Jump Over the Bar. I Dare You.

Welcome back. No big life affirming, ultra introspective post today. Just a story about the woman whose genes I want to borrow. My husband has brought it to my attention that while I have no problem writing about super personal issues in a blog for 10’s of…10’s to read about, I have a really hard time sharing this info in person with the people it affects the most – which I realize now is probably a little frustrating to said people. But until I grow up emotionally enough to be more…direct, I’ll blog. On this particular occasion, I don’t just want the face to face. I want the whole world to know. Kate, this one’s for you.
I know some of you already know who Kate is and if you do, you probably understand why I want what she’s got. But I know some of you don’t know her and so for you, I tell the story of who Kate is to me, who she is to you, and why we need more Kates in the world.

My Sista, My Sista.

Kate is my sister. In years, she’s got me beat by a few.  In wisdom, it’s more like a lifetime. Growing up, we didn’t really know each other. She was the cool, older sister. I was the (admittedly) annoying, tattle tail, little sister. We had little common ground until I went to college, and even then, it wasn’t much. Kate was smart, popular, independent, athletic. Hell, she was a ballerina. She was exactly what I wanted so badly to be but was too scared to become.
Those theories on child/sibling development hold pretty true in our family. Even now, Kate is independent and I still get homesick. Kate acts according to her principles and I’m often swayed by public opinion. Kate is confident and self-motivated and I need approval…from everyone. (By the way, how’s this going so far? Are you enjoying it? Do you want to read on? Yes, I know that last sentence ended in a preposition and in retrospect perhaps I should have reworded to say “Do you want to read more?” Look, Kathleen and Barbara, I’m using White Space and Sub Heads. Aren’t you proud? AREN’T YOU???!!!)Oh yeah, and she’s skinny. Not “size 0, stickly, sickly, Kate Moss” skinny – she’s the perfect kind of skinny. The fit and shredded kind. Have you seen those arms? That back? It’s cool Kate, keep telling us you get that from BodyFlow. Go ahead. We’ll wait while you chaturanga those triceps into chiseled perfection. I guess I can’t argue that fact too much since we know how often you lift. Oh right – some of you don’t know how often she lifts. Never. She lifts never. Not because she doesn’t think it’s important. She does. But I’m guessing if my arms looked like that naturally (yeah, ok Kate, relax, BodyFlow is a legit upper body workout, we get it) I wouldn’t lift anything heavier than my wine glass. Ever. So yes….yes…I’m the jealous little sister. I want what she has. But you should too, and here’s why.

The Boss

Kate is fiercely passionate. About her family. About her beliefs. About her career. She believes if you are going to do something, you do it to the best of your ability. Whether it’s picking out the perfect gift for someone, canvassing for Obama (did I just lose 48.1% of my audience? Well, the 6 of you who are left – thank you for your vote.) or working her part time job. I chuckle even as I type that. Do you still call it “part time” if you work 50 hours a week for 20hrs worth of pay? Kate has been involved in the fitness industry long enough to have seen it evolve but not so long that she’s refused to evolve with it. She managed group fitness programs for over 10 years and in that time came to understand that while it can be a pretty thankless job – little pay, even less respect from most of the men running the big gym chains, lots of member complaints about things you can’t fix (“We should have more BodyPump equipment, more aqua classes and a bigger studio for Zumba!” Lady, I’d love all that too. We don’t have the $$. Why not? Because the people in charge of our budget don’t think we’re a money maker. Forget that we’re a membership RETAINER. Forget that Group Fitness participants are like 80% more likely to KEEP their memberships making it easier for those people in charge of making the money…yeah, you’re right, Group Fitness is not that important. Keep catering to the muscle heads who come in by themselves to work out for hours on end, clogging up equipment at peak hours and keep ignoring the women who come in for an hour long class, pay for child care, buy gear because “that top our instructor had on in Combat was SO cute! I want one!” and bring friends with them – i.e. NEW BUSINESS every damn day– yup, keep ignoring them.)
That was cathartic.

Sorry. What was I saying? Oh yes – why, even with all of that to deal with, Kate loved her job. She loved the challenge of putting together a balanced schedule. She loved finding, auditioning, training, and supporting talented and committed instructors. She loved fostering a community spirit among members and instructors alike. She loved competing against her own attendance numbers and others’ for sure. How many members can her team pack in their classes? (Oh, and by the way, she then expects us to beat that number week to week.) Is it all about the competition? Ok, maybe some of it. We Ouellette sisters tend to be juuuuuuuust a little competitive. But the honest reason she wants to pack the room? Because she believes – no – she knows – that Group Fitness changes lives. And why not change as many lives as possible? Why not provide top notch fitness experiences to as many people as she can so working out becomes something people actually look forward to everyday? To this principle, she is entirely committed and that is why she loved that job.

Bitch, Please!

Kate managed people who, for the most part, were working a part time job. A part time job that many people consider to be a hobby. This is problematic on a few levels. First, jobs have requirements. Be on time. Stay on top of your assignments. Prepare for presentations. Find coverage if you cannot be there. Hobbies are a little more lax. Do it when you want to. Spend only the amount of time you feel like on it. No consequences for poor performance. Second, jobs tend to have some kind of product or service involved that needs to be delivered to a customer. Hobbies don’t require deliverables. Pick it up, put it down – doesn’t matter – it only affects you.
If it’s your job to make sure the customer receives quality service, but you manage people who treat their positions like hobbies, then doing your job becomes exponentially more difficult. A lot of managers don’t keep the bar held very high for this exact reason. They settle for mediocre. Kate doesn’t. And that means making the hard decisions and having the hard conversations.

“It’s dress rehearsal for launch and you don’t know your choreography, I can’t let you launch. It’s not fair to the members who expect and deserve prepared instructors.”
Or – if it were ME having one of those conversations: “I understand you’ve been teaching Butts & Guts in this time slot for 11 years, but 1987 called and wants it’s class format back and the 4 people still taking your class would be better served doing anything else for those 30 min. Anything.” But that’s me.

When Kate is in charge of something (and sometimes when she’s not 😉 she expects the best people have to offer. She expects people to care enough to give their best effort. Not to just show up…sometimes. And get it done…maybe. Some people consider this style of management too demanding, harsh…dare I say…bitchy. (Kate, you’re loving this puff piece, right?) But like for so many successful women in management, that label is so incredibly unfair. She is not out of line to expect what you are capable of delivering and what the customer expects and better yet, deserves: Your best effort. That does NOT make her a bitch. It makes her the boss. And a good one.

Flip Side?


Those people who think she expects too much? Maybe I shouldn’t blame them. These days, “mediocre” is the new “great.” People have become very comfortable with mediocre and the reason they have become so comfortable with mediocre is because that’s all anyone expects from them. Why work harder when mediocre gets you paid? Or packs your room? Or at the very least, doesn’t get you fired? When your employees are only expected to provide mediocre service to people everywhere else they work, expecting excellent service becomes…bitchy. Right? God, I hope not.
Kate expects the old “great.” Kate expects your BEST. And not only your best, but she expects your best to get BETTER. Why? Because you are capable. Because she believes in you. Because she knows how to make you better and if you just get over yourself long enough to hear what she has to say – and I say this from personal experience (I know, I know Kate, I need to stop yelling in my classes. I hear you. I swear.) – she will make you the best instructor, and, dare I say, the best version of you, you can be. Because if you can get better, why wouldn’t you? She will teach you all the things that make her so amazing. Commitment. Principled behavior. Teamwork. Respect – for yourself, for your craft, for every person with whom you come in contact. Oh yeah, and pride in your work.
Kate does what we all know is the RIGHT thing. She makes the hard decisions. She stands by her beliefs. And she works harder than most people would ever even consider working. She changes lives. She changed mine – nope – that’s not even close – she saved mine. And she wants to do that for you too because she believes you’re worth it. She believes you are worth putting time into helping you find your best you. And making you work for it. Yes, you. Random blog reader. Meet her once (ok, maybe twice) and tell me she hasn’t said something or done something that’s had a positive affect on your life. She is the person who can make you realize you can be better than you are right now; that your potential is endless and that you absolutely, 100% owe it to yourself find that out. She’s THAT person.

Biased, Schmiased

So yes. Yes, I want those triceps and that waistline. But so much more importantly, I want her ability to bring out the best of us by holding the bar high and daring us all to jump over it. I want her conviction to stare down mediocrity and I want her demand for excellence.

Show me a world that isn’t a better place with more Kates. You can’t and if you’re honest with yourself, you know it’s true.

The Jam Sisters


2 thoughts on “Jump Over the Bar. I Dare You.

  1. I think the world needs both of your personality types. You compliment each other nicely. Kate is more demanding, but some people don't respond well to that. Elizabeth, you are great at inspiring and nurturing people in a different way.

    The problem with having super high expectations for group fitness instructors is that almost no one can consider it their “real job” because the the pay and hours aren't enough. When real jobs with real paychecks become more demanding, people have to prioritize. If the fitness industry decided to value instructors with more pay, it would likely change the dynamics.


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