Saturday, March 1, 2014

Another Cycling Instructor

I can't believe I said this morning that I would write a post every day this month in my blogs. What was I thinking?!?

And what can I write about today, anyway?

Hmm, something I've been thinking about a lot lately, with apologies if it doesn't sound complete and coherent yet, still at the randomly roiling stage:

I went to the 7:30 spin class at the gym this morning (before teaching the self-defense class at the college), taught by Robert. He has a style somewhere between Derek's and the styles of the other instructors whose classes I've attended. That is, these two male spin instructors are different from each other in a lot of ways but are even more different from the women.

Maybe, as Laura suggested, simply being male allows an instructor to be louder and sterner and more commanding than the women instructors. On the other hand, I've been in some classes taught by one of the women who does something similar, walking around the room yelling at everyone, "Go! Go! Go! Come on, I know you can do it," like some kind of cheerleader on steroids.

Aha! Maybe that's the key: She's more like a cheerleader (encouraging and cute) than a coach (tough and demanding)?

What do we expect of cycling and other fitness instructors, anyway? And how much do our expectations relate to our culturally influenced expectations, specifically those based on gender?

I found an interesting Web site** written by a male personal trainer in which he discusses  why it's harder for women than men to be successful as personal trainers.  I say the article is "interesting" because I don't endorse everything this guy Jonathan has to say about it, though I agree it has a lot to do with sex.

I've been in a spin class where a middle-aged guy went up to Derek afterwards and said, loudly, "You're so much better than these women teachers they have around here. Why do they have so many women when they don't even work you as hard? They should have guys teaching all these classes."

(Tell you what: when I heard that I wanted to work HIM hard, with my fists.)

But his comment illustrated the double bind for women: You're supposed to be cute and fit and find "feminine" ways to motivate your class members or clients; while the men are supposed to be tough and manly, reflected in tough talk and tough mannerisms; and classic good looks for men aren't that important.

Hmm...I could be wrong on the good looks issue, now that I think about it...but classic good looks for men include the masculine toughness. Also, just looking around the gym at several personal trainers with their clients this morning, it seemed to me in a very non-scientific sampling that the women smiled a lot more than the men, as they do in most situations, another gender-based culturally influenced behavior.

Because it IS about image, isn't it, which does have a lot to do with sex or at least gender.

Anyway, after this morning's class I went up to talk to Robert. I said, "Great class, and I loved your music."*** He smiled, then said, very seriously, "Thank you. You don't know how much it means to get a positive comment. Sometimes people act like we're some kind of punching bags. They want to tell me my music sucked, or I worked them too hard, or whatever."

Hmm, that's all for now. Still semi-random and incomplete, but where I am today. Thanks for going with me this far, and feel free to comment here or on the Aunt Louise or Madame L blogs. 

**I Googled "trainers clients male female" and came up with a lot of interesting hits; I recommend this method for anything, really; and I know Madame L agrees with me on this research method, even if Ms. Wynn the science T.A. doesn't.

***Featuring a lot of classic and contemporary metal, ranging from AC/DC to Linkin Park (which he called "angry white boy music"---a great description!)


  1. Well, I see that my earlier comment didn't post. Figures. It was a good one too. But to summarize - you got it exactly right. We are no further along in women's rights than we were two hundred years ago. In fact, some would say we've backtracked.

    To fall back on my experience as a spin instructor, again, I was one of the female instructors who was respected by the male clients, probably simply because I wasn't the cheerleader type, but was more about "let's just get the most out of this workout, and if you think you're not pushing yourself hard enough, you're right."

    There was one male spin instructor at this facility, and he wasn't particularly great for people of either gender as he was too soft-spoken and quiet. He was a good cyclist, but not necessarily a good instructor. I was definitely more popular with the men than I was with the women. Or at least the women who already thought they did enough, thankyouverymuch.

  2. This video illustrates the differences between classes that will appeal to men vs. women. I can bet that you would probably never find a (straight) man in one of these classes. Also, it's just crazy. Like, ridiculously crazy.