor has worked his/her way through the body struggles and has gotten to where he/she is today.
Most instructors start out in an aerobics type class to get back into shape and work their way up gaining confidence. They see what great benefits these classes have for them and along the way decide to teach a class.
I know this is true because I hear it all the time here at the YMCA. Many of the YMCA instructors have struggled with weight issues. That is in part why they teach. They know what you are going through. They have been there at one time, trying to feel comfortable working out, struggling through issues of confidence. They can understand and know how one feels. They want to help you come from where they once were to where they are today.
Starting a new class or exercise program can be scary for anyone. A great thing to do is go up to the instructor before or after class and talk with them one-on-one. Express to them what you are looking for and what your uncertainties are. You will be able to tell from that conversation if their class is the right one for you. I know with the instructors at the YMCA they are very open to talking to their participants even about their weight issues.
To wrap up the question of the week – next time you are in an aerobic/fitness class try not size up your instructor too fast. Talk with them and let them know how you feel - you will be surprised with how many times you will hear them and participants in the class say they have gone through the same things you are.
Thought of the week: Never give up because it reinforces a sense of incompetence; going on gives you a commitment to success. - George Weinberg
Amy McKean is the adult programs director at the Niles-Buchanan YMCA. She can be reached at