By Sarah Valdes • January 30, 2020•Ms. JD, Writers in Residence
“Your poses may look a little different than anyone else’s!” she said right as she walked by my yoga mat. The yoga instructor smiled cheerfully as she suggested the use of blocks right after she saw me tumble to the floor after trying to contort my body into some unnatural shape. This was my first time taking a yoga class…in fact this was my first time taking any sort of group fitness class. I never fell into the crossfit fad, and for my entire life I was unapologetically the unathletic one. A cherished anecdote I often tell when peers are talking about the next marathon or 5k that they are registering for is when I zealously advocated for me to be excused from gym class in exchange for a well-written essay on the importance of health. The irony in this is not lost on me. I just wasn’t that girl…and I was perfectly fine with that.
I fully expected to despise the class. I anticipated it bringing up feelings of inadequacy or most familiar…that I did not belong. Imposter syndrome is far too prevalent in women, especially women in the legal field. But many of you may share in the imposter syndrome I felt when going to my first fitness class. Women with perfectly styled ponytails and flashy leggings certainly must have been cheerleaders or aerobics instructors or something else that I was entirely unfamiliar with. So why did I go? Like many others, I’ve committed to making my physical health a priority and frankly I got desperate. I was willing to try anything that would encourage me to be more active.
So, what did I discover? I discovered a community of people doing the exact same thing I was. They were committing to their health. The more I observed these women and men, I noticed each was focused on holding his or her pose, better, longer. No one was concerned about the person next to them. I also discovered that a group fitness class fed my competitive spirit. It is no surprise that lawyers have a tendency to be competitive. Attending group fitness classes put me in a group of people each striving for the same goal, and with each class, I find myself wanting to be better. Another unexpected benefit I encountered from attending group fitness classes, has been finding the motivation to stay active more consistently. Even if you are the shy one or like me the one in the back of the class often times needing the most “modifications”, you do feel a sense of commitment to the group. You are in this together. You are all trying to reach that target heart rate, achieve the zen, or hit that step count. You don’t want to let yourself down. But to a certain extent you start to feel like you can’t let others down. We live in a world where there is ample discussion about the pressures of social media, seeing someone post their “picture-worthy” life often times pressures us to rethink our own choices. Let’s rechannel this negative energy in a different setting for a positive outcome. Let’s use this “peer pressure” to keep us active, and keep us committed to our health.
If you are anything like me, a group fitness class also creates a space for vulnerability. Lawyers are trained to put on a tough face. Women lawyers often feel like they can’t show an ounce of vulnerability or else they will risk being chastised for being too emotional. Going outside of my comfort zone and joining a group fitness class gave me that space where I could be vulnerable. Try wearing ill fitting leggings while attempting tree pose (look it up) while your glasses are sliding down your face from sweat! I promise you will feel a little vulnerable. And as terrifying as it is, it is great. We all need a moment where we are humbled. As we draw to a close on the first month of the year, I encourage you to explore the small communities of group fitness classes. Do it for the bond. Do it for the workout. Do it for you.