*The new mask mandate has put a damper on teaching group fitness. I’m not opposed to wearing a mask, but I am voicing my concern about why wearing a mask as a group fitness instructor is difficult.*
This week I taught three cardio classes wearing a face mask… it was one of the worst coaching experiences in my life. I also taught class Thanksgiving morning and early morning Black Friday. I have never felt that much trouble breathing while exercising in my entire life.
During one working block of class, I wrestled with talking through a pool of sweat and a loogie lodged in the back of my throat. I wanted to cough, in fact, I did cough, but not how I really wanted to! I wanted to let it all out and throw my mask on the floor and stomp on it. Heaving and wheezing from the thing that covered my face, I couldn’t just stop. I had a class to teach. People were watching my every move through the mirror, sporting a face mask just like me, perhaps also miserable like me. The phrase misery loves company could not have been more true.
This is what death feels like. I thought as the carbon dioxide fogged up my lenses while I pushed 2, 10-pound-dumbbells in the air. Wearing glasses while exercising with a face mask is awful. The space between miserable and uncomfortable for me is familiar and thin. I have felt this way before…the feeling of past regret and the feeling of being stuck burns in the deep layers in my gut.
What kept me going in class was the will to administer the best and safest fitness class in the world. Then it hit me, I’m not a peloton instructor. I’m also not a wimp and complaining isn’t a character trait of mine…but at that point…during my second lift… I should have dropped the dumbbells, turned off the lights, the music, and left. Now in a more positive parallel universe, I would have said something, something…motivating or encouraging. Instead, I said nothing. I had nothing positive to give.
SHIT SUCKS and you know like I know… we can’t pretend anymore.
Covid has taken the soul out of group fitness. It has taken the soul out of literally everything. What it has done to the fitness industry is severed the nerves from the fitness body. Leaving the organs without blood and without oxygen, leaving the connection dead.
When you read this, I don’t want you to think that wearing a face mask is the worst thing in the world. Clearly, it is saving lives. It is a nuance. Complaining about wearing masks is a third world problem I have heard many people say. But it is also driving a wrench through a business that counts on customer connection to thrive. If customers lose that connection then the business will die.
To heal the connection, I set out to write articles about tips to cope with the closing down of gyms. I also started a YouTube channel and vowed to take my blog more seriously.
The New Mask Mandate
On November 23, 2020, Roy Cooper signed an executive order to strengthen the mask mandate. In summary, you must wear a mask everywhere, at all times. Many people are frustrated, of course. I never thought I would be one of those frustrated people, but I am.
I can’t tell if I’m more frustrated with the mandate or people’s reaction to the mandate. “I’d rather stay at home than wear a mask at the gym” I hear. I also know many people are terminating their gym membership due to this ‘new’ mask mandate. Covid is real and it isn’t something to play with, but if a mask can stop the spread in its track what is the point of resisting?
Things look grim now, but there is hope on the horizon; the promise of a vaccine. Could a vaccine bring us back to normal? I don’t know. A lot of damage has been done already. I am well aware of the damage that Covid has inflicted. I have been trying to be extra positive and motivating, at times, I feel that I’m denying the reality by applying toxic positivity to a serious issue.
Unfortunately, Covid is what it is. You cannot change what you cannot control. I have made it my duty to be the best group fitness instructor I can be and I will continue to do so. The moment I realized that positivity wasn’t going to get me through this tough time was the moment that I felt a bit lighter. Acceptance is a hard thing to do, but I would rather practice acceptance than to be a positively shitty person and a delusional fitness instructor.
Wearing a mask in the gym sucks and I feel and hear your pain,