5 Things My Substitute Spin Instructor Taught Me About My Body

Don't judge a blog by its title -- it's not what you think.

My Wednesday morning spin class was taught by a substitute instructor today. In the place of my usual wonderful teacher was one of those drill sergeant-y types that thinks the louder the music is (and the louder he yells) the harder you will work. While it's true that the right music can evoke feeling, motivation, and inspiration -- music that loud just became noise. And the nonsense that spilled out of his mouth became even louder noise.

Although his style and technique might work for many people, it did not work for me. These are the things that he said during the 50-minute class, and this is what it taught me about my body.

1. What my instructor said:

"I will make you the best looking person at your holiday table," he bragged.

(What I heard)
Remember those sad days where your life goal was to be the smallest, best looking person at the holiday table? Yeah, I do. It sucked. Life was boring, rigid, and unadventurous. Be thankful that you have morphed into a more authentic person with other interests besides your body.

2. What my instructor said:

"You've never met an instructor as effective at weight loss as me," he assured.

(What I heard)
You didn't show up here for me, you're here for yourself. You're here to feel strong, healthy, and because you like the way exercising makes you feel. The goal is not weight loss, and it never will be.

3. What my instructor said:
"I've lost 47 pounds from working out just like this," he informed.

(What I heard)
Don't let weight loss be a guide for your exercise, or for your life. Show up here because you want to, and move your body because it feels good. Challenge yourself with exercises that you enjoy, but remember to listen to your body. Oh and one more thing, sorry I've stolen your zen spinning experience and filled it with nonsense talk about how I can help you lose weight.

4. What my instructor said:

"I'm teaching another spin class tonight at 7:30, I challenge everyone to take both classes," he urged.

(What I heard)
You're working out really hard right now. I challenge you to listen to your body, and do what makes you feel good. If you have the energy and desire to work out again later, go for it. If you feel that you need the time to rest and recover, go for it. If you have other interests or commitments like spending time with your family or doing some last minute holiday shopping, go for it. It's all about listening to your body and doing what's best for you. You do you.

5. What my instructor said:

"I challenge you to think outside of the box," he barked.

(What I heard)
I know that this holiday season creates the opportunity for family gatherings, get-togethers with friends, office parties, and celebrations. Take this time to savor the traditions, memories, friendships, festivities, and delicious food. The holiday season also creates a lot of chatter about how much food we've consumed, New Year's resolutions, and dieting plans. Try to ignore the conventional aspirations that are pushed upon us by the media, by friends, and by family. Talking about weight loss resolutions and dieting is tired and passé. I challenge you to think outside of the box about what the New Year means to you. I challenge you to move the focus away from your body, and onto the things that make you happy.

Although the spin instructor's intentions were to push me beyond my limit and give me a "great" workout that ultimately leads to weight loss, his words had the opposite effect on me. He reminded me of all the work I have done to move away from mainstream ideas about exercise, food, and weight loss. He reminded me of all the reasons why I love working out, and he reminded me that none of those reasons include weight loss. He made the absence of my regular instructor (the one who focuses on safe warmups, individual challenges, listening to your body, and preventing injuries) sorely missed -- and he taught me to drown out the noise of weight loss talk, let the blurry music take me to my zen place, and listen to my body's needs despite the loud commands.

In short, he taught me to think about the things I already knew: listen to your body, and treat it well.

Because, it's the only one you'll ever have.

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