Group fitness classes are great. Working out in a group keeps me motivated, offers a support system, and adds some excitement to the sometimes mundane exercise routine. So, when I got an email from some co-workers about two afternoon classes, one Pilates class and one yoga class, each held in the downstairs yoga room at work, I was quick to sign up.
I’ve been a fan of Pilates and yoga for years, loving how each class forces me to think about balance and the connection between body and mind while still providing a great workout. But I didn’t expect cultivating my inner peace and toning my thighs would be so challenging to do alongside my co-workers, especially in Pilates.
The difficulties begin during the 10 minutes before class. All the women bring their gym bags to the downstairs bathroom to change into their yoga wear, each taking a stall for a dressing room. One lucky broad gets the handicap stall, and an even luckier lady gets to use the shower room while the rest of us struggle to undress in a five-by-four foot pissing booth.
As I’m holding the side of the stall with one hand and taking my boots off with the other, I’m also watching my bag to make sure it doesn’t fall off the hook onto the floor. The worst part is always trying to pack away my work clothes while putting the gym ones on. I hear my mother telling me my nice dress is going to get wrinkled if I don’t hang it up or fold it carefully. So, I try to hang it over the door while I fold my tights and my bra back into my bag, but my dress slips and hits the ground. I angrily bend down to pick it up, moving as quickly as possible so the woman next to me doesn’t think I’m glancing at her while she pees. As I’m finally folding the dress – all my yoga clothes are on at this point – I’m taking my glasses and phone out of the bag so I can fit the dress inside and then place the more delicate items back on top.
The whole time I’m afraid I’m going to drop something into the toilet that’s five inches behind me. I’m trying to make the entire changing process go by as quickly as possible because the damn toilet has a sensor and flushes every 45 seconds.
When I’m finally out of the stall, I place my items under the sink and wash my hands. As I dry my hands and go back to the mirror to pin my hair back, I try not to seem like I’m eavesdropping as the other women gossip. Now, I have friends at work, but I’m by no means in with the chick cliques that have been established for years – I swear there’s some weird, underground initiation process.
Once I get to class, I roll out my mat towards the back of the room. The other women filter in, still chatting about their weekend plans, their kids, and their money. Okay, the money part is a lie, but they definitely could be talking about all the money they make and how wealthy their husbands are if they wanted.
The instructor enters the room and passes out resistance bands, and the chatter becomes giggle as the ladies start to stretch. Comments like, “What happened to me, I used to be so young and limber” bounce around the room like a beach ball at a concert – whoever it hit made a self-minimizing remark, and everyone laughed.
Turning up the music (a light-hearted assortment of Brett Dennen, Foo Fighters, and Coldplay) the instructor starts the real work. The room is pretty tight, and we’re packed in closely to one another. I’m surrounded by women that have been with the company for much longer and hold executive and manager roles. I’m a measly newbie who is still trying to make a good impression, and stretching my legs out so my feet are in the face of the woman next to me isn’t going to help at all – seriously, no one wants my feet near his/her face.
But, then I start thinking that even if my stinky foot passed by someone’s nose, it’s not like my foot is worse than the butt of the person in front of me – and that is eerily close to my face at least four times during the class. So really, we’re all the victims and the wrong-doers here.
While I’m trying to roll from back to seated in butterfly position, I’m making sure I don’t roll into anyone and look up to see everyone else checking their reflections in the mirror to make sure they also don’t roll into anyone. We’re all looking into the mirror and then BAM, there it is: EYE CONTACT. Ahhh, it’s bad enough I’m sweaty and a little red and my hair is even messier than it normally is, but now I’m worried about making awkward eye contact with my co-workers. I don’t want to seem like the girl who has to check out what everyone is doing or the girl who looks at butts because I’m not either girl. I’m the girl who clearly over-thinks every situation.
We roll onto our backs again, and our gaze is no longer in the awkward eye contact crossfire. Just as we’re starting another core exercise, it happens. With the exception of the soft Brett Dennen jam playing in the background, the room is silent, welcoming the noisy flatulence with open arms; the way a concert hall welcomes the deep moans of the cello. No one makes a sound. For a moment, we’re all paralyzed, hoping everyone around us knows who did it so they don’t think we did it. Some stifle giggles and the instructor breaks the silence by barking out another exercise for us.
For the rest of the class I’m paranoid. The fart could have happened to anyone. We’ve all got our legs moving in different directions, we all just had lunch, and we are all human. I am determined to not let it happen to me. The class continues as if nothing happened.
Someone loudly asks the woman next to her what time it is, and she bolts out the door when she learns the time is 2:38 – we’ve gone a little over our allotted hour-long break. The instructor wraps up the class and tells us she’ll see us next week.
Walking out the door and back to start the changing experience all over again, I thought, “I survived. Only one more week until the panic can recommence.