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this girl can't, not yet

By now you’ve probably seen the This Girl Can film. If not watch it. It has been made by Sport England to celebrate active women up and down the country who are doing their thing no matter how well they do it, how they look or even how red their face gets. One of the sports in the video is a Zumba class, shown to be exciting, energetic, and most of all, fun. It has taken the internet by storm and celebrated for its realism and positive message.

However, I have a tale of the other side, the reality of this, and one that we all really should be getting to the heart of.

Last week I did a Zumba class. Now I’ve done Zumba before, and had a little dance experience, but it had been two years since I’d followed a teacher (or watched myself in the mirror doing it!) so I was basically a beginner. I’d been looking forward to dancing again and spent the first 30 minutes of the hour class loving it. Yes I was uncoordinated, yes I kept messing up, but I was doing it with a massive grin on my face. I was one of the girls on the video.

Then something changed. At the water break the instructor made a beeline directly to me and in front of a class of about 15 women singled me out in front of everyone to tell me that it was ‘ok if I wasn’t getting it, at least I was moving’.

Lets repeat what I just said above, yes I was uncoordinated, yes I kept messing up, but I was doing it with a massive grin on my face. Thanks to some clumsy language from the instructor – that massive grin – was gone. For the next 30 minutes any co-ordination I did have totally disappeared, along any enjoyment of the class I’d been having. There were others in the class just as uncoordinated as me – maybe she thought I could take it as the smile I had on my face looked like confidence. It wasn’t.

So to the ‘This Girl Can’ film – whilst i’ll say well done to them for a highly commendable stance and a fantastic campaign and video – the video does not show how (although it is on the website) that “the fear of judgement is stopping many of us from taking part in exercise. But as thousands of women up and down the country are proving, it really doesn’t have to”.

Yes judgement. Judgement and the confidence to be judged. That’s what really stops people. Not the jiggly bits, not the red face, not the hard work. In any sport, as a beginner, you will be uncoordinated and hopeless at it. To get to the point that the girls are at in the video you have to have confidence in the beginning to show that you are hopeless, and more importantly confidence to be able to expect that the people around you – especially the instructor – will not judge you whilst you try and try and try again. If this happens, then this girl really can.

Mrs S x

EDIT: I just want to point out that despite this incident I am going back to Zumba, as despite one person’s comments, I do really enjoy it – and I deserve to #thisgirlcan

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  • Reply Sarah Rooftops

    Yeah, I always think I’m not too worried about being judged but I did find myself trying to be between poses when my pilates teacher came to my part of the room. “If I look like I’m JUST ABOUT TO do a plank she won’t hang around and notice that I’m rubbish…”

    15/01/2015 at 12:12 pm
  • Reply Lucy

    This is sad to hear, I love going to Zumba and although I don’t exactly nail the routines, as you said I’m moving and doing it with a smile on my face. I thought that was the whole point of Zumba, ditch the workout join the party?! I’m glad you are going back :) I have some apprehension about going to a Body Attack class next week as I’ve never done it before but I will give a go and stick to the routine as best as I can!

    15/01/2015 at 12:52 pm
  • Reply Paula

    I would have been mortified too. I can definitely understand how it ruined your enjoyment of the class.x

    15/01/2015 at 8:27 pm
  • Reply Charlie

    This is terrible – I don’t know enough about the risks of doing something like zumba ‘wrong’, but I’ve been in classes like this and it broke me; I couldn’t go back, and I think you’re incredibly brave to. I’ve finally found a class that works for me, I think – it’s full of people who obviously don’t find it easy, so I blend right in and am hoping to write about it soon. Sorry again that you had such a shitty experience – on the plus side, you have written an excellent blog post about it x

    15/01/2015 at 9:47 pm
  • Reply Katey

    Aw, that sucks – especially as you were enjoying yourself! You’re right, that’s the kind of judgement/comment that I would absolutely fear, any attention brought to the fact that I wasn’t perfectly executing a routine :-( Glad you’re overcoming that clumsy comment though! Good for you x

    15/01/2015 at 10:20 pm
  • Reply Neil

    I think you’ve nailed what being active is all about. It’s the enjoyment. Otherwise, why do it? But fear of judgement, can impact on the level of enjoyment. It’s what I think puts people off from even starting something like a class. Especially if they’re alone. But kudos for getting back up onto that Zumba horse after that clumsy comment.

    16/01/2015 at 9:21 am
  • Reply last year's girl

    That happened to me at a yoga class – in fact, the tutor actually adjusted my pose IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CLASS. Never mind the consent issues. Ugh. Ruined it for me.

    16/01/2015 at 9:43 pm
  • Reply Louisa

    Basically yes to your whole post, I completely agree about the fear of judgement being the thing that stops people (I know it certainly stops me). I’m in two minds about the whole campaign – I think their aim is fantastic but I also think there’s a lot of holes in the advert that they clearly haven’t addressed. And maybe I’m just odd, but watching the advert doesn’t make me want to suddenly jump up and join an exercise class. xx

    20/01/2015 at 9:39 pm
  • Reply siobhanjc

    That sounds horrible. My pilates instructor sometimes says “not you Siobhan” which I find annoying at times but it is because some of the moves are not suitable for me and he knows if he forgets to tell me I might start doing it. I can get how others would be put off by that kind of thing too. I am so glad you are going back though x

    29/01/2015 at 3:12 pm
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