Saturday, August 13, 2011

Spinning for Communinty

If you interact with me in person, you're probably aware that I've started doing some significant workouts in the past year. I'd never been an athlete, and started exercising for the health benefits. But, what keeps me coming back is the community I've found at the Yorktown YMCA.

At first I tried Zumba, which can be best described as a bunch of 30 something moms trying to dance like 20 something ladies in MTV music videos. I felt awkward and unsure what was coming next. It seemed everyone already knew the moves, and knew each other. No one really talked to me much.
While I liked the music, I never felt like I fit in. I began to think Zumba specifically, and maybe even working out in general, was really for "someone else." Not for a "nonathlete" like me.

But then I found a community of welcoming "spinners" (fast paced stationary biking). The first day I came to class, I was a few minutes late and everyone was already spinning away. The instructor, Angie, got off her bike, introduced herself, and took the time to make sure my bike was set up correctly. She told me 8 years ago she was new, and that I shouldn't be intimidated. She shared words of assurance "just keep peddling, even if you can't do everything. The most important thing is you are here. And we're glad you are." At the end of the class she said she was "proud" that I made it through the whole class that I was doing great. No one had EVER told me they were "proud" of my athletic abilities before! She then invited me to come back to class the following Monday.

I kept coming back. When my legs hurt, I stretched before. When I didn't want to go to class, I pushed myself. When I felt to busy, I found the time. In part, this was because the music was great, and I was seeing results. But the reason I continue to make time, stretch, and push myself is that I've found community in Angie's class. She is living out her faith and using her God given gifts to help us be as healthy as we can be. Angie takes time to learn our names, to ask about our families. We, in turn, do the same. We celebrate retirements, new jobs, and new babies. We support one another through all kinds of losses--the death of parents, job losses, and daily stresses. We notice when someone has missed class and members are encouraged to check in with each other. One day in class, as we were working through an especially tough climb, Angie said "come on ladies, you can do this! You're to good an athlete to quit!" For the first time in my life, I felt like an athlete!

In addition to physical health, spinning has helped my spiritual health. As a Pastor I try to consider how to make Church more like this class. A place where those who have never felt like they fit in can find a sense of belonging. A place where people support one another. A place where people are missed when they don't come. A place where people don't want to miss.

The principles that made me feel welcome in Angie's class are fairly simple. Notice the new person. Encourage one another. Take time to hear one another's stories. Invite people to come back. These simple steps have the potential to transform a person's mind, body and spirit. I won't ever be a spin instructor, but I will use my God given gifts to (hopefully) enrich lives as Angie enriched mine.

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