I used to ride around the neighborhood on a bike, run around the playground in elementary school, take Phys Ed every day in junior high. Saturday morning cartoons were done at noon, and although cable started popping up by the time I was in my early teens, we lived out in a very rural area and had to be satisfied with four channels through my high school graduation.
As I have gotten older and fought and won the battle of the bulge, I have realized that being active was a lot easier when we were younger. Working 40 plus hours a week, running errands, doing household chores and yardwork, we may feel as though we are burning calories, so we feel we are justified in eating that extra helping of cake.
Now, in addition to laundry and vacuuming and grocery shopping, I have added exercise to my to-do list. It’s not something I always feel like doing, but then, I don’t always feel like washing clothes and ironing shirts. Yet, it must be done.
While I was losing the weight (40 pounds five years ago, and I’ve kept it off since) my go-to exercise was the elliptical machine. I could pop in my earbuds and tune into the TV attached to the machine and if USA Network wasn’t showing a Law and Order SVU marathon, I could read my book. I have since discovered exercise classes. These indeed are hidden gems. There’s a bonus to exercise classes that I don’t think is readily apparent. It boosts your confidence in a very sneaky way.
I started taking Zumba classes, then about three months ago I began going to Body Pump, which is an hour-long weight lifting class. I do Zumba on Tuesday evening, Body Pump on Wednesday evening, and on Saturday morning Body Pump is followed immediately by a Zumba class.
At first, I was very self conscious in Zumba. I didn’t know the moves, the music was unfamiliar, and I felt like I was crashing a party where everyone already knew everyone else. But I stuck with it. And I realized that if I was so focused on the instructor and trying to keep up with her, everyone else was too. And that meant no one was watching my pitiful attempts to cha-cha and salsa and booty shake. I saw a joke online that said you’re not out of step in Zumba class. You’re merely performing an unscheduled solo. The instructor of the Tuesday class is a tiny little thing and I still have not figured out what she shakes to move the way she does. But she kicks our butts, and I come out of that class sweaty and extremely pleased with myself.
My first Body Pump class was also humbling. At first I started out with baby weights and I couldn’t complete any of the sets. But as time went on, I was able to go farther and heavier. It’s a tough class, and even the instructors struggle at times. But if I have to take a breather, I’m not the only one. If I was able to whip through everything, that would mean I’m not challenging myself. And if I’m not challenging myself, what’s the point? I’m not there to impress anyone, I’m there to improve myself. That may mean I can’t finish a set of dips off the bench for triceps, or have to stop jumping for a few seconds in Zumba. But I’m there for the next class, trying to do a little bit better.
Sometimes a new person to the Zumba class worries about keeping up. I laugh and tell them, “No one can. Don’t worry about it.” And that’s the sneaky thing about exercise classes…they force you to face your shyness and self-consciousness and realize that everyone has been in the same boat you are, new and unsure. Once you understand no one is watching you, that they’re too busy concentrating on themselves and the instructor, that is the moment of liberation.
I’ve discovered some new music for my iPod, I can do a pretty decent squat now, and I really enjoy the stretch that comes from working the muscles in the chest. I also learned a simple truth, that I have never ever left the gym thinking, “Damn, I wish I hadn’t done that.”