Thursday, 5 February 2009

Give a whopping whoop

I participated in my first step aerobics class about sixteen years ago - and it was love at first step. The challenge of complicated combinations, the plyometric leaps and the pure fun of it kept me attending classes once or twice a week for almost all of those sixteen years. I also believe step benefits trail running through improved proprioception; step incorporates multi-directional movements, which is great for the knees and ankles.

When I started dance classes in May last year I stopped step because the times clashed. With dance now later on a Wednesday, I'm back to my favourite-favourite step class at my local gym. My first class back was two weeks ago; and my calves were so stiff the following day. I went again last night and seem to have adapted to step's movements again. As for getting the combos right - just like riding a bicycle.

But this posting isn't about step aerobics itself, but rather the phenomenon of "whooping" in aerobics classes.

Over the years I've heard many different types of whoops in group fitness classes, and they've never troubled me. In fact, I quite enjoy it. My favourite whooper is a guy in the step class - he's a really good stepper and very focused. He makes this really funny whoop (many of them together) that makes everyone around him smile - completely contagious. It often gets me laughing whole heartedly.

I've always been a responder, like if the instructor says "Hello", I say "Hi" in return. If he says, "Everything OK?", I say, "Yes", if he says, "Are you ready?", I'll answer "Ready!". And in recent years I've progressed and I'll definitely throw in a "Wooooo!" when we're powering through a routine. It is fun interacting in the class - responses, hand clapping... anything goes. And I care nothing for what the dull, inhibited and lazy members of the class think. My step buddies around me, the old-time regulars, respond with a pleasing whoop of their own.

I've noticed many times, like last night, how our step instructor sometimes gets agitated because most of the class doesn't respond. They put little effort into the exercise, they say nothing and they look at him with blank faces. They chose to be there - no one forced them to attend - and yet their faces are empty; even if you're tired it takes little effort to smile.

Our instructor is on a Master Instructor level. His cuing, timing and execution is impeccable and energetic; his classes are always well planned and every week his classes different. He's also a nice guy and always very pleasant. As the instructor on the stage in front of the class, he puts in 120% energy, giving-giving-giving to the class.

I started teaching dance classes at the beginning of the year; and I have the same problem. Some of the participants go through the motions half-heartedly and they watch me with empty faces. Yet, they must be enjoying the classes because they come back every week. I'm hoping to get them to be more responsive - a clap here, a smile there... but it really does feel like I'm dragging the dog instead of having it walk beside me. The whole thing about group classes is that you get something out of it - fun and exercise; it isn't just a take-take-take session. And I often feel irritated because it can take me anything from 2-5 hours to plan the classes!

Because of this, I paid extra attention to my classmates at step last night - and also to our instructor. What a dull bunch of attendees (with the exception of a handful)! They were barely expending any more energy that they would have needed to walk around the supermarket pushing a trolly. What a waste of time! Our step instructor actually has it worse than me because the group is much bigger and step demands more energy. Most of the participants are energy-suckers, feeding off what he gives out and giving nothing in return. I also noticed how he enjoyed the whoops from enthusiastic participants in response to his; energy from us recharging his energy.

Whoops are not just energising sounds - they're a mark of appreciation and enjoyment; appreciation for the instructor's efforts and a sign that you're enjoying the class.

So, I'd like to suggest that if you take part in group classes - yoga, pilates, step, dance, spinning - give something back to the instructor by smiling, responding verbally to questions or by emitting a spontaneous whoop. Instructors are up on stage for you; and a sign of your pleasure and appreciation will make their day.

A little whoop is all it takes; and if you've got it in you to give a whopping whoop, do it.

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