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How Becoming a Group Fitness Instructor Changed My Outlook on Life

When I first started my spinning journey, I had just come off of being an athlete for the better part of 10 years and had no idea where my fitness journey was going to go next. After being in a slump for months, a friend of mine brought me to a nearby studio and introduced me to the craze that is indoor cycling.

Four years later, I teach to a room of about 30-40 people at least twice a week at UMass’s Campus Recreation — something that high school me never would have dreamed of doing. So, how did I get here? Let’s talk about it.

Once I took my first spin class, I knew that I was hooked. I became a regular at the studio in my hometown, and all of the incredible women who worked there began to know me by name. During my freshman year of college, consistently coming to spin classes introduced me to some of my closest friends and that was where I found my place on campus during the tough transition to college life. There’s often a stereotype that surrounds indoor cycling: that it’s a ‘cult’ or ‘sorority-like’ in a way, but it is so much more than the surface level assumptions people make about it. The community and connections I have made from spinning have (as cheesy as it sounds) truly changed my life. 

When I first started, however, it really made me restructure my mindset and re-evaluate where I was in life. As someone who had already accepted that they were the sarcastic, witty friend, I didn’t realize how much I was struggling with negative thinking and how hard I was on myself on a daily basis. While this was due to a culmination of things going on in my life at the time, becoming immersed in this community changed my perception of myself and the world around me, and it became the first safe space where I had words of gratitude for myself, didn’t judge myself, or make fun of myself for finding the joy in something. It was then that I knew that this was more than just a workout for me.

All of this being said, it definitely took some time to get here. Even as I began as a rider at Campus Recreation at UMass, the thought of teaching to a room full of people terrified me. However, as the years went on, I slowly became more confident in myself, and even though I was insanely nervous (thank you to my friends who did not let me talk myself out of it), I bit the bullet and applied to become an instructor. And thank god I did.

I’m not going to sit here and write that my first class was perfect, because that would be the furthest thing from the truth. While I’m definitely an over-preparer (hello, fellow Virgos), becoming a great instructor really only comes from practice and the growth that comes with that journey.

Do I still get nervous before class? Most of the time, yes! And while that would at first come from me being so afraid of making mistakes, I now take it in stride as knowing I care about my job enough to want to succeed. Even as that nervousness lessens everyday, it turns more into the opportunity to grow, have fun, and hopefully make someone’s day a little brighter.

Looking back on my first semester of teaching, I’ve now learned there is never a “perfect” way to teach. Funnily enough, every night after a class I will sit in bed and reflect on it, thinking of a more motivational way to phrase something for the next day or remembering something spontaneous I felt like doing that turned out really well. I will look forward to the next time I get to do it again. 

Sometimes, I even wonder how I got to this point. That this is how I go through my days now: listening to music that energizes me, working with people I’m lucky enough to call friends, and teaching and uplifting my peers for those 45 minutes they choose to spend with me during their weeks. Past me, even from a year ago, would not believe the growth that has led me here now — and I know I’m making her proud, working to touch at least one person’s life in one of my classes the way mine was in my first class all those years ago.

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Samira Sayan

U Mass Amherst '23

Samira is the Pinterest Coordinator and a senior honors student at UMass Amherst, majoring in marketing and communications. Some of her passions are pop culture, music, and traveling. When she's not writing, you can find her hanging out with friends, binging her favorite TV series, or teaching/taking a spin class.
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