Deb walked into basic step class for the first time one Monday night nearly five years ago when I taught in Minnesota. She had never been to a gym, and she had never taken a group fitness class.  I greeted her when she introduced herself and told me that her doctor had cleared her for exercise.  She explained that she needed to lose 100 pounds, and she would start by taking my class. When I gave Deb a quick overview of class, she nodded and looked around the studio nervously.  I pointed to where the step benches were stacked, and she said, “Well, I don’t think I can use a bench yet, but I can do the moves just with my feet—in the back of the room.  And I don’t know if I’ll make it the whole hour.”

No one had ever taken my step class without actually using the step, so I had no idea what to expect.  All I knew is that Deb’s revelation about not being able to lift her legs onto that bench made me realize the long journey she had ahead of her.  I realized Deb’s incredible bravery and her determination to make a serious change in her life. Deb’s first class was scary for me as an instructor because I worried when her face turned bright pink and when she stopped frequently to wipe her brow with the sweat towel.  But she kept her feet moving the whole time.  She completed the entire class.  I was ever so proud of someone I just met.  All she said was, “I’ll be back!”

When Deb showed up again the next week, I was thrilled.  So often, women take that first step of entering the gym, a place that can feel intimidating or awkward, and they’ve already crossed an enormous hurdle, but then something painful or embarrassing happens which prevents them from returning.  Difficult as it must have been for Deb, she kept coming back.  She kept doing step class without a bench, and she always smiled on her way out the door.  Funny enough, my mom was the instructor who took over teaching my basic step class when I moved to Boston.  Every so often, I would ask her about Deb, waiting for the day my mom would tell me she used that step bench for the very first time.

I’ve lost track of Deb since my mom retired from teaching.  But I will not forget her—how great her goal was and how much heart she put into achieving it.  Sometimes as I open the front door to the gym, I remember her and how inspired I am by the fact that she isn’t afraid to keep opening that door. 

– Sarah

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