The Unwitting Personal Trainer/Emulating vs. Imitating

About 7 years ago, I was at Zumba at the Wisconsin Athletic Club, and I was not feeling all that motivated. I had a move coming up, I was packing, and I was lonely, since both my dogs and my husband were out in Maryland.

I noticed a young woman in the row ahead of me who was really into it – her energy was on fire, her moves were smooth, and she seemed to be having a great time. Her t-shirt said, “Tosa East Senior Powder Puff Football 2007.” I did the math and realized that would make her 23. I decided that I was going to follow her and match my energy to hers. I joked later that she was my “unwitting personal trainer.”

Earlier this year, I started doing Zumba again at Brick Bodies and was really enjoying myself At the end of class, a woman (about my age) came up to me and said, “you’re really good! I was following you!” and I thought, “Oh my gosh, I’m someone’s unwitting personal trainer!” It felt good.

The reason I bring this up is that I follow a blog called Bulletproof Musician, written by a violinist and performance psychologist named Noa Kageyama. His most recent blog was on the topic of motivating yourself to practice by “copycatting a friend.”

EC089BBC-7BE7-4376-A6AF-60B4FE366309Generally, being a copycat is frowned upon (just ask Billie Eilish) in terms of finding your creative voice. But in this case, Dr. Kageyama is talking about finding someone who inspires you and looking at what they do that makes them successful. Do they get up earlier? Do they set a specific practice time daily and stick to it? What artists do they listen to?

Emulate, not imitate.

What does that mean?

According to Professor Paul Brians of Washington University, “emulate” is a more specialized term, meaning that you are striving to achieve something that someone else did (or surpass, as some definitions say). “Thus[,] if you try to climb the same mountain your big brother did, you’re emulating him; but if you copy his habit of sticking peas up his nose, you’re just imitating him.”

I emulated Miss Powder Puff Football 2007.

I imitate Julie Andrews.

Who is your “unwitting personal trainer?” Are you emulating them or imitating them? Do you know the difference?

(By the way, this song gave me a new appreciation for Billie Eilish.)