Embarrassing gym classes. Why, God, why?

As I write this, I’m shooting furtive glances to the gym bag sitting next to my left foot.

Tonight, it’s whispering to me in a smug little voice, tonight you return to the scene of the crime. 

It was roughly around this time last week I logged onto my local gym’s website to check up on the class times for the evening ahead. Pre-caffeinated and slightly distracted, I jotted down my usual class time, and carried on working. Mistake #1.

Bouncing out of work and off to the gym, I was unusually optimistic about my standard Tuesday evening routine: half an hour jog on the treadmill, followed by a fairly relaxed 60 minute weights class. Strolling into the change rooms, I didn’t bother checking the class timetable mounted on the wall, because you know, I’m a regular. Mistake #2.

Shorts on, hair tied back, and nose deep into a rapid text conversation with my bestie, I pushed through the masses at the door of my gym class to secure my usual spot in the middle. As the digital clock on the wall ticked over to 6.30pm, I tucked my phone under the gym mat and looked up.

No one else had mats. WHY WERE THERE NO MATS? I froze. Mistake #3.

This is the only move I managed to master in last week’s Body Attack class.

And that, my friends, was how I found myself smack bang in the middle of a nightmare: I was trapped in a Body Attack gym class and there was no way out.

‘Body Attack’: A high energy, aerobics-style gym class, that combines fast paced sequences with cardio based intervals. 

The word ‘attack’ is not used lightly in the description: this class attacks you from every angle. It will attack your sense of co-ordination, it will attack your resilience in the face of utter humiliation, and it will attack a strange muscle on the top of your foot, one I was previously unaware existed.


(I believe that the instructor was also giving secret messages to the other expert attendees, who kept running at me as if the word “ATTACK!” was being screamed at them through a hidden earpiece.) FLY MY PRETTIES! MUSH! MUSH! IMPOSTER!


Oh, boy.

They hopped left, I hopped right. They jumped up as I was squatting down. They were clapping their hands in the air, whilst I waved mine uncertainly around my knees.

It was a complete and utter disaster that saw me not only embarrass myself to the nth degree, but also destroy their previously perfectly timed routines. Like a bull in a china shop, I was wreaking havoc on their careful system of one, two, step, clap.

I wasn’t doing any stepping or clapping. I was just doing a lot of waving in the air like one of these things:

To make matters worse, the instructor was actually insane. I kid you not, there was one point when he stood in the middle of the room, spinning around in circles on a crazed endorphin high, as we jogged around him in another circle like a deranged bird formation.


I was almost ready to start sending SOS signals to the people outside in the gym.

“C’mon, Maggie. Laugh it off. This is what being an adult is all about! Extending your comfort zone!”

My internal dialogue was playing the cool guy, but the rush of blood to my face betrayed any sense of the amused confidence I working towards.

You know that nightmare when you’re onstage and you can’t remember the words? Or the one when you’re dropped to school in uniform and it’s free dress da? Or getting stuck in another country and you don’t know the language? Well, this experience was an evil hybrid of them all: I was out of place, out of time, and behind enemy lines.

And tonight, I’m going back.

Sure, getting trapped in a foreign gym class has long been a phobia of mine. I’m virtually blind without my glasses, and hopelessly uncoordinated, and it takes weeks of rallying up my nerves to try a new class. I’m that person who watches Youtube videos of the routines before I go. I read the reviews. I watch outside a class to get to gauge the wincing of attendees.

“Getting trapped in a foreign gym class has long been a phobia of mine”: Maggie Kelly.

And if I do dive in, I always stand to the very back, like the runt of the litter, bouncing along out of time in the back corner. Alas, the microphoned voice of the instructor seems to find me anyway.

Instructor: “Hey, Blondie, at the back! It’s left, left, right, jump! OK?”


Me: Blinks in the direction of the stage, squinting but unable to make out the instructors face.

Instructor: “OK?”

Me: Picks up towel and scurries out.

And yet, I shall return to Attack! Attack! (or whatever it’s called) – because this is what life is about: finding a challenge that terrifies you, and staring it down until you’ve kicked its butt. Or at least given it a nipple cripple.

One in three Australian adults are now considered obese. Not just overweight, or a bit tubby: OBESE. This means that they are 20% over a healthy weight range, and are at high risk of health disorders and disabilities.

We’re becoming less inclined to step outside our physical comfort zone and try something new, something that we might look a bit stupid trying the first few times, but will get a grasp on eventually. Women especially. It is no mean feat to take on a new gym class, or attempt the treadmill for the first time, or donning some pubically-challenged sports swimmers to try a few laps in summer. It takes courage, and letting go of the ego.

So tonight, I try again. I’ll probably still be hopping the wrong way, squatting the wrong direction, and generally embarrassing myself and everyone around me; but I’ll be a little better than last week. And next week, I’ll be a little better than the week before. And the week after that, I’ll basically be Beyonce.