Monday, January 30, 2017
Today I am grateful for leading. As I walked into the YMCA this morning, signed in and passed the main desk, I was informed that the water aerobics instructor was sick and there was no one to lead the class. A lot of people were turning around at the locker room and going home.
“There is no class today,” someone said. “We’re having coffee if you want to join us.”
I was already clad in my swim suit under my sweats. I knew I was taking a shower at the Y today, too. Now my whole plan was in a kerfluffle. I figured I could do some moderate amount of jumping around and at the very least get in a “sort-of” workout, which is better than none at all.
I hung my toiletries and towel up like I always do and went into the pool. There were about 40 women and a few men bobbing around. “Hey, there’s Mary,” I heard. “She can lead the class!” Why? I have no idea. I have never, ever expressed a desire to lead the class. Ever. But I do have a big mouth, so maybe that’s enough.
I laughed and said, “I could do it, but not on the deck! I need to be in the water because NO one needs to see all of this flopping around!” I asked the Aquatics Director if he had any kind of printed program I could follow. All he had was deep water instructions. Swell. Way different from what we do. And printed in tiny print. So in a few minutes I had a pair of “cheaters” and makeshift instructions attached to a clipboard.
“Okay,” I shouted. “I’m it! If you wanna play, I’m up for it!” And they did and so we were off. Here’s the thing about leading. If you’re smart, it’s a little scary. I’ve heard the gripes about other instructors and have even voiced a few of my own. Now I was in their water shoes. So I used humor. Big shock, right? “Okay, suck in your guts a pull in your butts! If I pull mine in any harder it’s going to climb over my shoulders and wave at you.”
We had no music so it was easier to be heard when I change exercises. It was a powerful kick to see people raising their arms over their heads when I did. I wondered if I adjusted a strap or picked my nose if they would follow. Intriguing. I was leading and they were following. Me. Until I totally blanked. A billion years of taking water aerobics and NOTHING came to mind. Swell. So I tried brutal honesty.
“Yikes! I’m drawing a blank, guys,” I said. “Talk amongst yourselves while I look at the cheat sheet. Keep jogging. Or better yet, someone give me an suggestion.” And so they did. “Rocking Horse,” someone yelled. “Let’s try cross-country skiing!” yelled another. “Jumping Jacks,” came from the cheap seats near the deep end. “Okay everyone we’re doing a series of three sets, jumping jacks, cross country, rocking horse. . .eight counts each. . .GO! One, two, three, four. . .” Rocking and splashing and jumping. Whee!
I had them going for twenty full minutes of cardio, we did another twenty of weights and noodle toning and I cooled ‘em down for five minutes. A full class. Led by me. . .and them. And I felt like I got a workout. A friend said she got in almost 3500 steps which is about right, so that’s pretty good. And much better than going home.
Probably the most important part of leading is listening. You can try leading with bravado and power, but who responds to that? No one. Certainly not me. You can make excuses for yourself for not knowing what you’re doing, but they already know that because they stand at your side every week. And because they do, they are willing to help you along when you say, “I got nothing! Not one idea what to do next.”
There’s an old saying “Lead, follow, or get out of the way!” But that sounds harsh and doesn’t really work for me. I prefer, “Lead, laugh and listen to suggestions”. Yup, that’s more up my alley. And it worked. For forty-five minutes. Of fun!