Why I Will Not Join Pittsburgh Urban Active (Bakery Square)

You may recall my previous review and indecision regarding membership at Pittsburgh’s Urban Active. On the final day of my trial membership I went to my second spin class. Whether I do more ultrarunning this season or go back to triathlons, if I joined Urban Active I would spend a good deal of time in the spin classes so I wanted to further evaluate them.

The spin classes fill up which means you need to arrive an hour before the class to get a spot. This morning there were a few people who were new to spinning so the instructor, Jason, spent some time chatting with them beforehand. The class was predominantly women, although there were a few men. I was a little surpised to see that Jason was leading the class as he was a pretty big guy, but I think it’s awesome that people are active regardless of their size and I immediately felt bad for prejudging him.

The class started with some awesome Bruno Mars and the traditional warm-up followed by sprints and climbs.

Jason was yelling the typical instructor-type things like “harder” and “faster” and “turn the dial.” Then, two songs in, Jason yelled “Hey girls, let’s see if you can keep up with the men.”

Oh he so said that to the wrong person. I flipped him off and several of the other women booed him. I was pissed- who says stuff like that? I’m privileged to work with lots of brilliant women and I never think about women needing to keep up with men. And when it comes to physical fitness you’d better believe I could have run the overweight instructor into the ground. I’m getting my Ph.D., I own my own condo and I’m a sponsored ultrarunner- maybe he should be asking himself if he could keep up with me.

Now my personal anger is one thing, but the thing that upset me most is how the comment affected the other women in the room. See, there were some women who couldn’t keep up. Any sport is mental and he got in their heads in a negative way. One woman stopped spinning. Another slowed down substantially. One off-hand sexist comment interfered with the workouts of at least three of the members of his class.

I was planning to complain to the manager, but realized that if I were in Jason’s shoes, I would want someone to address their concerns with me. After the class (which I reluctantly admit was quite good with the glaring exception of The Comment), I went up to Jason and we had the following exchange:

Me: Hi, I’m Kat

Jason: Hi, I’m Jason

Me: Thanks for the class. I wanted to let you know that I didn’t appreciate the comment you made about girls keeping up with the men.

Jason: Oh? Really? I didn’t mean anything by it.

Me: I’m sure you didn’t, but I just wanted to let you know it sets up an unfortunate contingency where it pits genders against each other.

Jason (turning): Well then I’ll make sure not to say it in front of you again.

Wrong. Answer.

Me: Well, you could not say it in front of me again, but I think that misses the point. I’d prefer if you didn’t make comments like that at all.

Jason stares at me like I have three heads and says nothing else.

It took me three days for the manager to return my call and he vehemently defended Jason saying that he must have “had a bad day.” Sure, everyone has a bad day, but if I made a sexist, racist, homophobic or other comment to disparage a group I’m sure that “having a bad day” wouldn’t be a reasonable justification for my behavior- at least I sure hope not.

Needless to say, I will not be joininig Pittsburgh Urban Active but may put my money (which, I may note, is green as any man’s), towards some spin classes at some of the other awesome spin gyms in the Pittsburgh area.