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FROM A YOUNG age, I hated taking instructions from anyone, including my parents. When my mom would tell me to take a nap, I would retort: “I’m not tired. If you’re tired, why don’t you take a nap?” The first year I had a school photo taken, my mom refused to let me have the laser background that I wanted. So, I changed her selection on the order form from “blue” to “laser” and even initialled the change. When a school photo showed up with lasers shooting through my mushroom cut, my parents were less than pleased, to say the least.

Fast-forward to the year 2012, and I still hate taking instructions from anyone, with one exception: While working out. Generally, I work out on my own, but lately I’ve noticed myself getting a tad lazy—“walking it off” after running only a short distance, skipping the last couple of reps, being more engrossed with my magazine than the wildly flailing arms of the elliptical machine, etc. It’s easy to put in 75 per cent when no one is yelling at you to give it 110 per cent. So, from time to time, I need someone to kick my ass.

Thankfully, my friend Katie asked me to be her partner for an Ironman Challenge as part of her kickboxing class. For one full hour, we did not stop moving —we were punching, kicking, blocking, and crunching constantly, all the while waiting for the sweet, sweet sound of a buzzer to indicate it was time to move on to the next station. There was absolutely no opportunity to slack off—as soon as my knees hit the ground during a push-up, or Katie and I started laughing and joking that we were punching Voldemort, the instructor swooped in and reminded us to work harder. The result: A fantastic workout.

Although it was difficult to admit it at the time, I genuinely appreciate having someone giving me instructions­—but only in the gym. I still stand by my decision to switch to the laser background.

—Sarah Horlick