Everyone has a Day One

Monday September 23, 2013

Written by: Maria Finnegan, Group Exercise Instructor

One of my most dedicated boot camp participants cried the first day she came to workout with me.  She didn’t cry from the pain of the workout…we hadn’t even warmed up yet.  She had just walked over to the basketball court where we were meeting for our first session and she was nervous, intimidated and scared…and she started to cry.

Despite my words of encouragement, she turned and walked away.  After a few minutes, and another pep talk from a friend, she came back to the court and joined in.

I think about that moment a lot. I know that she does too.  It affirmed for me something that I say to so many of my new students…”Everyone has a Day One.”  The first time we walk, first time we go to school, first time we ride a bike.  The list could go on and on.  The first time we do anything is Day One. Sometimes it’s exciting, sometimes it’s scary; maybe a little bit of both.

As kids, I think we have an easier time accepting new challenges.  I don’t remember learning to walk, but from watching my own children, I have observed the incredible amount of patience and perseverance it takes to eventually stand on two feet and move forward.  Of course there were tears and bumps along the way, but eventually, they figured it out.  We all did.  None of us would walk if we tried it once, fell down and said, “Well…that didn’t work out. I guess I’ll give up.”

Somewhere though, along the way from childhood to adulthood, we sometimes forget that Day One can be a struggle. I can think of a perfect example from my own life when I attempted skiing for the first time in college.  I was an athlete and used to being pretty good at most sports I tried. Then I went skiing and spent the majority of the day falling down the mountain.  I was frustrated, intimidated by little 5 year olds who went flying past me, and definitely not happy.  My body and my ego were bruised.  I wish I could say that I got up the next day and tried again, and then the next day too, but Day One was really difficult (and expensive) and I didn’t ski again for years.

The first time I tried yoga was an entirely different experience.  I took a small class at a very small ladies-only gym.  As we moved through the poses, it was a new experience, yet very familiar to me.  From years of sports, I was very fond of stretching, and yoga just felt good and right for my body.  There was still struggle but just like the child learning to walk, I had a desire to learn and get better.  Fifteen years later, it’s hard to remember my life without yoga and I’m very grateful for that Day One.

I keep these two experiences in mind when I walk into the gym, or onto the field, to teach a class.  As an instructor, it is so important to remember that everyone has walked into my class for the first time at some point.  Even my dedicated students who show up week after week, had a first day.  So whether it’s a trained athlete trying yoga for the first time, or somebody brand new to group exercise, it’s my job and desire to make that person feel successful in some way so that their Day One is a good one.  I want them to want a Day Two or at least be willing to try a Day Two!

Today I write this post for two audiences. For instructors, I want you to think about the struggle it is for some people to just get to the gym and then to walk through the doors of a studio.  Learn your students names and make them feel welcome and safe throughout the class, choosing inclusive and positive words.  Give those new students some attainable goals throughout class by offering modifications to decrease or increase intensity.  Let them know that everyone has a Day One and you are there to guide them through it. For students, let’s remember the lessons of childhood. We all stumble, fall, cry.  We also learn, move forward and celebrate.  While it can be intimidating to try a new class, every person in that class was in your shoes on their Day one. You can do it too.  And if you really don’t like that Day One (skiing!), find a new one (yoga!).  Perhaps look for that experience that makes you excited and a little scared at the same time.  Just like my friend who cried on the first day of bootcamp, you can make it through the first class and then the next time you show up, you’re a “regular.”  It may still be difficult, but have patience.  You will learn and you will realize that while you are training your body, you are also training your mind to believe in yourself.

You have to start somewhere.  There has to be a first day. Everyone has a Day One.

**One last note: I’m happy to report that my dear friend and bootcamper no longer cries before class…only after the very hard workouts and multiple rounds of wind sprints!  🙂