This week I made a last-minute decision to attend the village circuits group. It runs from 8-9pm midweek on the community centre AstroTurf pitch – bits of which I’ve been finding all over the house for the last 3 days. It is run by Jim, a retired semi-professional footballer, who now dominates the world of fitness in and around our village.
When I arrived there was a youth football session finishing off and I wasn’t sure I was in the right place until I saw a group of women, a similar age to me, clutching water bottles and chatting to keep warm. It was a particularly biting evening and everyone else was wearing gloves, hats, or at least a warm jacket. I was wearing leggings and a thin t-shirt because I’ve still not got round to buying any additional winter sports clothing. I. Was. Cold.
Jim bounced over as soon as he noticed fresh meat had arrived and introduced himself. I reminded him that we’d met two and half years earlier when I’d taken our very active toddler to his first mum and baby group before leaving in the shadow of shame and embarrassment after our son had knocked over his sound system and distracted everyone else from the class whilst their babies all slept on peacefully in prams. Ah yes. He did remember that – I thought he might.
So here we go again, but this time all the babies are tucked up in bed and now it’s just me and about 15 other ladies who lunge. The two instructors speed-ran through the exercises which included pushing a tyre up and down, bars to lift, rollers to roll, boards to jump on and off and various squats, jumps and sprints to complete. Looking out across the pitch, it was a little bit daunting but the lady next to me kindly said she’d felt the same on her first session.
I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing. From the elastic band warm up to the constantly changing activities – just when I’d finally understood what to do, I was being moved on again. But I surprised myself during the session and the surprises I felt were these:
Firstly, I wasn’t silly. I didn’t try and joke or make fun of the activities or my abilities. I just had a go. Sometimes I could do it (running round the track – you should have seen me go! I totally nailed running thank you very much) and sometimes I couldn’t do it (attempting to use my well insulated abdominal muscles to pull a rolling handlebar in and out without falling flat on my face). But either way I just had a go and I didn’t feel embarrassed or out of place.
Secondly, I actually had a good time. I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed being part of a group and working alongside other people who were enjoying it and having a go and working hard. I enjoyed the comradery and the support we gave one another. I didn’t know any of the other people there but, by the end of it, we had something in common, a shared experience which united us – fellow circuit folk.
And finally, I surprised myself by how far I’ve come. How my attitude, focus and determination have changed. How I feel excited and engaged and interested in improving. How I didn’t want to quit when I couldn’t do something or someone helped me. I think this surprised me the most and on the way home I realised I felt proud too – of how I’ve taken something in my life which was a struggle and I’ve got better at it instead of giving up or giving in.
So now here I am – the owner of a shiny new Bronze Membership package which commits me to a weekly circuits session. As I left, Jim came over to say goodbye and tell me that I’d done well. I said I’d enjoyed it and I thought the people were lovely. He said that they are – that it has just so happened that his class has attracted positive people who want to do well and support each other.
I don’t think it did just so happen – I think he made it happen. For the entire hour I was there, he kept up an endless stream of supportive and encouraging advice and cheers. He knew every member of the group by name and could comment on how they were improving. He knew when to challenge them and when to help them step back a pace. He was never once patronising or over the top. It was a great class but he does himself a disservice if he doesn’t recognise that the reason it’s great is because he is at its core.
He even left me a voicemail the day after telling me again that it was great to see me there and I’d done really well. If I was cynical I would say he was a master manipulator. But I honestly don’t think he is – I think he just absolutely loves what he does. He loves exercising and he loves to help other people learn to love it too. Well, Jim, I get it. I get you and I’m already excited about next week’s session – a lot can change in 75 days, that’s for sure.