At the Erasmus University, there are plenty of employees who are crucial for the campus, but whom we never really speak to. One example of such an employee is Conny. If you ever go to the gym and attend a lesson, this name should ring a bell! She teaches Power Pump, Body toning BBB and Aerobics BBB. We decided to interview her to get to know her better.
Why did you decide to become a 'bodyfit teacher'?
Mostly because I really enjoy it! I followed a track at the AALO – a teacher training for physical education in The Hague – particularly designed for aerobics. Initially, I started off with another study: Law at Erasmus. After 2 years, however, I realised that this was not something I wanted to do in the future and so I quit. I decided to start working and think about what I wanted to do in the future. This was when I decided to start AALO. Since it is a part-time study, I did everything next to my regular job. Although it was really tough, it was definitely worth it, since I loved aerobics a lot. I just really, really like it. Ironically, I dropped gym as a course in high school. However, that was because my school mostly taught soccer, basketball, volleyball, et cetera and I don’t like ball sports at all. I seriously have a ball feeling of a ‘dead chicken’. For me, sporting with music is what I want and hence aerobics is perfect.
My first job as a ‘bodyfit teacher’ was at another gym. Then, a vacancy was released for 'Keep Moving'. At the time, this was the only lesson taught with music. This lesson was scheduled three times a week. There were no headphones or stage. So, 26 years ago, I did not only train my body every lesson, but also my voice, because I had to shout all orders for groups of 50 to 100 people. Gradually, more types of lessons were being offered at Erasmus gym and I started teaching more.
What do you specifically like about teaching students?
It is fun to be around young people. When I just started working here, I used to stay after the lesson for a couple of drinks with the students, since I was about the same age as them. Nowadays, I of course don’t do this anymore and just go home after the lesson. Another nice aspect of teaching students is that they all come voluntarily, unlike high school gym. This means that everyone who shows up in my lessons is motivated and likes the sport.
I also teach elderly and that is also really nice, because those people are very thankful. For most of them, the one hour of ‘gym’ with me is the only time they leave their apartment. So, at the beginning of a week, they are already looking forward to this.
Are you close with the Erasmus gym team?
There are two big events throughout the year: a Christmas dinner and the New Year’s reception. At the Christmas dinner, a lot of employees show up, at the New Year’s reception a little less. We used to have more events, but this has become less over the years, which I find a shame. In the past, the team was very small and hence everyone was very close with each other. Now, of course, the team is way bigger. I only know people that happen to be at the gym when I’m there as well. If someone works at completely different days than I do, it could even be that I go to a person at the Christmas dinner, introduce myself, ask him who he is and how long he has already been working here, and get the response: I am Piet and I have been working here for 10 years…
How physically challenging is it to teach so many lessons?
Unlike students who mostly join one class per day, I have to teach multiple a day. Of course, this is pretty intense. Even though I take part in just 70% of the exercises of each lesson myself, when I’m not carrying out a particular exercise, I am still rallying up and motivating students, which also consumes a lot of energy. However, the students give me so much energy that I am never exhausted at the end of a lesson. That is why I manage to give multiple lessons a day and still enjoy doing so! I used to work with high school students, with some kind of mandatory lesson. After every lesson I was completely worn out. Luckily, that is not the case here!
What is the level of students' fitness compared to that of adults?
When students join my class for the first time, it always shocks me what their starting level is. Then I can’t help but think: “If you are in this shape in your 20s, how bad must it be when you are 40 or 50?”. Once they start coming more often, their performance quickly improves though! Adults, on the other hand, have a better physical base level. I personally think this is because they have had more years of experience with exercising. You do not need to go to the gym five times a week; walking twice a week and following one BBB class already drastically improves your condition. So, since adults have often done this for a longer time, on average they start off better. Of course, the fact that students tend to live unhealthy also affects their physical condition. Smoking, drinking, going to bed late and eating unhealthy food aren’t all very beneficial for your body.
Do you go to the gym next to your own classes?
When I was younger, I used to do this, yes. I did a lot of strength training and ballet. I did strength training in order to become strong, and ballet for my smoothness and flexibility. These disciplines are also two that I really like. That is why I still really enjoy Power Pump: it is a combination of those two disciplines. As I am becoming a little bit older, I am starting to notice that my body needs a longer recovery period. After a tough lesson like Power Pump, I can feel this for a couple of days. As I teach four days a week, there is not a lot of time left for me to go the gym myself. However, what I still do sometimes is staying in the gym a little longer after one of my lessons. I often go to the meditation class on Tuesdays. After teaching my busy classes with loud music, this is very relaxing. In my busy environment, it is very nice to do ‘nothing’ for 45 minutes. The funny thing about this lesson is that, normally, people immediately leave the gym halls when a lesson is finished, but here everyone stays put as a zombie for minutes. Even after the teacher has left, most people continue sitting for a few minutes. When I went for the first time and witnessed this, I was pretty surprised! Another class that I absolutely love is Zumba. From time to time I try to join this class.
Besides your work, what are some things in life that make you happy?
My two cats and a dog. They are each other’s best friends, even snuggle together in their baskets. Whenever I look at them, I am completely filled with joy. Right now, I have a Small Münsterländer. This is a little hunting dog: quite small and fast, and always happy. Kind of an agile frog the entire day. Whenever he wags, you would think that he will give himself a hernia; his entire body moves. My two cats are Maine Coons, which are pretty big. Besides this, my husband of course makes me happy. Next to that, it is the simple things in life that make me happy: nice weather, being outside, et cetera. We also have a house in France and being there makes me feel relaxed. Everything there is very restful and quiet, especially compared to the hectic life I have here in Rotterdam. Even though I am busy in the house a lot – keeping up with tidying up the house and the garden never seems to be finished -, there is no stress. In France, I have the time to sit and relax with a glass of wine and some cheese (which means I have to work extra hard when I come back to Rotterdam ;) ). In Rotterdam, I am in two so-called ‘cooking clubs’ with good friends, so I think it is clear that food makes me very happy!