Twice in the past week, I have heard from women at the gym that coming to group exercise class has kept them going, not just physically but emotionally or spiritually.  These admissions absolutely floor me every time and I think, “Oh yeah, it’s not just about the muscles and the calorie-burning.”

It is always a DUH moment for me.   “Hello, Sarah, there is a bigger picture!”  But I am still always amazed and truly humbled to hear from my class members that exercising with other women helps them heal a broken heart, or that looking forward to a class each week keeps them afloat through illness and recovery.  First of all, I never know what to say.  When I taught ninth graders,  I always knew what to say to my young students in such moments.   But with the awe-inspiring women in my classes, I am dumbfounded.  It’s like “5-6-7-8” or “squeeze your glutes” are suddenly the only words in my vocabulary.  I feel safe behind the microphone or, strangely,  standing in front of the class.  But I’m speechless, powerless,  when faced with someone who feels pain that is not from too many reps or too much weight.

Second, I feel overwhelmed by the sense that I might actually be an important part of someone’s experience.  Sure, I know that providing exercise opportunities for fellow women is really important.  But I have trouble thinking about what other significance a step class might have because I become weighed down with the feeling that I must be more than just the leader of a set of push-ups.  I’m not trying to have illusions of grandeur here — just absorbing the fact that when we step into a studio to sweat and strive together, we become connected.  Sure, you may put your equipment in the corner and try to hide in the back of the room, but you are part of the class.  You are part of something someone else in that room needs — a team, a support group, a network.

So I take a deep breath and overcome my fear because I realize the big picture is just that–that we women are there for each other, as a group fitness class getting our cardio on, as a web of gym members cheering each other on, not just through weight-loss and strength-training but through life, love and loss in general.  Instead of fretting over the burden, I should embrace the ability to be there for someone, knowing that looking out at each of the women in each of my classes every time I teach most certainly heartens me more than I can express.

When we workout in a group, we get more than just the workout, we get each other, too.

– Sarah