Photo: Brian Buchsdruecker
Every Tribe Has Its Vibe
All-star trainers, from left, top row: Lindsay Sali, Philip Ndugga and Jari Love; bottom row: Elmira Barry, Amber Rotar and Pete Estabrooks.
Being voted the "Best Fitness Class in Calgary" recently was a charge that had my class jumping, sweating and swearing with reckless abandon. The music was off the hook loud, the backslapping, ball throwing, smile-inducing camaraderie, the hoots, hollers and laughing all proved the point I had raised early in the "competition." My TKO Sports Conditioning Circuit class was clearly the best fitness class — the best for these people in this room.
Here's where we peel away the paint. This was no scientific survey, it was a story done by Global TV Calgary to get people thinking about getting in shape.
In my class, we address cardiovascular capability, muscular endurance, balance, coordination, speed, core conditioning and serious boxing technique — all important components of any fitness program — but that's not the point for the regulars. Fitness in a fitness class is expected, expected and delivered in any class where you can put your head down and push a little. The reason my class is the best lies in a simpler point. It's not my class, it's theirs. I direct the 3-ring circuit extravaganza and I correct technique, but it is the participants who determine the success of our class. We are clearly the best, the best for us.
What was missed was the joy of an Elmira Barry cycle class, the youthful enthusiasm of a Lindsay Sali movement class, the elegance of a Jari Love Ripped class, the (literal) warmth and wisdom of an Amber Rotar Hot Yoga class, the power of Philip Ndugga teaching anything. I know because these are classes I have done. When I am there, I am connected with the movement, or with the instructor, or with the other people in class. A great fitness class is not about exercise, a great fitness class is about who you are and how you relate to exercise. Are you an introvert, an extrovert, an introverted extrovert? Whoever you are, however you work out, there is a place that will move you — your personal connection quotient. That's what makes the best fitness class, the one that works for you — the one you attend on a regular basis. It doesn't matter what a class consists of if you are not getting to it.
In my class, light-hearted banter, friendly challenges and bad puns fly across the room as freely as the medicine balls. Challenges are put down and picked up. Reps are counted, speed is measured and bars are set in hopes no one will better them. These interactions establish this class as the best for these people at this moment. Exercise needs to be what play used to be. Its benefits are many, evident and reach far beyond the physical.
Success requires we conquer the social before we can access the physical. If we don't immediately tap into a particular group dynamic it does not mean exercise classes are not for you — it means that particular exercise class is not for you.
It doesn't matter if you are in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary or any other city, there is a class out there that will attract, amuse and connect with you and you with it.
Your job is to stay in the hunt until you find it.
We need and we want the other kids to like us. We need to be accepted and not judged. We need to belong, to find that place where we are drawn into a sweet sweaty mess.
Great fitness classes are about getting exercised, not ostracized, about getting tribal, not troubled. It's as easy as finding your buff to get buff.
Come get fit, the tribe has spoken.
Pete Estabrooks is an elite personal trainer in Calgary and Fitness Editor at IMPACT Magazine.