Q&A with Beth Metcalfe

Editor’s note: Nancy Cox is the founder of Research Story Consulting and former CPG corporate researcher. Her work and play include words, sketchpads, cooking (not baking) and the occasional sock puppet.

Passions, hobbies, healthy distractions and even guilty pleasures – discover how the research community plays and how that plays out in their work life. In the Venn diagram of work and play, what happens when work and play overlap? Research colleagues share their work and play stories in this interview series by Nancy Cox. 

Hello to Beth Metcalfe, Research Director, Boxclever

What is the “play” in your life?

My play is mini trampolining or bounce. A mini trampoline is a round 40-inch trampoline. Twice a week, in addition to my research work, I lead an hour-long bounce class that’s a mix of toning and cardio. 

My start was so random. My idea of exercise was a really bad fitness DVD for 10 minutes then sit down, “ooo – I’m lagged.” While visiting my sister, I went along with her to a bounce class just for something to do. My sister mentioned they were running free training classes near me to recruit instructors/franchise owners. A free day! Plus, they’ll never choose me to teach. Surprise! At the end of the day, the franchise excitedly told me, “We’ve got you a class! You’ll be starting in a month.” Anyone who knows me finds this hilarious not only because of my lack of coordination but also, I was not good at speaking in front of a crowd. 

Just like I’m not a traditional exercise instructor, I teach at a nontraditional location – a church social hall in South Manchester. This works well for people working from home vs. having to go into the City Center where most gyms are located. Also, it’s not brightly lit like a gym and disco lights make it feel less daunting. Especially when people start, they like to be in the shadows. To feel like they’re not in the spotlight.

Mini trampoline or bounce classes are low impact, so I teach a big age range. I have mums and their teen daughters; I had one family with grandmother, mum and daughter. It is mostly women as the exercise is choreographed to music, but men are always welcome! 

I love seeing the affect that music has on people. To see their smiles when they recognize a song and the joy that it brings to their movement. How the energy goes up. Favorite music? An ‘80s music theme. All age groups love it, and the sweet spot is anything Whitney Houston. Sadly, the ‘90s music is not as popular.

Confidence-wise, I was quite nervous presenting [at work] before. I could do it, but I would be quite anxious about it. Now, compared with teaching a class, presenting a debrief is relatively easy as I’m not having to talk and move at the same time. Plus, I’m not watching to make sure no one falls over!

How has your play influenced your research work?

Bounce class gives me confidence and I see that confidence boost in my attendees as well. Everyone comes in quite nervous, starting at the back of the room. It’s lovely to see someone who was hiding in the corner a month ago, edge forward. Now I have a row of regulars on the front. We’ve all moved up front.

I did think my class commitment might have a negative impact on work. That I would be seen as less helpful by not staying late or taking work home. It’s been the opposite. By setting boundaries, I’m better at prioritizing my time. When I recently changed jobs, I was clear upfront that I had this commitment. That conversation also helped me to sell my time and organization skills. Most employers will support you if you show the benefit they are getting out of it. 

Of course, with all this exercise I’m physically and mentally healthier. I’m much less likely to catch every cold going around the office. Teaching has created a lovely break. Even if I had a mad day and I’m tired before I do the class, I forget that once I get into the room. My energy and my happiness go up. Same with my students. Even if some are almost crawling out at the end, they’re happy.

What would you tell readers who want to know more about your area of play?

A lot of people during COVID bought mini trampolines. If you’re a bit nervous about starting or doing it in front of people, there are loads of online classes. I will say that doing it at home, you might not work as hard because no one is watching you. So easy to stop to put in a load of laundry or make a cup of tea. 

An in-person class can make your experience not only more effective but more enjoyable. The music is louder! You can actually feel more relaxed because if the room is happy then the exercise doesn’t seem as scary or difficult. Classes also model a natural variety of skill levels, so you don’t feel bad if you’re doing the easier option if you see someone else doing it. Or you might be inspired to work out harder if you see someone like yourself doing the harder option.

If you’d like to teach, try several classes to find an instructor you like. Ask that instructor how they got started. If you’re already a fitness student, be open if someone encourages you to teach! Ten years ago, I would have never seen this in my future but it’s one of the best things I ever decided to do. If you want to try, give it a go!