Of all days, on Mother’s Day, it happened. I had finished teaching my class and was lingering in the studio a bit, half cleaning up, half hoping to make some small talk or any little connection with one of my students, as I am still relatively new to town. She approached me, quietly and with some obvious hesitation and said, “As much as I love taking class from the young girls, it is so refreshing to take class from…” and she paused to find the right words: “..from someone more my age”.
My name is Peggy, I am 54 years old and I am a Pure Barre teacher. Eight months ago, after living my entire adult life in Connecticut, I packed up and moved 1,840 miles to Boulder, Colorado with my manfriend (“boyfriend” sounds inappropriate.) I have spent the past thirty years teaching fitness, yoga and Pilates – and raising my two, now twenty-something daughters. I left an excellent job where I had developed longstanding, trusting clients and many wonderful friends with whom I have shared a myriad of life chapters – the good, the bad and the horrific. The two of us now on the ‘other side’ of the mid-century milestone, we made this move to experience a fresh start together. Hindsight is a funny thing. We were both so focused on selling and clearing out our two individual homes, all the details that a cross-country move requires and actually landing here in Boulder, I didn’t give much thought to how my day-to-day world would change. His job remained the same – working from a home office and traveling for meetings. I guess I figured that with all my years of experience, I would have no trouble finding a great job with great pay. I would just make new friends and live happily ever after.
Peggy and her Pure Barre Boulder crew.
On about Day 4 of shuffling packing boxes and acclimating my old cats to our new home, I felt completely exhausted. Everything was new – I was lost every time I stepped out of the house. I didn’t know a soul and no one knew me. I remember trying to ignore the quiet panic of this new ‘reality’ – all I could think was “OMG, what I have I done!” I could calm my anxieties by going for a run or a walk, but I desperately craved the familiar, grounding comfort of working out in a studio – of putting on my Lululemon and feeling my body working hard, of getting caught up in a loud beat and being challenged by group energy and, ultimately, feeling that post-workout bliss of a clearer mind and a boosted mood. I remembered seeing a Pure Barre studio while on a house-hunting visit several months prior, so I plugged in the address into my GPS and went to my first class. The workout itself was both familiar and completely new all at the same time. I had taken barre classes over the years, and even taken a teacher training in a similar method, but in coming to class on this day, I felt an instant connection to my new city and some much needed optimism for my new life.
Fast–forwarding a few months, I was hired by the owners to be a teacher and found myself in training in Denver. When I arrived that first morning and looked around the studio at my fellow trainees from all over the U.S., I realized that I was not only the oldest woman in the room, but 90% of the women were my daughters’ ages or younger. Part of me wanted to run – to disappear. I felt self-conscious for getting myself into this situation – what was I thinking? I was well-aware that the owners and teachers at my studio are significantly younger than I – all very beautiful and witty, with to-die for bodies. I am used to working with women younger than myself, given the industry, but this was the first time it really hit me. I was out of my league. I wasn’t about to make a fool of myself , nor was I interested in trying to ‘fit in’. I’ve earned the creases around my eyes, the sun-damaged skin. Trying to keep muscle mass on a now hormonally-depleted body is no easy task. I felt a self-sabotaging downward spiral coming on. I put my head down and quietly completed the training. I put in many hours of practice, took classes on a regular basis and finally passed the requirements to teach.
Kicking students’ seats like a champ!
I’ve been up-and-running teaching now for a few months. I can’t remember ever in my career being so nervous and so focused in my teaching. The combination of having to memorize 55 minutes of choreography for every class, saying things in a very specific new language, moving seamlessly from one section to the next, learning all new names and bodies, and unlearning my former habitual teaching style has been a huge challenge. Some days I am right on… other days I make mistakes — sometimes a lot of mistakes. The studio owners and the other teachers have been incredibly kind and encouraging. They have reassured me that teaching Pure Barre is, well, a process. One of our studios most beloved and consistent clients, a gentleman close to my age, has been my biggest supporter. After the weekend training he told me that he “admired my courage to become a Pure Barre teacher AT OUR AGE.” That spoke volumes. We exchange a grin during class when I’ve clumsily stopped the music altogether or can’t spit out the correct words. These gestures, and the sweet words of my Mother’s Day student have touched me in a way that make me feel that I’m back, that I am home.
I feel myself starting to relax and really enjoy being the teacher that I am again. I’m focusing much less on being ‘perfect’ and more on being myself. I am reminding myself of how my many years of experience, both in teaching fitness and in life in general, can be beneficial for my students — both those younger and my contemporaries. To those Pure Barre students who are ‘on the older side’, keep coming to class – bring your true self and bring your friends! It’s not always easy to feel strong, beautiful and confident in our youth-obsessed culture, but this is one amazing arena where you are valued and applauded for being exactly who you are. I’m grateful to Pure Barre Boulder for giving me the opportunity to become a part of this new community of amazing individuals, to grow and to find myself all over again, to embrace my stage in life, to help me to move beyond fear and self-doubt and to help me to love my new life in the West.
From Peggy Lyons, Pure Barre Teacher from Boulder, CO.