If you take fitness classes you may have noticed the difference between the front row and back row, there’s such a drastic distinction that one could almost call them two separate cultures. In the back of class you’ll find people who are committed to staying in shape, just perhaps not every single day. They don’t want attention, they just want to keep a low profile, get their workout in without any attention being drawn to them. The front row students are a different breed. They don’t just show up, they always show up, rain, shine, hurricane, blizzard, bird flu! The most dedicated, and thereby usually most fit students, find themselves in the front row. While there is no written law, there is a clearly understood law – you don’t just walk to the front row, you have to earn the front row. And in many studios, competition is fierce! In fact, in some classes, rather than let a student who isn’t quite ready for the front row fill an empty spot, they will call in a fellow instructor so as to maintain the pace and rhythm of the class.
The students taking their place in the front row are fit, prepared, and ready for whatever the instructor throws their way. These front row students have the confidence to not only keep up with the instructor (some are good enough to teach the class themselves), but also to quickly correct and shrug it off if they fall behind or out of sync.
At one popular cycle studio there is a list of rules posted on the wall. Rule number five is titled, “The Pack.” It reads, “There is a direct correlation between your energy and your neighbor’s ride. If you want to do your own thing, please don’t ride in the front row.” This is the sacredness of the front row. These students are not seen as goodie-goodies or wannabes. They set the pace for the class and the rest of the class relies on them.
Where you choose to be in a fitness class (or in any class for that matter) says something about who you are. According to James Black, director of the Centre of Academic Achievement at Susquehanna University, your location in the classroom impacts how deeply you engage in learning. It also communicates to your instructor and peers your level of commitment to the material and subject. Overall, those who sit in the front of the classroom are more likely to perform better academically. They are more focused and retain most of the information presented in a lecture.
I was never one for sitting in the front row in school. I wasn’t a troublemaker or anything. I just preferred to lie low and avoid unnecessary attention. I was a good student, but I wouldn’t say that I was always a passionate student and so I wasn’t fully engaged in most of my classes, especially not during high school. Not so with my fitness classes. (I’m the one in the front row.) Each day we make a choice to sit in the ‘front of the class’ or somewhere behind. And that choice motivates us to either give life everything we’ve got or to hang behind and coast.
I think that sign hanging in the cycle class rings true outside of the studio, as well. There is a direct correlation between your energy and your neighbor’s. Our attitude is contagious – our excitement can lift others up and our apathy can drag others down. Sure, we can’t all be in the front row in a fitness class. Clearly, space is limited. But there is no such limitation in life.
Each day is an opportunity to bring our best energy, and even more importantly, share that energy with those around us. By doing so, we become more focused on achieving our desires and staying engaged. The ‘front of the class’ is where mastery and inspiration happen. Whatever your passion, commit to showing up and being fully present.
THOUGHT INTO ACTION
Where in life do you choose to sit ‘in the back of class?’ Where do you feel uncomfortable moving to the front? This week try stepping out of your comfort zone. Push yourself to be fully engaged. You may inspire the person next to you. You may even inspire yourself.