I take step aerobics on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Ofelia, the instructor, thinks it's great that I'm so strong. After taking two months off from working out this summer, I was stronger than ever in about three weeks. She was surprised and impressed. Ofelia is in her fifties, has been a personal trainer her whole life and knows exactly what a person is capable of. She teaches about four classes a day at different locations and often runs or bikes in between the classes. She is solid muscle but cute and feminine at the same time. She knows I show up to her class to work out and she does her best to accommodate that desire.....sometimes a little more than I really want. She has no sympathy for me when sweat is dripping from my face to the floor, or when I am so tired that I come close to tripping over the step.
A few weeks ago, a freshman named Crystal started working out next to me. It was the week that Ofelia moved me up to a 12" step. Crystal was watching me and halfway through the workout, she took her step apart, reassembled it in the 12" configuration and then made a point of kicking higher than me, lifting her legs higher than me and then lifting weights heavier than me. She outdid me, but she had only done half the workout at the maximum height so it didn't count as far as I was concerned. The next time, we both did the whole workout at the same step height. She had heavier weights than me, but had to pause more often than I did. After that, Ofelia decided to push us a little harder and she had us doing kickboxing. Crystal crouches lower than me, but I can kick higher. We are an even match when it comes to lunges across the gym.
As much as Ofelia loves pushing me and Crystal, there is the rest of the class to consider. So to some extent, she leaves me and Crystal to improvise our own ways of pushing ourselves. I add kicks where there are normally just steps and Crystal does the same. I started doing the entire workout, jumping-jacks and all with 2lb weights in my hands, so of course, Crystal grabbed the 3lb weights and did the same, but couldn't quite handle getting her arms in the air during the jumping-jacks and then did push-ups off of her knees instead of her toes. Today, she was looking at my sweaty face and gritted teeth during the workout and I wondered if she has started comparing the relative amounts of our sweat.... maybe she was just wondering if I was struggling as much as she was. The answer was clearly yes.
In that moment, when her competitive nature was entirely visible, I started wondering what I am in for if she ever takes my genetics class. I find myself really glad that I have taught genetics so many times, and hoping just a little bit that she is a social sciences or humanities major.