They were new to my class, and I recognized the look. Disdain.
5 minutes before class. They saw me. Both of them. That look. "That OLD guy is teaching this class?!?" I smiled at them and led the participants into the room.
Just about to start. They set up next to each other, a few rows back. As I declared tonight's music was "Old School" they rolled their eyes. They both had iPods. I saw them look at each other. A moment later, they were putting in their earbuds. "I don't want to hear that crap."
5 minutes in. I'm nearly done coaching the new folks, reviewing form and safety. I glance in their direction. They're fussing with their iPods and looking annoyed. "He has nothing to teach me."
10 minutes in. We're doing a drill. One of them has half a smile on her face. One earbud is dangling out, so she can hear me cuing the changes. "What's this?"
20 minutes in. Intensity is rising. I'm using my drill sergeant voice. We've been out of the saddle for 3 minutes, and pedaling hard. I see the look I've been waiting for. Shock. "What the hell?"
30 minutes in. Their earbuds are dangling, forgotten. Their bodies pink and blotchy from exertion. Sweat is pouring out of my body and dripping on my bike. I drape a towel over the handlebars to staunch the flow. They look at me, at each other, and their expression changes again. Concern. "Could he be working harder than me?" Their look changes again. Determination. They hunch over their bikes, pedaling harder.
40 minutes in. We've finished a tough climb. While still recovering, I immediately call for quick legs and light resistance. I notice them pedaling slowly. Glancing their way, I bark "This is mental, not physical. MOVE THOSE LEGS! QUICK! QUICK! QUICK" Their eyes grow big as saucers. "He busted us slacking off!" The look changes to sheepish embarrassment, and they begin pedaling faster. A few moments later, one of them can't help but bob her head to the music, grinning. In spite of herself, she's enjoying the music.
45 minutes in. Jumps on a hill. Blasting "Dance and Shout". I'm barking the transitions from seated to standing. Sweat is flying. Huffing and puffing. They're grinning, grooving to the music. They lean over their bikes, again, pedaling their asses off.
50 minutes in. Cooling down. Stretching. Buckets of sweat under my bike. They're pink and sweaty. They glance at each other. Their eyes say "Holy shit. That's not what I expected."
55 minutes in. Bikes being packed away. One of them walks by. "Thanks Mike, that was awesome!" She's grinning like a drunken idiot. Endorphins.
As they walk out together, I notice them glance one last time in my direction. The look is different, now.
I used to dread that look of disdain from a new participant. I feared that I couldn't meet their expectations.
I don't anymore. Now, it's a call to arms. I see that look and I'm energized. That look means that I need to pull out the stops. I need to show heart, guts, determination, and fortitude. That look challenges me to prove them wrong, and in doing so, it makes me stronger. It brings out the best in me.
I welcome the look. Bring it!