Starting off at the gym and learning vital lessons

‘Whatever we do, however busy we are, we must take care of our health’.  We all know this, but do we do a good job of following our own advice?

I have tried many times to eat right and to exercise well.  I am like a yo-yo that goes from a few days of good work-outs and eating right to a derailment that lasts forever of carbs galore and sedentary lifestyle.

Of late, I have started spending money on my health.  In addition to membership at my gym, I paid for a personal trainer!  I learned that I can work hard doing upper body and core strength exercises and those for my legs, biceps, and triceps. I sweat like nobody’s business, but who cares as I keep wiping the icky sweat that runs down my hair, forehead, back, neck, and so on.  Oh! I forgot to mention that I have to work double hard on the abs.  Yes, I toil at the gym because I have a 7-9 hour laptop job with no movement required of me for all those hours, not even to get out of my house!

Either I slog at the gym with the machines and cardio on my own or get bamboozled by my personal trainer into doing odd looking exercises, stretches, lunges and what not.  I decided I needed the whip, so to speak, at least for a little while.  So, I find myself at the gym, almost every day, but especially on the days that my personal trainer comes.  I have to- I am paying to be there!

As I went through a few months of personal trainer experiences, first with one trainer and then with another, I realized that I am learning a few lessons on encouragement, zone of proximal development, positive reinforcement, and negative reinforcement.  I am encouraged and worked hard, by the trainer, of course.  I am supported at times and challenged most other times.  I am given regular breaks so that I or my muscles are not burned out.  I am allowed to drink itsy-bitsy amounts of water so that the effect of my workout lasts longer.  The encouragement comes in all forms- ‘You can do it’ to ‘10, 9, 8, 5…’ (an intentional counting slip at times) or tricking me into doing more repetitions than I started with… all in a day’s workout.

I am a professor of psychology and education and am interested in learning about learning itself and teaching approaches.  What I suddenly realized while my trainer was pumping me to continue doing the bicep and tricep variations, when I was dying to give up, is that he was very successfully motivating me to believe in my strength and stamina to finish the routine.  Very artful!

Not only that- when it looked like I was going to give up my routine by the second or third repetition, and that I may just throw in the towel, there was a definite support given by making it easier for me to go through the required counts.  But, that hurt my pride to which I sometimes yelled – ‘Don’t help me’!  Now that I reflect on it – is there a lesson for us teachers in that? Would we need a student like me for that to happen- a compliant and dedicated student?

After each visit to the gym and a good workout, I do feel the effects of the workout – in pain, sweat, thirst, elevated pulse, and a wonderful sense of well-being.  I feel that I have achieved something worthwhile that hour or so in the gym for my health.

Hopefully, we can organize and provide a good mental workout to our students in schools and universities alike by offering them the challenges and scaffolding that they need.  The satisfaction of knowing that the new learning is worthwhile, relevant, timely and complete can make an awesome difference to learners in our classes.

Happy reminiscences!  More next time!

– Jagjit


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