I did a Body Combat class last night, which is a mix of martial arts moves orchestrated to music, lots of kicks and punches. It’s a great aerobic workout, but I usually avoid it because the classes are so full. Yesterday I had an opening in my evening and the gym didn’t offer my usual classes. I was waiting in line when the door opened. There’s always a crush to get in and stake your claim. I was against a far wall.
We were in the warm-up track when the woman next to me got in my face and said I was too close to her. Well, behind us people were even closer together. She said “It’s not my fault if I kick you.” I said, “Well, maybe you can scootch up.” (because there was space in front of her). She just scowled and made angry gestures etc. But the next track began so we both started punching and kicking. She kept darting me angry looks, and whispered to another woman, who also started giving me dirty looks. Like I was supposed to leave? So I kept thrusting and kicking, and every time she looked at me I tried to smile at her (really just to annoy her, I’ll admit it, I’m no saint).
What I really noticed is how I felt more and more aggressive as we kept up our movements. I wondered if people get really “pumped up” before that class even begins. The instructor kept telling us which part of our phantom opponent we were aiming for: gut, groin, head.
“Hit him! Break his jaw! Go for his face! Fill your chest with air and punch! Knee in the balls!”
I was dripping with sweat and beet red in the face. I normally BodyPump (weight training), BodyFlow (yoga/pilates/tai chi) and Water in Motion (water aerobics). I prefer doing cardio in the water because I stay cooler.
When class was over, I could not connect with the woman as she would not look at me. It was probably just as well. I was amazed at how furious I felt. As my husband and I walked to our car, I ranted!
Who is this woman to encroach on my workout! Who does she think she is! I had as much right to be in that class as she did! I’m twice her age, the little punk! Wait and see if she can do that workout 25 years from now! Who did she have to practice beating up anyway, her boyfriend?
See how ugly I got! Wowzer. So many dynamics contributed to my feelings: the feeling of being dissed, the concern about getting kicked in the face, the pure adrenalin of hitting an imaginary foe over and over.
One other issue — which is not insignificant — is that these instructors always act as if you’re learning to actually protect yourself from an assailant. Learn to fight back!
As someone who has been raped at gunpoint, I take issue with this premise. Most assailants have weapons and that changes everything. So yes, I perhaps get emotional rather quickly in these classes, especially when this assumption permeates the instructions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about claiming your power. Get muscles, be strong, push past fear, absolutely!
But friends, if an assailant has a gun, remember that your life is worth everything. Your job is to live. End of story.
All of this because of an exercise class! Sometimes I find it fascinating to realize all the layers that are locked inside this body of mine, and how those layers get unlocked by my blood as well as my brain.
I don’t think I’ll do that workout again. I do intend to talk to the manager about that class being over-full, it’s really a safety issue. I realize that in BodyPump we claim our space with all our equipment: the step and barbells. In BodyFlow we have our yoga mat. The water classes are never too full. So it’s unusual to have this physical space problem.
And I think I’ll be ready when I encounter that woman again. I’ll ask her if she had a good workout. And then tell her I’m concerned about the safety issues in the class, shall we talk to the manager together?
I miss my old gym, with its mix of all-female classes. It even reminded me of the kingdom of God.